Oceana challenge shows agreement with Minister and Petroleum Company
According to Matura-Shepherd, the challenge has also led to the discovery of an undisclosed agreement signed by Minister of Natural Resources Gaspar Vega with the principals of Princess Petroleum in 2009. The condition of that contract allows the company to retain one hundred percent of the block that was granted to them for oil exploration. Matura-Shepherd additionally notes that the biennial renewal of oil concessions requires the cession of twenty-five percent of the section approved.
Audrey Matura-Shepherd, Vice-President, Oceana Belize
“What has happened, like I’ve always said, it was important for this case to go to full trial because it is as a result of this case that we are being able to discover a lot of information that we did not know, for example, when we first found out that these contracts existed would have been in 2010. When people saw the map that showed that the entire country was covered by oil companies; that they owned [concessions] from land and sea. At that time we tried to get disclosure from the government, we have never really gotten official contracts from the government until through this case, of course, they had to disclose it to us through the disclosure terms. Also, as a result of that we found out that there is more to the contracts than we had thought and the one I am referring to right now specifically is Princess [Petroleum Ltd.] We eventually got a copy of a secret agreement, signed since 2009, in which Minister Vega signed off, saying that Princess Petroleum did not have to relinquish any block, that before they used to have to relinquish twenty-five percent of the area they owned. And every contract term, which should have been every two years, they give another twenty-five, another twenty-five until it would have been just the area where they found oil if they found oil. Under this secret agreement, signed on the 15th, September 2009, Minister Vega then said that the contract is to be amended and remove the twenty-five percent and replace it with zero percent. Why is that important? It’s significant because we were hoping that through the relinquishment period that the Blue Hole and Lighthouse Reef and even the portion of Turneffe Atoll would have been removed from the oil companies’ hands because as the contract stands now these oil companies actually have the right to go over these places. They have the legal right to explore and drill there if they so wish.”
Interestingly, the prime minister’s law partner, Rodwell Williams, is listed as one of three directors of Princess Petroleum Ltd.