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Feb 22, 2012

People’s Referendum on Offshore Drilling begins

In the week ahead, volunteers from across the country will be manning telephones to get the pulse of voters on a referendum on offshore oil exploration. Voting is already underway by phone and next Wednesday, voters can register their views at numerous booths that are being placed strategically in the districts. At the launch of the referendum today at the OCEANA offices, the Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage also superimposed a graphic illustration of the Gulf of Mexico spill over Belize’s territorial waters for a visual effect of how devastating it would be. The British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico covered waters more than six times the size of Belize’s eighteen thousand seven hundred and sixty nine square kilometers of territorial waters. News Five’s Jose Sanchez reports.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

The people taking phone calls are not employees of a new call center to Belize; but volunteers for the Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage’s Peoples Referendum. The call center tactic is only one to address offshore drilling. The official plan for the Coalition’s People’s Referendum was explained by Francis Gegg, the National Campaign Coordinator.

Francis Gegg

Francis Gegg, National Campaign Coordinator

“We believe the issue of offshore drilling is not political—it’s a national issue, it’s a business issue; it’s matters that affect people’s lives. And that is why we are asking the nation of Belize to come forth, step forward and be part of the voting process and part of the support process. I can tell you that at the end of today, we will have almost all of the eggs in the basket in terms of our thirty-one constituencies and the other areas where we plan to put voting booths. I want to thank Corozal for being the most proactive. We called there and they jumped to it and they’ve been tremendously cooperative. They have already identified ten areas where they want to put the polling booth. This is a mock election. In other words, people who are registered voters only can come forward and vote. We are not requiring a voter ID, but some form of identification where we will verify the name on the voter’s list. Yesterday Orange Walk came together; they have a great team. In fact: David Acosta in Corozal, Rick Moguel in Orange Walk—he is our team leader. In Belize City, Roberto is on the verge of getting that finalized—I think maybe he might be able to share where he is with that. There is a group in Cayo right now finalizing Cayo. We are hoping to have a minimum four stations in Cayo and also in Belmopan Carlos Santos is our team leader and also Anthony Chanona is being very supporting in that area. In Dangriga, we have Leo Obando as team leader and we are hoping to have booths in Dangriga, Hopkins, Seine Bitte, Placencia, maybe Pomona and Independence as well. So that’s almost finalized and in Toledo we have Herman Morgan who is our team leader and so the country is covered.”

BTIA President and Chairman of the Coalition Jim Scott gave his perspective on the issue.

Jim Scott, President, BTIA

Jim Scott

“Offshore drilling should be publicized; it should not be politicized and unfortunately it has taken a road down the political sense. This is a great opportunity for our leaders to actually applaud democracy and the road to a healthy democracy and certainly our voices—whether we all agree or disagree; our opinions and voices should be heard. So I think this is a very healthy process. And although we all reserve that right to our privacy and in essence that’s why we have private balloting booths and so forth for our elections and for this one as well, we won’t know who is going to be casting their votes yeah or nay. But we also reserve the right to hold our opinions to ourselves or to publicize them. I’ve always reserved that right, but on this issue, I’m letting everybody know that—and I think I speak for the greater portion of the tourism industry—that we do not want offshore drilling. Very straightforward. We think that the possible gambling of short-term positive effects of offshore drilling are not worth the long-term negative effects of even exploration in that area. And we can get into the esthetics of having these oil rigs on these most precious marine ecology in the hemisphere if not the world, but really the ecology in its holistic sense of our marine ecology and that natural resource that we have; I don’t think we are in a position to mitigate or to gamble on that.”

A testimonial about the negative effect of drilling was presented by Belizean American Jervis Menzies. A bank account has been opened for anyone wishing to donate to the cause.  Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.

The National Campaign Coordinator says that they are finalizing polling sites for San Pedro and Caye Caulker.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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3 Responses for “People’s Referendum on Offshore Drilling begins”

  1. truth says:

    I do agree this is not a political issue its our heritage and our protection…

    Do provide phone numbers to call.. and we will vote …

    one step at a time..

  2. Jay says:

    This isnt a political issue.. this deals with the environment, the country in a whole. Please keep updates however possible of where, when to vote..

  3. JahKid says:

    I am all out on this. I support and we need you to provide more info on the voting. Lets go green and our waters remain blue. VIP, PNP, UDP and PUP lets come together and support.

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