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Apr 16, 2014

B.T.I.A. to take NEAC to court on EIA to Norwegian Cruise Lines

The Belize Tourism Industry Association which has consistently opposed the Norwegian Cruise Lines port at Harvest Caye is heading to court having exhausted a number of other avenues. It is challenging an environmental appraisal to the fifty million dollar tourism project provided by the National Environmental Appraisal Committee on the grounds that the appraisal did not meet the required regulations. But even as it begins its legal battle, last week Colin Murphy, the Vice President of Destination Development of Norwegian Cruise Lines, told the media that like it or not, the port project will proceed because the prime minister has said so in the House. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

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Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The Belize Tourism Industry Association is headed to court to file an application for judicial review, following an unsatisfactory response from the Attorney General’s ministry, as it concerns a letter written to Chief Environmental Officer Martin Alegria.  In his capacity as chairman of the National Environmental Appraisal Committee, NEAC, Alegria was written by Senior Counsel Godfrey Smith, on behalf of B.T.I.A. at the end of March, requesting answers to a number of issues pertaining to an environmental impact assessment granted to Norwegian Cruise Line for the proposed Harvest Caye tourism development project.  B.T.I.A. President Herbert Haylock:

 

Herbert Haylock

Herbert Haylock, President, Belize Tourism Industry Association

“We had been waiting for a reply which the deadline that we had put forward was last week Friday and essentially we had received information, our legal counsel had advised us that they had received a query from the Attorney General’s ministry to ask us to wait until a formal reply could be issued which was to have been sent on Monday.  We basically received that reply in writing on Monday and again that was a letter coming from the AG’s ministry by the Solicitor General or the Acting Solicitor General.  We are not necessarily in agreement with what has been provided to us.  It has still not substantially answered or clarified the points that we have raised in terms of the letter we originally sent to the DOE and NEAC.”

 

Those concerns emphasized several procedural errors, including failure to consider whether or not a public consultation should have been recommended, as well as failure to publish the notice concerning the addendum for two consecutive weeks.  Most importantly, the EIA was approved despite the fact that certain aspects of the assessment failed to comply with regulations.

 

Herbert Haylock

“We again maintain our position and we again advised our legal counsel to move forward with the process of instituting the judicial review that we had stipulated we would follow through within our letter.”

 

In addressing the matter a week ago, Colin Murphy, Vice President of Destination Development for Norwegian Cruise Line, told the media that like it or not the project will become a reality since government has given its blessings.

 

Colin Murphy, V.P. of Destination Development, NCL [File: April 9th, 2014]

Colin Murphy

“It was approved. I don’t know if NEAC voted or went back in consensus. My understanding is that they don’t frequently vote; it is normally they come to a decision by consensus, but we were advised that our EIA is approved and we are moving on to the next step. We would walk away? No. This is going to happen. We understand that they are not happy; we register their complaints—they are entitled to their opinion. They are entitled to take whatever actions they think is necessary. We don’t agree with them; we think they are wrong and we will persevere. And as the prime minister said in the house, this is going to happen…get use to it.”

 

B.T.I.A., through its letter, also wanted to have answered specific concerns dealing with the Terms of Reference prepared by the Department of the Environment, stating that the EIA fails to address certain biological, environmental, economic and social factors.

 

Herbert Haylock

“That’s the very same thing that we were trying to seek with our query on specific points that were leveraged, again at the public consultation that was done and again there were substantial queries or concerns coming out of that consultation.  In further perusal of the addendum that was submitted subsequent to that consultation there were still some recognized concerns on that front and those were the very same questions we had posed to DOE.  What are the replies or answers on those fronts, whether biological or dealing with issues related to waste disposal or water treatment, among the environmental concerns.”

 

Notwithstanding those concerns, NCL maintains that it will abide by the existing laws that have been established to protect the environment.

 

Colin Murphy [File: April 9th, 2014]

“So we are going to respect the laws of Belize, we are going to exceed their expectations in terms of the environment and we will always do that no matter where we are. The arrangement that we have with the government is the one that they brought to us, which is the same arrangement, my understanding is that the Fort Street Tourism Village has or the other project in Stake Bank will have. This is not something that we’ve invented all of a sudden to make sure that we are profiting immensely from this. This is the system that you have in place in Belize and so we were abiding by the system that is in place by Belize. It is not us coming in and twisting arms and pushing people around.”

 

A date for the application to be filed or for the matter to commence remains pending.

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