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Jan 26, 2011

Oceana Victory: Oil company gives up concession on sea

Oceana has scored a major victory in its battle to preserve the Barrier Reef. There have been about seventeen companies which have been granted concessions to explore for oil on land as well as deep in our terrestrial waters. But today the N.G.O. announced that the second largest holder of a concession has backed off and relinquished its claim to drill in over a million acres of sea that spans the length of the country. According to Audrey Matura Shepherd, Oceana’s Vice President for Belize, OPIC, the Taiwanese state owned company has voluntarily released its block of one point one million acres since October.

Audrey Matura Shepherd, V.P. Oceana Belize

“That is very good news that OPIC would say look we are stepping out of this game. And our understand is through certain channels and sources that two main reasons. One being; after they looked at the seismic and all the data and heavy study that had been done previously and did the desk work, because you can look at previous seismic and could tell what are your chances, they don’t believe there is oil there, and if there is even, it is not worth the investment, it might be just something small. And two, apparently when they got into the agreements with governments in 2006 and then 2009, there were of the view and understanding that there is no opposition to the issue in Belize. And as such, they like that because they don’t want as a state owned oil company to come into another country that there would be this controversy that can affect relationships between the two countries. And so in 2006, there were told that there was no opposition and that don’t worry, you can go ahead. Of course, a lot has changed since 2006, because people from the embassy have been seeing our local presentations through the news and different medium and they know that the people are aware about the issue. We don’t want offshore drilling in our waters. And especially if you look at that map, you will see that they had a substantial portion from Belize City down to Dangriga and it stretched the entire barrier system there. So now that’s being released and I think that’s good.”

Jose Sanchez

audrey matura-shepherd

“This is clearly a victory for Oceana, environmentalists and people who care about the reef itself, but throughout this entire time, we were all under the impression that OPIC still had that million plus body of water. What is the significance now of this information coming out?”

Audrey Matura Shepherd

“Well it serves a major problem for the government if we believe what the government has been saying. Remember the Prime Minister has said in several interview some of them with yourself that yes we may be calling for these contracts to be made null and void but they wouldn’t go and do that because they would suffer serious legal repercussions  because imagine if we break these contracts—this is not a B.T.L. situation and so we will honor these contracts because these are valid contracts. And so now with OPIC gone, without the contract being withdrawn from them or nullified, they had left. So this means that the Prime Minister doesn’t have to worry that OPIC will sue them because OPIC left on their own. And it means the second thing, what we’ve been saying is, do not give out the area, do not reissue. If they feel that there is a need to really comprehensively study the aspects of offshore drilling in Belize, it has to be, we would strongly recommend after the referendum. What we are saying through the petition drive we have is that Belizeans should be given an opportunity to vote on the issue—to say yes we want offshore drilling or no we don’t want offshore drilling. Now we in good faith, if the government is really talking to us in good faith, they would say this area is free and we will not do anything with it until we hear from the people.”

Matura Shepherd says OCEANA is calling for a referendum on the issue. OCEANA has sent a letter to the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister and has also sent letters to key personnel in related ministries. The letter calls for a dialogue instead of any new issuances of contract for the area once parceled off to OPIC.

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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9 Responses for “Oceana Victory: Oil company gives up concession on sea”

  1. Chass Cross says:

    Victory for Oceana yes but is it a victory for Belize in the long run? Some one inform me please because I think it is a loss for Belize in the long run.

  2. rigrat says:

    This had absolutely NOTHING to do with any pressure group, OCEANA or whatever. I was a decision purely based upon seismic interpretation showing that there was very little chance of any oil there.
    There is no victory here for OCEANA here at all.

  3. BZ says:

    Rightly so. It might not have been direct pressure from Oceana, but you cannot deny the priceless work they are doing. I am usually a skeptic, but drilling offshore is utterly ridiculous, not worth the risks. You cannot endanger our reef for a few million dollars.

  4. sofia says:

    As a belizean I am ashamed of our mentality to not see further. Oil has never outweighed the dangers in such a small nation like belize where corruption and no environmental control exists that instead of the benefits going to their citizens instead it only makes corporations richer and a few politicians.Lets not drink the cool-aid they arre trying to selll us. It puts in risk our co-existence with one accident in such a tiny and fragile country. lets not be like locusts finding a very risky way out and destroy the only thing that makes belize special, its environment and natural atttractions. If we are going to explore for oil FINE but not in fragile locations like close to our BARRIER REEF ITS SO INCREDIBLE THAT WE WOULD EVEN CONTEMPLATE IT. NOT TO MENTION SO SHORT SIGHTED AND SHOWS GREED. Bravo for oceania and other agencies… I do not think they are against development but YES against rampant and quick and hasty decisions when we do not have a well planned and consulted with the belizean people. Not because we put you in government means you decide what to do with our country and always in our best interest.

  5. daveyt says:

    Don’t hold your breath. an oil company would only give up concessions to explore for oil if there isn’t any oil in the area in the first place. Which means that they have already done some tests. G.O.B. will simply try to sell those same concessions to another company, so the Reef isn’t safe yet.

    Unless of course, our P.M. decides to declare the same area a protected zone/conservation area. But like I said, don’t hold your breath.

  6. isee says:

    unfortunately the area is a safe protected zone. It is a world heritage site. So what assurances can truly protect it?

  7. Ow Resident says:

    Victory for Oceana???

  8. indy says:

    Yea we have saved the reef. I do not have a problem with that. I am 100% with that.

    The problem is now that we have given up a huge opportunity for Belize in terms of economic development. So now Miss Matura can you come up with alternatives or solutions for economic development for Belize.

  9. shock says:

    Approximately 17 concessions were granted? I wonder if the others holding concessions knew that there were so many others competng to drill for oil in Belize. As a financial consultant on a global scale who see all sourts of investments packages, including petrolium business, I can say with all certainty that its rear when oil companies do dry hole drilling. The entire globe has been explored for any and ever kind of natural resourses including minerals and even water. this is no secret, as all of this information can be seen on the Internet. The natural resourses of a country is leverage in different ways to underwrite the country’s debt obligations.

    Those of us who know about capital creation undersatnd how such concession(s) can be used to generate funds and never have to share any of those funds with the country from which they get the concession. If top politician did not know the game before been elected, they find out real soon, especially Minister of Finance.

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