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Jun 5, 2014

Seven NGO’s Brace GOB on Puerto Azul Project

While controversy has subsided in the respect of the Norwegian Cruise Lines Project on Harvest Caye, opposition is mounting on the Puerto Azul project. Since its over-the-top unveiling a few weeks ago in the French Riviera, with all the bells and whistles to boot, the Puerto Azul development has come under scrutiny from the public, as well as, from the conservation community. If it gets the green light, the proposed development will see the transformation of Northern Two Caye and Sanbore Caye near the Lighthouse Reef Atoll into an exclusive island resort. It was launched by Italian developers at a glamorous event hosted by actor John Travolta on the French Riviera during the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.  Invited guests included Minister of Tourism Manuel Heredia and Minister of Trade and Investment Erwin Contreras who were photographed with celebrities giving the impression that the development had government backing. As pressure builds up, a joint release by seven leading NGOs, including the Belize Tourism Industry Association, OCEANA, Healthy Reefs, World Wildlife Fund, Mar Alliance, APAMO and the Belize Audubon Society was issued today.  The statement calls upon government to make a formal announcement on the status of the Puerto Azul project and provide answers to as many as seven pertinent questions, such as: (Quote) “Does the presence of the Minister of Tourism Manuel Heredia and Minister of Trade and Investment Erwin Contreras at the project’s unveiling in Cannes, France indicate an official endorsement of the project by the Dean Barrow administration?  Who paid for Ministers Heredia, Contreras and their entourage to attend the European event?  Were taxpayers dollars used or were the project’s developers able to purchase the perception of a governmental green light by hosting the Belize delegation?  And, how can Belizeans be assured that the exorbitant money being spent on promoting this project is not an attempt to legitimize a highly speculative venture.” (Unquote)  This afternoon, News Five spoke with Executive Director, Amanda Acosta, of the Belize Audubon Society.

 

Amanda Acosta, Exec. Dir., Belize Audubon Society

Amanda Acosta

“Belize Audubon [Society] is very concerned about the proposed Puerto Azul development.  We do not feel that a mega-development of this nature is best suited for out in Lighthouse Reef Atoll.”

 

Isani Cayetano

”Now it would seems as though the environmental community has come out strong against a number of proposed developments where it concerns tourism and the hotel industry and that sort of stuff.  Have you guys looked at what the dangers would be, so to speak, with regards to this fragile ecosystem and that particular location where this proposed development is to be done?”

 

Amanda Acosta

“The concerns out at Northern Two Caye and Sandbore where the development is proposed are numerous actually.  Sandbore is a prime turtle nesting habitat, it’s also the reef wall very close to there has spawning aggregation of Nassau grouper.  We also have high biodiversity of shark species.  The saltwater crocodile actually is housed within the, we have a couple of them living within the context of Northern Two Caye.  Northern Two Caye is largely a wash over mangrove habitat so it in essence is not hard land.  A portion of the island is and I would think that that portion is suitable for development, however, it’s not the entirety.  The proposal in its speculative form is looking at development of the entire thousand acres, however, the entire thousand acres is not land per se.  It is largely mangrove and so that is also a major component of the concern.  There’s not only ecological concerns though, we also have socioeconomic concerns.  There are roughly two hundred fishermen who utilize the Lighthouse Reef for both conchs and lobster.  Lobster fishery in particular is very close or adjacent to the Northern Two Caye and Sandbore.  Actually, the main habitat where these fishermen free dive, there is also navigational concerns that we have.  It’s in proximity so if you’re talking any kind of dredging, filling, you have to ask and beg what will happen to these lobster fishermen or conch fishermen.  They are dealing with invertebrates that are very sensitive to siltation, to any kinds of dredging and in addition we have tour guides.  If you can see BTIA is also adjoined on to our press release and our concerns, it’s because there are tour operators from Caye Caulker who use Blue Hole and the atoll to set up tours, in particular, the tour operators from San Pedro and Caye Caulker use that as one of the premier.  Blue Hole, as we know, is a World Heritage Site, it’s a desired destination for diving so it’s a full composite of concerns and issues.”

