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#409646 - 06/10/11 09:04 AM Tourism or Oil?
Marty Offline
The Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage reached out to the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA), urging its members to seriously consider becoming directly involved in efforts to halt offshore oil development in Belize. The BTIA outlines the serious damage to Belize’s tourism industry, environment and how it can adversely affect all BTIA members and inland operators:

Tourism or Oil?

“The debate about offshore oil development and the related referendum comes down to a choice: tourism or oil. Picture oil derricks as the seascape view from San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Belize City, Hopkins, Placencia, Punta Gorda, Turneffe and the Blue Hole! If the aesthetics don't convince tourists not to come, consider that the average oil platform discharges 90,000 tons of toxic waste during its lifetime - and that's without spills. Belize's tourism industry and off-shore oil development are simply incompatible. GOB seems to think that we can have our cake and eat it too - but we cannot.

BTIA and its members have largely been silent and it is time to take a closer look. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), travel and tourism supports 39,000 jobs in Belize - that is 31% of Belize total employment. Offshore oil development would add minimal employment opportunities for Belizeans as the average oil rig employs around 200 individuals, and many of these jobs would go to highly skilled foreign oil workers. It would be wonderful if employment from the two sectors were additive, but this simply is not the case. These few oil jobs would come at the expense of many tourism jobs resulting in severe exacerbation of Belize ongoing unemployment crisis.

GOB touts the potential oil tax revenue as a windfall to reduce debt and provide other needs, but they neglect to consider the effect on tourism-related tax revenue. The fact is that tourism is a very highly taxed industry and tax revenues from oil are, at best, nebulous. Again, if oil taxes were additive to tourism taxes, it would be worth considering, but increases in oil taxes will be more than offset by a drop in tourism tax taxes if tourists no longer view Belize as a viable eco-tourism destination.

Over the next 10 years, WTTC predicts that the total contribution from travel and tourism in Belize will grow to 39.5% of GDP and the number of jobs contributed will increase to 61,000. Assuming that tourism growth is managed responsibly, this will result in a sustainable economy and sustainable employment. Oil reserves, on the other hand, are, by definition, finite and if the heart of Belize's economy is substituted for this short-term economy, we will be left with no economy.

These are some of the reasons that offshore oil development will not benefit the economy of Belize or the citizens of Belize. It goes without saying that it is contrary to the interests of BTIA and its members. BTB estimates that 70% of Belize's tourists visit Belize's offshore, even though many of these travelers also visit inland resorts. Simply put, without a healthy offshore environment and healthy reef, Belize's entire tourism industry is in jeopardy.

The Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage continues to gather signatures for the referendum, together with an education and public awareness campaign. Although there has been a good deal of media coverage regarding this issue, BTIA and the tourism sector have largely been silent. This matter affects our industry more than any other and it is time to speak up for our investments and the environment upon which they depend.”

Sincerely,
Craig Hayes, BTIA Representative
The Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage

=======================

Oceana Deplores Prime Minister’s Message And Actions

In a recent related press release, Oceana also calls on Belize’s Government to reconsider its decisions on oil drilling concessions and expressed strong disapproval of PM Barrow’s message and actions.

- Start of Press Release - In a recently televised Prime Minister’s Report published by the Government of Belize, Prime Minister Dean Barrow has called on the Belizean public to vote in favor of drilling offshore with the proper environmental and regulatory framework. But the actions taken by the government of Belize are clearly contrary to this position.

Oceana takes this stance because of the following:

* No steps have yet been taken by Government to commence the review of the Petroleum Act and its subsidiary regulations, to offer any assurances that the government will address the weak legal framework always flagged by Oceana;

* The Petroleum and Geology Department has on numerous occasions refused to furnish Oceana with information requested on various offshore oil companies under the Freedom of Information Act;

* Oceana has requested to present directly to Cabinet on this critical issue so that feedback can be obtained to compile a comprehensive presentation to Government. This request has been repeatedly denied, including the most recent request to have Dr. Daniel Pauly do a private presentation to Cabinet at their convenience;

* Our written request asking that the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minster set meetings with Government and Marine Environmental groups has gone unanswered.

