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Sep 7, 2022

P.M. Responds to N.G.O.’s; N.G.O.’s Has Concerns

Prime Minister John Briceño has finally responded to a letter sent to him on August twenty-fifth by a consortium of twelve non-government organizations.  The response they received, however, has raised more questions than answers and tonight the conservation community is trying to figure out what its contents are truly saying. The environmental N.G.O.s had asked for a halt to all Environmental Impact Assessments, including public consultations until the amendments to Belize’s environmental laws are completed. The request was made in light of the government’s commitments under the Blue Bond Agreement. The P.M.’s response came in the form of a two-page letter, which explains that the government, serious about its commitments under the Blue Loan Agreement and the Conservation Funding Agreement, has established a Blue Bond Unit within his office to ensure government’s compliance with its financial and conservation obligations under the agreements. The letter goes on to state that while government is doing everything to comply with its commitments, it has gone ahead and sought legal advice on the matter, before responding. It goes on to directly address the issue by saying “There is no question that my government will ensure that any E.I.A. approvals are granted in adherence to Belize’s laws and regulations. It is a clear overreach to suggest that within the context of the agreements that all E.I.A.s should be “paused”. The P.M.’s letter goes on to say that the government is of the view that conservation and sustainable human development can be achieved. It goes on to say “We have high levels of poverty in this country. This cannot be ignored in the interest of conservation,”. The letter does acknowledge, however, the importance of building climate resiliency and supporting conservation and assures that government will ensure that sustainable human development will at all times comply with Belize’s laws. But the N.G.O.’s are not comfortable with the tone of the letter. This evening, Vice President for OCEANA in Belize, Senator Janelle Chanona said that while they are still reviewing the response, there are some concerns.


Janelle Chanona

Senator Janelle Chanona, V.P., OCEANA, Belize

“I got very nervous in terms of seeing the line of referring to legal counsel because as we’ve seen lately, a lot of that legal counsel that the government has received in the past have put us in some interesting situations, so I do hope that all of us can trust implicitly in the guidance that the government is being given. But the crooks, yes, is that we had questions jointly in relation to the Blue Bond Agreement, but there were other things that we were also asking, if there wasn’t disconnect. So it’s not just about the Blue Bonds Agreement. It is also about the EIA regulations as per the February 2020 amendments that also speak to looking at how EIAs proceed in relation to potential impacts to the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System and making sure that that is safeguarded. It’s asking about the policies that are still ongoing, so that’s where I see there’s a lot, as I said that doesn’t reconcile and I will be counting on the media to reconcile the contents of this letter even with the October statement that we got initially that looked at the ports in specific, but certainly we’ve added to that list, so we want to know how we’re proceeding because I’m still not sure, as you called out, that we’re on the same page in terms of where our concerns are rooted and it’s not just in one agreement. I don’t know that the community has ever said that we are anti-development or anti-job creation, but that’s the conversation that we want to have because we cannot be that we’re using development and job-creation to justify these decisions if we don’t have clarity on what type of jobs are we talking about, what type of development agenda we’re talking about. That is the conversation we want to have. Admittedly it will be a difficult conversation but we have to have it if everybody’s knowing where we’re going and how we’re going to get there. What we’re calling out is that its these projects today, but as we’ve seen in the past, and if we don’t arrest it now, what we will continue to see in the future is this project-to-project scenario, (and we) constantly trying to figure out how we’re going to make everything work in the same space and that’s the cycle we’re trying to address. It is not stopping development, it’s putting a pause on certain things so that we have clarity, so that we have a plan. We have said if we’re failing to plan then we’re planning to fail and we can’t afford to fail.”

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