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Oct 13, 2009

Environmentalists and Chamber of Commerce ask for time-out

Story PictureTo become aligned with the Caribbean Single Market Economy, the government introduced a bill in the House that changed the tax structure for imported spirits. That meant stiff competition for the manufacturer of Belikin Beer since the price of Heineken beer went down. And on August twenty-fourth, a bill to add a deposit of twenty-five cents on imports of beverages in glass bottles and tin went through a first reading in the House of Representatives. That was seen by many industry insiders as a move to increase the cost of Heineken and to protect the local product. But the Returnable Containers Bill is expected to impact more than just beer. It also affects a wide variety of imported beverages. The environmental groups have said that the bill does little to address plastic containers which comprise the majority of trash amassed countrywide. The environmentalists headed by the Association of Protected Areas Management Organization (APAMO), found an unusual ally in the Belize Chamber of Commerce. APAMO and the Chamber held a joint press conference today to urge the government to postpone the second reading and hold consultations with all those who would be affected by the Returnable Containers Bill.

Amparo Masson, President, B.C.C.I.
“We got together with the environmental groups we feel if we’re going to pass a bill and call it an environmental bill we feel it really should address the environment. And the press conference is really to ask government to please put a hold on the bill so that we can get all the stakeholders around one table to really discuss the bill and come up with a comprehensive environmental bill.”

Jose Sanchez
“At this point, some people are of the impression this is an economic issue, probably just to make Heineken increase in price. Is that the viewpoint shared by the Chamber?”

Amparo Masson
“The Chamber has not taken the point whether it is the Heineken against Bowen or whatever it is. The fact is that it will indeed have economic implications for distributors in general. If you think about the containers, it talks about the juices up to the size of a gallon. That could be baby juices, that could be any kind of juice; apple juice, whatever it is, health juice, V8 juices. Whether the intent was a Bowen and Heineken thing, it’s one thing, the Chamber is not really involved with that. But there’s not a proper mechanism in place to really pay deposits and make refunds. As a matter of fact it is far more complicated than that. We have five or so importers bringing in the same product. You sell five, I sell ten and somebody comes and wants to make a refund and take fifteen to your organization, or to your company. It will put an impact on your cash flow. How will you separate what was sold from my company and what was sold from your company. There is a lot of implications.”

Jose Sanchez
“This bill was modelled after a Barbados Act, what is missing in the adaptation from that act?”

Yvette Alonso, APAMO
“Well, Jose, our concern is that we feel that the bill needs to be strengthened. If you look at the Barbados bill, they also look at plastics which is one of the biggest contributors to pollution in Belize. We see a lot of it in our streets, but not only in our streets; they also end up in our waters. A number of organizations for our Marine Protected Areas, TIDE for instance, does a clean up, garbage and the amount of plastics and garbage that they take out of the sea is the reason why APAMO took the stand to join with the Chamber to address this bill so it is strengthened in scope no.”

Both groups say they want more consultations with government to include plastic containers in the Bill.

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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