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#398539 - 01/26/11 03:15 PM ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS TAKE THE PM TO TASK
Marty Online   happy

The organizations, namely the Sarstoon-Temash Institute for indigenous Movement, SATIIM, the Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations, APAMO and the Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage, continue to stand firm in their opposition to oil exploration in protected areas and off shore. Their fight now has been thrust into a stronger sense of urgency following a statement made by the Prime Minister, Dean Barrow earlier this month where he said oil drilling will be permitted at the Sarstoon-Temash National Park. SATIIM’s Executive Director Greg Choc says the statement was irresponsible.

Greg Choc – Executive Director, SATIIM

“I said the statement was irresponsible, inaccurate and misleading as it relates to the SATIIM versus Forestry Department judgment of 2006. I stand by my words.Through the instrument of law these communities that live around protected areas have been denied their traditional resources for their livelihoods by denying them access to these protected areas. Therefore, government has a moral and legal obligation to respect these protected areas law and honor the sacrifice our communities make and keep making. So honorable Prime minister you have said you will not break legitimate contract. Is it then that our laws which mind and commit us as a people to protect our natural wonders not worth the paper it is written on? Furthermore are the international conventions that Belize has signed on also rendered meaningless in this country? Are you saying that the only legitimate contracts recognized by government are those signed to accommodate special interest groups at a specific time?”

Coordinator at APAMO, Yvette Alonzo says the government should be more committed to respecting the protected areas legislation.

Yvette Alonzo – Coordinator, APAMO

“APAMO strongly believes that as a country we need to have areas that are off limits to oil exploration and production and protected areas should be one of such areas. After so many years of conservation efforts and resources invested in these protected areas by conservation groups, the international community the government and the people of Belize it is unacceptable for any oil company to pursue profits with total disrespect for both our protected area and the people of Belize. Furthermore the government has failed to develop a policy dealing with protected areas and oil exploration in order to protect the country’s precious resources. The government does not have the proper legal framework nor the human and technological capacity to protect the natural resources and the people from oil exploration and production.”

Geovannie Brackett, Chairman for Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage adds they are not completely against oil exploration but says parameters need to be set.

Geovannie Brackett – Chairman, Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage

“Where exploration extraction is considered, we must ensure that the highest environmental standards are adhered to. But let us not confirm our debate to only the environmental as ecological aspect but government should ensure the people of Belize must benefit significantly from the oil industry. We are not saying no completely to oil, but conduct it to benefit the people, let it be done in a safe manner, with parameters to protect our people.”

When asked whether they have considered joining in the development of policies or framework to protect Belize’s natural resources should their efforts prove futile, this was Choc’s response.

Greg Choc – Executive Director, SATIIM

“If we embrace what you are saying, in fact we have become like the politicians because we want to amend the law, we want to circumvent the law for personal interest when we should be looking at the interest of this country.”

At this juncture, Choc says they are hoping the Prime Minister heeds to their cause.

Greg Choc – Executive Director, SATIIM

“I hope he stand with us; I hope he reasons with us because I think what binds us together is our commonness, our wish to safeguard and protect Belize, what we call home. Rebuilding our economy requires innovation and creativity, certainly not by destroying its foundation”.

SATIIM Executive Director, Greg Choc added that they maintain their options open in terms of the next action they will take in their protest against oil exploration in protected areas in the country.

LOVEFM


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#398544 - 01/26/11 03:27 PM Re: ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS TAKE THE PM TO TASK [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy

Conservation NGO’s “Bringing The Heat” On GOB

Oil - it is seen as Belize's ticket out of poverty - and while that equation leaves a lot to be desired - government is determined to give oil prospectors every chance they can to unearth substantial oil reserves in Belize - even if it means exploring within protected areas.

That declaration made three weeks ago by the Prime Minister has incensed conservation NGO's and they today held a press conference in Belize City where the rage quotient was very high. Jules Vasquez reports.

Geovanni Brackett, Coalition Chairman
"It is time for our people to rise up. It is only when we come together and move in the direction of unity and be willing to pay the price and make the sacrifice for freedom that we will see justice roll in this nation, that we will see liberation visit our people."

