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Apr 20, 2009

SATIIM angry over seismic testing in national park

Story PictureThere are harsh words coming tonight from the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management. It is over a decision by the Forest Department to grant permission to U.S. Capital Energy, a private oil company, to enter the Sarstoon Temash National Park and conduct seismic testing. SATIIM says that while it manages the National Park, it was never consulted prior to the granting of the permit. And Secondly, it is not certain about the scope of the seismic testing and how it will affect the future of the sensitive eco-system in the park. In a release, SATIIM says it feel betrayed by the Prime Minister at the secret manner in which the permission was granted. But the Ministry of Natural Resources says that the agreement between SATIIM and the previous government to co-manage the park expired in 2008. While SATIIM accepts this, it says it continues to co-manage the park and is awaiting a response from government for an extension or renewal of that agreement. Executive Director of SATIIM, Gregory Cho’c, says they are hoping that common sense will prevail before an irreversible mistake is made.

Gregory Cho’c, Executive Director, SATIIM
“While our co-management agreement expired in 2008, there exists an understanding between the Association of Protected Area Management Organization and the ministry regarding the status of the co-management agreement that had expired. We have written to the ministry several times, I’ve met with deputy Prime Minister to discus the status of our agreement. We have not received any response. Not withstanding that, we have been engaged in the management of the park, we have not abandoned our responsibility or we have not failed in executing our role under the terms of the last co-management agreement and we feel that we have demonstrated our ability to manage the park, hence we like we feel that we should have been consulted.”

“On top of the exclusion, is that there are several fundamental issues that we have raised that we feel are of national importance that have not been considered or not taken into account by both the Department of the Environment and the Forestry Department,. Particularly, I’ll give you a particular instance, the cutting of seismic lines inside the park will originate from the banks of the Sarstoon River that cuts right across the park. Now, the question that we have is there are sensitive, fragile ecosystems inside the park that we have been advocating, should at least be evaluated and excluded from such activities. But even so, we felt that our proposal to have SATIIM monitor and patrol and ensure that seismic lines that is going to be cut—that will be cut across the park, coming from the international border, will provide open access to poachers and illegal hunters and people that want to extract lumber from inside the park, which we have for since we start managing the park have been deterring. Us, not being involved, we don’t know who is going to ensure that these seismic lines will in fact not become highways for the Guatemalan to come and extract our precious resources inside the park. The other thing is we feel like we have a contribution to make, after all the communities and us will remain behind after the whole seismic operation continues.”

Cho’c has since written to the Prime Minister requesting government to reconsider the decision. He has also called a meeting with the indigenous and non-governmental groups involved. News Five called the Forest Department, which is the body that granted permission for the seismic testing, but we were told that both persons authorized to give an interview, Chief Forest Officer, Wilber Sabido and his deputy, Marcelo Windsor, were not in today.

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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