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Jan 14, 2014

Multiple oil spills in Trinidad trigger concerns of environmental organization

Tanya Williams

Over the past two weeks there have been as many as eleven reported oil spills off the coast of Trinidad.  While efforts are underway to clean up the discharge, residents are complaining loudly about the impact that the spillage is having on the marine environment.  The recent catastrophe, while not affecting Belize, has once again brought into sharp focus the issue of offshore oil exploration, primarily in protected areas.  In December of last year, during an interview with News Five, Director of Petroleum and Geology Andre Cho outlined the upcoming calendar of events for Providence Energy Ltd. as they prepare to undertake seismic activity in the Port of Honduras Marine Reserve.  Earlier today, the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage issued a release reiterating its concerns in light of the recent oil spills off the coast of the island nation.  According to executive director Tanya Williams, if Trinidad & Tobago, which the Government of Belize uses as a prime example of responsible offshore drilling, cannot avoid such incident, it should also raise similar fears in our country.

 

Tanya Williams, Exec. Dir., Belize Coalition To Save Our Natural Heritage

“We looked at the Trinidad situation because the Government of Belize very often time—when they want to talk about the possibility of an offshore oil industry in Belize—they always boast and say look at Trinidad. They have an offshore industry that benefits the country economically and they are very minimal impacts when it comes to the environment and impact in social and environmental impacts. So in the last two weeks, Trinidad has had over eleven oil spills and for us it is okay you are saying that this is what we should be looking at in terms of an example of how great an offshore oil industry can be. But yet we have Trinidad having all these spills. The people are now complaining that the government—because it is being linked to the government owned company—people are complaining that government is taking a very long time to actually clean up the oil spills. They are also complaining that they are unable to eat fish, consume fish or even sell marine products and so now it is having a direct impact on their lives. So if Trinidad which has all this experience cannot avoid oil spills and in fact cannot take care of the oil spills themselves, why is it that Belize is still trying to pursue offshore oil exploration? We have the issue right now of the intent of providence Energy Limited to explore for oil in the Port Honduras Marine Reserve. It is a serious issue because it is not only offshore, you are also doing it in a marine reserve which has been set aside to protect the replenishment of the fisheries stock in Belize and for other reasons such as tourism, etc. So it is very serious issue and we have to take it in context with what is happening in Trinidad, this country that government always boasts a perfect example of what the offshore oil industry should be in Belize.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“Is there an appeal to the government at this point or to the principals of Providence to sort of reassess their position with regards to the matter at hand in light of what has happened in Trinidad?”

 

Tanya Williams

“Definitely the government of Belize and what I heard the government say on your newscast in December is that the company will not be drilling offshore. That was very interesting for us because the company only ahs an offshore concession and a little piece of land which actually when you plot it, it is actually in a lagoon, which means it is a coastal area. The company does not have land. The actual owner of land near that particular concession, the leasee of that land near that concession is U.S. Capital. And so we have questioned government and asked them if there is some agreement between U.S. Capital and Providence. And then of interest to us is that if U.S. Capital has this land where there is a potential for them to access this massive structure that the government has spoken about and this company has spoken about, why is it then that they decided to go through the Sarstoon Temash and not go the easier route and utilize the oil within this area.”

 

The recent occurrence in Trinidad, says the Coalition release, is a harsh reminder of what can take place in Belize, endangering our fishing and tourism industries.

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