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Dec 13, 2018

A New Set of Rules for Joint Operations in the Chiquibul Forest

While Guatemalan president and foreign minister are at the Biltmore, in Belmopan, a protocol was signed to deal with encroachments in the Chiquibul and Vaca Forests by persons from Guatemala who enter the protected area illegally. They extract the rich natural resources posing a serious threat to the environment and putting at risk the sovereignty and integrity of the country.  Friends for Conservation has been managing the protected area, but it is vast and resources are limited. So, today an agreement was signed between the Ministries of National Security as well as Forestry, the Environment, and Sustainable Development with the FCD.  It is called the Chiquibul and Vaca Forests Joint Enforcement Protocol and provides the framework for coordination and communication among the agencies.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports. 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Conservation efforts, as well as maintaining a law enforcement presence in the wilderness of the Chiquibul and Vaca forests, are all part of a national response to safeguarding and managing the natural resources found in western Belize.  Since joining forces to monitor activities within the protected area, the Ministry of National Security and Friends of Conservation and Development, FCD, have put together a set of rules or procedures collectively known as the Chiquibul and Vaca Forests Joint Enforcement Protocol.


Felix Enriquez

Felix Enriquez, C.E.O., Ministry of National Security

“This joint forces protocol has been deemed necessary and the conversation has ensued at the National Security Council on various occasions when standard operational procedures were not followed or not in place.  The conversation ensued in length at the National Information Committee, NIC.  On many occasions again, when we have noticed that perhaps we could have been a bit more prudent in the way we follow procedures and the way we work with each other.”


The new modus sets out an official joint enforcement program to tackle illegal activities within the forests which jeopardize their ecosystems and threaten the national security and territorial integrity of the country.


John Saldivar

John Saldivar, Minister of National Security

“The Chiquibul/Vaca Forest Reserve is massive.  It’s a massive Belizean treasure and cannot be properly managed by any one agency.  It is an overall protected area block of over four hundred and fifty-nine thousand acres.  The Chiquibul National Park, with its rolling hills and dense forestry features the beauty of one of Belize’s most mountainous regions.”


To protect that vast expanse of pristine environment government has to rely equally on the conservation community, a partnership which lends to better oversight of the area.


Rafael Manzanero

Rafael Manzanero, Executive Director, FCD

“There are some seven conservation posts and plus one in Machakilha which is in the Columbia River [Forest Reserve].  So that’s eight that are operating out there along the western frontier.  The great majority of the people that are found within this conservation post are of course the Belize Defense Force personnel and the police also from the Special Patrol Unit and a forest officer and then the FCD.  So in a sense the Belize Defense Force is basically the main component of making these things possible for us.  In a way we had always been able to think about, C.E.O. Enriquez, if it is really possible that a military could be able to do environmental protection and of course we have learned that yes, it is possible to do it.  Our concept of wanting to do a green battalion, even though it might not be signed as a protocol, C.E.O. Enriquez, but on the ground, you know, basically that is what really is taking place.”


Among the objectives of the protocol is to maximize the use of limited resources among the respective agencies, as well as to formalize the process of addressing challenges that may arise in respect of the conduct of joint operations.


Rafael Manzanero

“It certainly has been now a big relief now for us to be able to have a signed document that basically gives us the onus on how best to operate as a unit out there in the Chiquibul and now, by extension now, the Vaca Forest Reserve.  So when you start to look at that magnitude of, or that extension of the work, we are looking at some forty-five plus fifteen, that’s sixty kilometers of the western border.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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