A tourism project in San Pedro funded by the International Development Bank is running into trouble with residents of the town who over the years have relied on the designated area to earn their livelihood. The project contemplates blocking access to the lagoon and for boatmen, that’s like taking from their tables. The islanders say that the consultations that have been held were merely to impose the project on them. But Tourism Minister and Belize Rural South Area Representative, Manuel Heredia says the six million dollar project will go ahead and that it will improve the aesthetics of the island. News Five’s Marion Ali reports.
Marion Ali, Reporting
This is the master plan for the San Pedro Boardwalk and Municipal Pier for the lagoon side area of San Pedro. It will stretch for about a quarter of a mile and will include a street running straight through the nearby football field, splitting it into two, and a portion of the lagoon itself filled in to compensate for the lost portion of the field. It will also have water taxi terminals, customs facilities, vending areas and piers. But as the saying goes: “progress brings problems” and those who depend on that section of the lagoon for their livelihood say that the project will only displace them.
Rene Bradley, San Pedro Resident
“I’ve been working here for more than thirty years in this same area. Once they come with this boardwalk there won’t be any access for boats to be pulled out anymore back here.”
Virginio Henkis, San Pedro Resident
“I fix up yah like fi haul up my boat and what not and if dehn put wah boardwalk then I can’t haul up my boat.”
Joyce Cano, Area resident
“This place is like a family place and we mek barbeque like a family, you know. All the people could come and spend time here, you know.”
Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism
Manuel Heredia Jr.
“When IDB’s plan came into effect then there were some changes. They cannot just have the terminal without enhancing the surroundings and that is where the boardwalk and the seawall and those things came into the picture the picture to make it more viable.”
According to Minister of Tourism, Manuel Heredia, in order for the project to get the approval from the Inter-American Development Bank, it has to meet certain criteria, but while he admits there were alterations to the original plan, he said that the people who have a problem with the project have personal agendas.
“Some of them have their own agendas also, right. Everybody says that it is a beautiful plan.”
“Everybody meaning—aside from these forty fifty people?”
“All the stakeholders believe it’s a good plan, but the last two meetings, I have to be fair, no matter what you try to accommodate, they have said we do not want the project in any form.”
“They won’t have access to the lagoon.”
“No, that is not the case. At the last consultation, if you need individual piers as you have, we will try to give you that, but in a more better shape and fashion, noh. And the people who have their bodegas, warehouse, then we will try to see if we can do to a standardized form something that will suit about three or four of them that have over there. The rest of them don’t want any type of that.”
“But it’s like forty or fifty of them that don’t support the project.”
“No, it is twenty-two; twenty-two stakeholders.”
Heredia also accused the people of squatting on the land over the years.
“They have been squatting there over time. Nobody has dared to say let us legalize our status over here.”
“You’ve developed this portion of the land?”
“I had it leased for nineteen years, when dehn noh come and try talk to me, like no tell me nothing bout it.”
“You still have lease to it?”
“No dehn stop charge me the lease, but we have the papers fi show how much we pay, nineteen years. Like my work noh value nothing.”
The laborers we spoke with say that they also have a concern over how the project will affect the environment.
“Once they start dredging they’ll start killing everything that lives. Because they’ll have to fill in all that section that they’re talking about the water taxi terminal and stuff so they’re talking about sucking and dredging all this in here.”
“What about the dredging?”
“The dredging, there is practically nothing to be dredged over there. What we were saying, we will clean. There is very little mangrove probably close to Caribena, small amount. We can work a way that that will not be destroyed.”
“What about the part that will be filled in?”
“The part for the playground, that part will be leveled and fenced neatly for other activities that we still have, practicing football, Costa Maya Festival and other types of things.”
“So a portion of the sea will be filled in to…?”
“Yeah, to accommodate what we lost over here.”
There have been at least three public meetings over the proposed boardwalk and municipal pier and Heredia says that the ongoing conflict has delayed the project from getting started. He says that if necessary, the project will be presented to all the residents of the island for a vote. Marion Ali for News Five.
The tourism project is one of four projects approved by the I.D.B.