The Government of Belize cannot genuinely intend to revise and strengthen the Petroleum Act and the subsidiary legislation without first doing a comprehensive review, and conduct consultations with key partners and stakeholders, including the communities being affected by oil exploration and development.

It is unfair to ask Belizeans to vote to have offshore oil exploration with a proper environmental and regulatory framework, before these proposed changes are worked out and made public. Once voters have taken such a position, no one can tell, if and when any meaningful legislative and regulatory changes will be made.

On the issue of offshore exploration and drilling the Prime Minister has placed himself in a position of moral conflict of interest (if not a legal/ethical conflict) because while he is head of the Government of Belize he continues as a partner (even if a silent one) in the law firm of Barrow & Williams as that name suggests. This firm represents Princess Petroleum. The firm’s most recent job for Princess Petroleum was to host Treaty’s statutory meeting at their firm and brokering the Option Agreements between both, clearly indicating every intent to facilitate offshore oil exploration and drilling in Belize before any environmental and regulatory changes.

Even if there should be changes to the Petroleum Act later down, this would not affect those contracts since they are being done and sealed long in advance of any legislative change which could not have a retroactive effect.

Oceana therefore publicly calls on the Prime Minister and his government to initiate any legislative, environmental and regulatory framework of the oil industry now before contracts are negotiated and signed.

“People must call on the government to bring proposals of tangible changes to the oil industry for their sanction, before asked to support any government position on oil, and must be mindful while an oil industry can be developed in Belize, we must demand that our offshore be deemed as sacred and off limits to oil companies,” said Audrey Matura-Shepherd, VP Oceana in Belize. – End of Press Release -

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#409648 - 06/10/11 09:07 AM Re: Tourism or Oil? [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

P.M. speaks on referendum concerning drilling for oil

In Wednesday’s newscast vice president of Oceana in Belize, Audrey Matura, lashed out at the prime minister for being disingenuous in respect of the seventeen thousand signatures collected to trigger a referendum on offshore oil exploration. Matura went as far as saying that having agreed to a referendum, it is now undemocratic for the P.M. Barrow to dissuade his supporters from participating in the vote. At his quarterly press conference P.M. Barrow stuck to his guns and said that isn’t undemocratic. P.M. Barrow further stated that the Coalition To Save Our Natural Heritage, which Oceana is a part of, cannot on one day agree to a discussion with government on the issue of offshore oil exploration and on another trigger a referendum calling for a ban on offshore drilling.

Dean Barrow

“Well explain to me, I want them to explain to me how that can be anti-democratic. Isn’t that what democracy is all about? Isn’t that what it’s all about? How can it be anti-democratic to say to our supporters, you know what, don’t bother with that referendum. The government has a position, the referendum seeks, would they have preferred we asked our supporters to go and vote no? It is precisely because we don’t want a confrontation with them that we’re taking the softer route that we’re going to be saying to our people don’t go out and vote. I don’t know how…until they can explain to me how that, in any way, confounds the principles of democracy I will stand plan. I said, and I repeat, I don’t understand the Coalition. They were talking to government about our coming up jointly with a regime that would deal with petroleum exploration both offshore and onshore in protected areas that would contain safeguards that would even look at the possibility of removing certain areas from the exploration plans altogether. They claim well we haven’t gotten very far, fair point, but government has said it is willing. Let us engage, let us negotiate and hold us to that. You can’t say that you want to do that and then you trigger a referendum in which you are asking people to say ban offshore drilling period.”

The strained relationship between the PM and the Oceana VP is heading to court because he is threatening to sue Matura for a release made in respect of a license granted to an oil company that is represented by his law firm.

