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Oct 20, 2017

Save the reef – moratorium moves closer to law

Erwin Contreras

Back in August Prime Minister Barrow announced that that there will be an indefinite moratorium on offshore oil exploration in Belize’s territorial waters. In a letter to Oceana’s Vice President, P.M. Barrow committed that government would take it to parliament this month. Well, the date for that landmark decision to be tabled in the House was today.  Government’s Erwin Contreras introduced the bill for an act to impose a moratorium on the exploration of offshore oil in the maritime zone of Belize. For more than five years Oceana and members of the Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage have been clamoring for a ban – and so when it was first announced back in August conservationists were pleased. And a group of them gathered today at the National Assembly to witness what they say is a historic moment for all Belizeans. Here’s how that went:


Erwin Contreras, Minister of Economic Development, Petroleum, Trade and Commerce

“Madam Speaker, I rise to introduce a bill for an act to impose a moratorium on the exploration for petroleum and other petroleum operations in the maritime zone of Belize to prevent pollution from installation devices, and vessels used in the exploration or exploitation of petroleum resources of the sea bed and sub-soil of the maritime zone. Accordingly, to make further provisions for the protection of the Belize barrier reef system and to provide for matters connected therewith or incident there to. Madame Speaker, this Bill has the recommendation of the Cabinet.”


Laura Longsworth, Speaker of the House

Laura Longsworth

“Honorable Members, that bill is referred to the Natural Resources and Environment Committee for examination, consideration, and report.”


Janelle Chanona

Janelle Chanona, Vice-President, OCEANA Belize

“I think this is a big day for Belize. We have continuously framed this issue not as an environmental issue or conservation issue but as a national issue because when you look at the fact that more than half of our population is directly dependent on marine and coastal ecosystems. Anything that happens offshore especially an overarching threat like offshore oil activity that have implications for tens of thousands of Belizeans. So, certainly it is a big day for Belize and I think given that it has been the Belizean people who have stuck to this issue; it hasn’t fallen victim to any of the traditional divisive tactics; it hasn’t fallen victim to time. Belizeans have remained committed to insisting on their right to be engaged on this issues, so certainly a big day for the country and I think as the world watches the developments today unfold, it is something they would want to get the details on and replicate their own right.”

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