Jules Vasquez Reporting
That strident call to arms is due, in some part, to this interview given by the Prime Minister on January 6th:

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"In terms of the national parks we are hopeful that the US Capital Energy people in the south will be able to proceed. Everything is coming up roses in terms of seismic that has been shot and that sort of thing, and, I am telling you, since that matter already went to court, if they say they are ready to drill they will be allowed to drill!"

SATIIM co-manages that park and Chairman Greg Ch'oc says Government also has to consider its conservation obligations:

Greg Ch'oc, Chairman SATIIM
"To drill or not to drill. These are the questions that we as Belizeans in the spirit of nationalism cannot afford our political leaders to answer for us. Our government's 'drill baby, drill' position has only what the Prime Minister calls a legitimate contract as its basis. It cannot be economic as its common knowledge that only BNE is benefitting from our oil, so Honorable Prime Minister, you have said you will not break a legitimate contract, is it then that our laws which bind and commit us as a people to protect our natural wonders not worth the paper it is written on? Furthermore are the international conventions that Belize has signed on also rendered meaningless in this country? Are you saying that the only legitimate contracts recognized by government are those signed to accommodate special interest groups at a specific time?"

And now, COLA and APAMO have joined SATIIM to take a collective stand against government:

Yvette Alonso, APAMO
"APAMO considers the efforts of the government to allow the exploitation of oil inside our protected areas as irresponsible. The government has a responsibility to its people to maintain these areas as they are a common good for all the Belizean people. APAMO calls on the government to do the right thing, to guarantee and to implement a ban on oil exploration in all our protected areas and World Heritage Sites."

Geovanni Brackett, Coalition Chairman
"We are being led by a government straight on to a financial hell and if we as a people do not stand up, if we as a people do not get informed and start moving to action, the government will continue with its intention to drill."

And if it does not impose a ban, the Chairman of the "Coalition to Save Our National Heritage", Geovanni Brackett made it clear there will be consequences:

Geovanni Brackett, Coalition Chairman
"It continues the hope that this will blow over. But let me promise you this. The hell of a storm that is coming - this won't pass over so quickly."

Brackett says they are prepared to engage in civil resistance:

Geovanni Brackett, Coalition Chairman
"We are willing to stand in front of the PM's house, to protest in front of the PM's office, the National Assembly. When we at COLA, we won't abide by no 8 to 5. We will stay and we will bring the heat until every contract is being revoked."

But for the time being, "bringing the heat" means working towards a referendum:

Geovanni Brackett, Coalition Chairman
"The coalition right now is conducting its petition drive. We are collecting signatures after signatures to get the 10% of the registered voters list in order to take it to a referendum, a referendum that we believe that we will win. Now it would be crazy, it would be insane for any government of the day after its people have clearly stated that the route that it intend to go for it to go against the people's will, then I think that in itself will dictate how far the people of Belize is willing to go."

Greg Ch'oc, Chairman SATIIM
"Today it might be in the Sarstoon Temash National Park, tomorrow it might be right in front of Belize City as you have seen the map."

And these conservation groups and their supporters hope that the government is sufficiently intimidated to listen to what they see as reason:

Greg Ch'oc, Chairman SATIIM
"I think the Prime Minister is a human being like all of us. I want to believe that. I want to be optimistic that he can be influenced to change his position."

The Collation to Protect Our National Resources needs to collect about eighteen thousand signatures to mandate a referendum; it currently has about four thousand.

Channel 7


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#399295 - 02/02/11 03:41 PM Re: ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS TAKE THE PM TO TASK [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy
No more secret petroleum deals, says Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage

Both the current and the previous administrations have been in the habit of issuing petroleum concessions without public consultation or notification, and Oceana is calling on the Government of Belize to discontinue the practice of penning these secret petroleum deals.

As we reported in the headlines of the Sunday, January 30, 2011, edition of Amandala, a new concession was granted by Government in 2010 to Paradise Energy Limited, owned by Kimano Barrow and Alfredo Acosta, giving the contractors the biggest petroleum concession block onshore, over the Maya Mountain area, spanning several protected areas and a major archaeological reserve.