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4 Responses for “Seven NGO’s Brace GOB on Puerto Azul Project”

  1. Beyond Touring Laura Howard says:

    The sensitive ecosystem of Lighthouse Reef Atoll cannot take a development like this, Belize does not need Luxury Tourism, it does not meet our ecotourism needs. We are a small country that must, just must protect it’s valuable and fragile environment. Laura Howard, Beyond Touring Inc.

  2. Beyond Flabbergasted Howard Hughes says:

    The Sensitive ecosystem of Lighthouse Reef Atoll cannot take [sic] a development like this, Belize does not need Luxury Tourism, it does not need wealth, it does not need a social safety net for its citizens, it does not need a trust fund for the education of its children, it does not need optimal health care facilities ready with highly trained home-grown doctors and nurses, it does not have energy and infrastructural needs, its government does not need helicopters and when its national security forces do need a pair of patrol speedboats and pickup trucks and beat motorcycles it will go cap in hand to the EC and to Uncle Sam and to Taiwan. Why would we want to create our own wealth when we can get it for free from our rich friends. Who cares about self respect.

    We are a small country that must, just must protect it’s [sic] valuable and fragile environment. When our children are hungry we will have them eat that tasty seaweed that grows in this fragile environment. We want our GDP to remain at $1 billion forever because we don’t need things, like Lexuses and BMWs, not to mention the shopping trip to Miami and oh, the spacious kitchen with the center counter we saw on American television. No, we don’t need any of that. We want it, but we don’t need it. You see, we in Belize do not have needs above those at the base of Maslow’s pyramid. Not.

    No, we actually have beer money and champagne taste. That is why the lawyers, doctors, oculists, plumbers, automechanics, and auto parts and hardware distributors all smile when they give you that big bill. We have this voracious and insatiable appetite for expensive things we see other people have and to get them we stick it to each other instead of harnessing all the resources, human and natural, provided us by nature to create the wealth we need in the first place. WEALTH PROVIDES INDEPENDENCE.

    I can’t believe that just a handful of romantic neophytes who constitute less than one-tenth of one percent of the population of this country and who are allowed air time during prime time news and who probably already have their bread buttered have the power to arrest the development of this country. This just proves that the lofty ideals of democracy are not suited to Belize. Democracy and its one-vote-one-voice is too slow, especially for an economy that can’t even reach critical mass. Belize needs to be forcefully taken away from us, prudently developed over a period of ten years, and then give back to us. Then and only then will you see with your own eyes this incredible latent potential that we have. I’d love to see you eat humble pie after you behold all the magnificence.

  3. H@tari says:

    Here they go again! When will GOB ever start understanding our tourism industry? Our industry survives on small scale ecotourism which in turn is our country’s main source of income and employment. Greedy, corrupt, and ignorant politicians are selling us out for their personal gain. They are pimping the jewel like a cheap whore! Thank you BTIA, Oceana, BAS, and the other NGO’s for standing up to them. Sue the bastards!

  4. Ernest Acosta says:

    Amanda Acosta from the Belize Audubon Society makes a good argument and I applaud everyone standing up for protection of our fragile eco-system. However, if this developer address all concerns and can guarantee the development won’t interfere with the environment and local fishermen, then it should be looked at in a positive way. I’m sure these guys paid for all the ministers to attend the presentation in Cannes. What should be addressed is if they comply with the concerns and supervision by Oceana, BTIA, World Wildlife Fund and others of the development, is the inclusion of local help of the development and what percentage of Belizean born will staff the resort. I don’t support any kind of dredging whatsoever. Leave the large boats in the deep area and use skiffs, sailboat or powered boat to bring people and materials to the region. I would not just kill the project but the concerns relating to the local fishermen and the eco system should be addressed.

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