Channel 5


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#409813 - 06/13/11 09:02 PM Re: Tourism or Oil? [Re: Marty]
ACCSD Offline

The Belize Coalition is embarking on an outreach campaign to inform the voting population of the impacts of oil exploration in Belize.
The Belize Coalition are planning public presentations throughout the country. The Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development is working together with them on their first presentation here in San Pedro. We take this opportunity to invite you to attend this presentation on Tuesday, June 14th, 2011 at the Lion's Den at 7 PM. (tomorrow night)

LOOKING FORWARD TO SEE YOU THERE!!!

Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development
63 Barrier Reef Drive
San Pedro Town
Belize
Tel: 226-2799
accsdbz@gmail.com

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#410971 - 07/01/11 01:09 AM Re: Tourism or Oil? [Re: ACCSD]
Short Offline
Experts Discuss Belize Marine Biodiversity

Some of the World's top marine scientists are meeting in Belize City this week to review the status of the country's marine biodiversity and the potential impacts that oil exploration and drilling could have on the local marine ecology. The University of British Columbia's Fisheries center and its "Sea Around Us Project," in partnership with Oceana Belize, are hosting the two-day Marine Conference today and tomorrow, at the Biltmore Hotel. Jim McFadzean was at the opening this morning and has this report.

Jim McFadzean Reporting:

Oceana along with its international partners keep upping the ante in its efforts at keeping oil drills at bay from Belize's pristine coastal waters. And so it's no surprise that at this two day marine conference, intending to share the important works of both local and international scientists and researchers on the country's marine assets, that one of the major concerns being discussed, is how an oil spill would affect the region's rich biodiversity.

Dr. Daniel Pauly - Principal Investigator, Sea Around Us Project

"This marine biodiversity, from which Belize derives considerable benefits in the form of tourism and fisheries, is at risk, but really, people should know that before they decide to encourage an industry that is risky, and that will not bring so many jobs as people think."

The government is yet to be swayed by this type of international pressure. However, even some of the experts attending this conference today, agree, there are significant benefits to be derived from oil drilling, as long as that drilling doesn't happen not offshore.

Dr. Frank Kirkwood, a Petroleum Engineer and Economics Consultant, is a former BP employee. He says Belize's economy could double in the next ten years based solely on onshore drilling. In the case of offshore drilling, the benefits could be considerably more, except with one caveat, it will come at a high price.

Dr. Frank Kirkwood, Petroleum Engineer and Economics Consultant

"In my view, onshore drilling can go ahead in sort of normal areas, but in places that are especially of value to you for the environmental impact onshore, then actually, its best not to drill in those places because of the risk being that you damage those areas, and they are very special to you."

Jim McFadzean
"You would say, and continue to agree that offshore drilling should be a no? Well, any type of offshore drilling"

Dr. Frank Kirkwood
"Well, as I said in my presentation, in Belize - I'm talking about the situation in Belize now, not the situation worldwide - but in Belize, a lot of your economy, and a lot of the jobs, and a lot of everybody's livelihood depends currently on your marine environment. And therefore, it's very special - perhaps it's the most special marine environment that I've ever sort of been in a country. And I think, to do off-shore drilling, and to take significant risks today with that marine environment, is not worth it for the long-term price."

Despite the cold shoulder treatment it's been getting from both the government and those in the oil industry, Oceana says it is pressing on with its educational campaign, maintaining its opposition to offshore drilling.

Audrey Matura - Shepherd - VP, Oceana
"We find that we have many areas we can persuade the Government that off-shore oil drilling should not be done, because it is a danger to our marine resources. But I think that one of the most compelling areas can be the scientific area, where these scientists, as you've heard some of them - and you can talk with some of them - they will tell you the facts as it is."

The conference ends tomorrow, and on Friday the group of international scientists will be taken on a trip to the Turneffe Island.

The Sea Around Us project was created to document large-scale impacts on marine ecosystems of the world, and to find solutions to the challenges they pose.

http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=19995
_________________________
Live and let live

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