Oceana is calling on the Government of Belize to immediately amend Section 13 of the Petroleum Act, Chapter 225 of the Laws of Belize, which provides for open competitive bidding for petroleum contracts, because, in its view, it has been abused by government administrations, so much so that all except one of roughly 20 contracts have been given out behind closed doors, only with sanctioning by Cabinet.

The problem with Section 13, though, is that it also provides for ministerial discretion to grant contracts selectively.

Proviso 3, says Oceana, “removes this layer to transparency and accountability and allows the Minister ‘with the approval of the Cabinet, [to] select contractors other than through competitive bidding procedures in the following cases: (a) where the technical or economic circumstances make it advisable; or (b) where he determines that the circumstances so require.’”

Oceana contends that the issuance of contracts to such companies as Paradise Energy Limited with no petroleum experience violates section 11 of the same law, which lists experience as one of its prerequisites.

Oceana vice president Audrey Matura-Shepherd said, “We must continue to demand accountability and transparency, but sadly, every government has sought to ignore subsections 1 and 2 of Section 13 of the law, because it suits their purpose, which is not to be transparent and not to be accountable to the people of Belize when entering these deals.”

She continues to point out that Section 13 of the Petroleum Act says that “selection of contracts should be carried out through public competitive bidding or such other competitive procedure as may be determined by the Minister.”

There is also a requirement for the minister to publish a notice in the Gazette declaring the areas to be open for bidding, as well as detailing the procedures and rules for submission of tenders.

This practice of issuing petroleum concessions in secret cannot continue, she urges.

Meanwhile, the Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage issued a press release calling on the government to cancel all offshore leases, and to not consider granting any new ones, in light of the fact that the Government of Taiwan surrendered its 1.139 million-acre offshore concession in 2010.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow told Amandala Thursday that the relinquishment was not a consequence of public pressure, but resulted because “their preliminary analysis showed that it was not worth it.”

He also said there are contracts that have to be honored and he is not prepared to impose any arbitrary ban on offshore exploration. Additionally, he maintained his stance that petroleum exploration will be permitted in protected areas.

“Government has repeatedly lamented that their hands are tied, as the contracts for these leases are legal,” the Coalition says. ”Now that one company has untangled Government’s hands, Government can now do what is right to protect the Belizean people, the environment we depend on and for our livelihoods and not re-issue any lease(s) for the relinquished area.”

It also points out that the government has five days before a deadline by UNESCO for Government to respond to UNESCO’s request that it demonstrate what corrective actions it would take to maintain the status of the Belize Barrier Reef as a World Heritage Site.

“A public declaration by the government not to re-issue [the] said lease, would surely be viewed as steps in the right direction,” the Coalition urged. ”UNESCO has clearly stated that Government should prohibit oil drilling in a World Heritage Site, as it is incompatible with the criteria for such prestigious status.”

Barrow told us Thursday that there should be no award on any new contracts pending a final position, for which he will consult with Cabinet. He said that he is prepared to take into account the results of a national referendum for which the Coalition has been calling.

“The Coalition believes that a more definitive step to addressing the grave concerns raised by UNESCO over the issuing of oil exploration leases within the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve, would be to cancel all existing offshore oil leases and prohibit offshore drilling,” the Coalition asserted. “The Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage calls on the Government of Belize to not let this opportunity slip away,” it further stated.

The Coalition also urges the Barrow administration to stop issuing contracts secretly, based on Cabinet approval and not on open public bidding.

“The Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage says NO to oil exploration and exploitation in our offshore and protected areas, and calls for immediate review of the legislation and regulations before any further steps are taken to further expand and develop the onshore oil industry of Belize,” its statement concluded.

Amandala

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#399345 - 02/03/11 12:18 AM Re: ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS TAKE THE PM TO TASK [Re: Marty]
Katie Valk Offline
Perhaps this can be called illegal same as Said Musa's secret accommodation deal with ashcroft for btl?
_________________________
Belize based travel specialist
www.belize-trips.com
info@belize-trips.com

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