Guatemalan Oil Company has rights over disputed Sapodilla Cayes Range

The opposition against oil explorations in protected areas is growing leaps and bounds. Today, the Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage held a public forum to state why they are calling for a moratorium on oil explorations. It is known that eighteen licenses have been issued so far, but one particular license was zeroed in by OCEANA. It was granted to a Guatemalan company and OCEANA says it’s illegal.

Audrey Matura Shepherd, V.P., OCEANA Belize

“Our company search led us to Island Oil and it just look on the surface of it as just another company. But however, close observation of it, we realized that no it is not just another company. Interestingly, it is a company owed by Pedegua S.A., that is a sociedad anonima. So that is the way they form companies and therefore, Pedegua owns nine hundred and ninety-nine shares in this company. And then when we did a search on the internet, it had said that it was state oil. But our check with the Guatemalan Embassy since, they said that it is not state oil it is just a Guatemalan owned company in their jurisdiction. And then we found that in Belize there is only one shareholder in the person of Mister Alistair King. So when we saw that and we cross-checked with the map, not only is it a Guatemalan company that is now fronting with a Belizean company certificate, but it is also the company that got the disputed area which is in the Sapodilla range. So that really to me sends up alarms because it speaks loudly and voluminously about the implications of that by private contract how we have circumvented our constitution and given our petroleum rights to a Guatemalan entity.”

Jose Sanchez

“This is a national issue, it’s not just an issue of oil but it’s our rights, our sovereignty, isn’t it?”

Audrey Matura Shepherd

Audrey Matura Shephard

“It is! I think that Belizeans should be aware that when we talking about oil we’re talking about a billion dollar industry and sometimes that is so tempting for people in the proper positions to make the improper decisions. And so we are assuming that the present administration that took over have not really had the time to peruse it. They took it on the face value that it is just another contract and it’s just another public sharing agreement. But I hope the revelation now makes them realize that this is time to step back, that this not what we would want in Belize. No Belizean would want to know that it is a Guatemalan oil company that will be deciding what is the future of that area. After all, we at the coalition believe there should be no offshore drilling. And what you need to understand as well is that in times of emergency and war, government can control any company. So, let’s say there is an emergency and war, the government of Guatemala can then control Pedegua and all its assets and it so happens that part of it is in Belize through its contractual rights over that region.”

Jose Sanchez

“When it comes to this particular concession, it gives you the impression either there was collusion at the highest level of government, or someone didn’t do their homework and didn’t do their due diligence. Who signed this contract?”

Audrey Matura Shepherd

“This contract was signed by our then Minister of Natural Resources, Johnny Briceno, and it was signed on behalf of the oil company, Steve Riley, who is the president of Pedegua. It was also signed by the then C.E.O. and the Petroleum Inspector, previously in 2004, it was Evadne Wade, and in 2005, it was Andre Cho.”

Jose Sanchez

“If I’m not mistaken the company at a superficial level is trying to pass off as a Belizean company because of the Belizean attached to it. Do you think Mister Alistair King has something to answer to?”

Audrey Matura Shepherd

“Well, I don’t know him and don’t know his motives or anything, he may genuinely be a businessman. But from my legal training, I would think that we should investigate who are the people who did this, the motives or everything and if possible people should be charged with treason because what you‘ve done is used the private law of contract, to contract out a right, a part of our patrimony that goes against our sovereignty to a Guatemalan company. And Guatemalan company is a Guatemalan citizen, and Guatemala has a claim on Belize’s territory especially that area.”

Channel 5