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Mar 14, 2023

Minister Habet Explains Composition of Appeals Tribunal

Orlando Habet

A tribunal appointed by the Government of Belize to preside over an appeal being made by Waterloo, in respect of the Port of Belize Expansion Project, has been named. The members of that body are Lucy Fleming, Doctor Terry Hughes and Justice Farnese Patricia Farnese.  Back in February, we reported that the Department of the Environment had issued a public notice on the amendment of the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations. D.O.E., on two occasions, did not grant environmental clearance to Waterloo Investment Holdings Limited for the Port Expansion and Cruise Tourism Project.  Earlier today, we caught up with Orlando Habet, Minister of Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management. We asked him about the composition of the tribunal and how the selection process was carried out.


Orlando Habet, Minister of Sustainable Development

“As you know, the Waterloo project which was for the cruise ship port and the cargo port, went a second time to the committee after going through the Department of the Environment.  Once again, NEAC recommended to the Department of the Environment not to grant environmental clearance.  So they have under the law the opportunity to make an appeal and they made that appeal and the law states that we have to convene a tribunal, myself being the minister.  And the tribunal is supposed to be composed of a senior magistrate or a Supreme Court judge appointed by the Chief Justice or the Chief Magistrate.  That has been done through the Supreme Court, so we have that person.  The second person would be the senator representing the business community and the third person would be someone that is a professional in the field of environment which would be selected by myself, as the minister.  So, knowing that we already have that person nominated and appointed by the Supreme Court judge, the other person had been the senator.  In this case, looking at the concerns from all around, the Belizean community, ourselves, looking at the persons who would be involved, we had, because of perception, believed that, after getting from the media and everybody else, concerns that there was a possibility, there is the perception that the current sitting senator would have been biased because of what had transpired before.  One: that he represents the Chamber of Commerce who had come vocally and stated that they were in support of Waterloo, for their reasons and they have their reasons, we have to respect that, but also because the position, I think, that I believe his brother had been involved with the EIA process with Waterloo.  And so, I took it upon myself and with advice from the ministry to write the senator asking if he believes there was any conflict of interest which he expressed through a response letter that there was no conflict of interest from his perspective.  After reviewing it with my team and recommendations from our legal counsel, we thought that yes there was, and so we asked that he would be recused from that and we would select somebody else.”

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