Today in Poptun Guatemala, Executive Director of the Friends for Conservation and Development, Rafael Manzanero signed a bi-naiton plan for the protection of Chiquibul Maya Mountain Range.

If that sounds like two different places: "the Maya Mountains" and "Chiquibul" mashed up into one, it isn't - that's what they call the area in Guatemala. And the agreement is a Guatemalan one, an initiative of the Food and Agricultural Organization and BALAM - a Guatemalan Organization for the conservation of natural and cultural resources. But BALAM has teamed up with FCD because what happens in Southern Peten is directly related to what happens in the Chiquibul Forest. Byron Castellanos, the Executive Director of BALAM told Jules Vasquez and KREM Radio's Marisol Amaya - who are in Poptun, what the agreement signifies:

Byron Castellanos, Executive Director, BALAM
"And basically, the convention we signed today is a convention focused on developing a bi-national project that has actions in Belize and Guatemala to reduce illegal logging in both countries. FCD is our partner in Belize and we as Balam will implement the activities on the side of Guatemala. The importance of this project is that it is focused on reducing illegal logging in Montañas Mayas Chiquibul, taking into account that it is a very important protected area, a natural area from the perspective of Belize and Guatemala. Additionally, FCD-Balam develop other types of projects here in the southern part of Peten, and obviously we as Balam Association, our primary capacity is to be able to influence the Guatemalan Government for the strengthening of the environmental governance for the protection of the Montañas Mayas Chiquibul and also to be able to attend the economic, social, and environmental development needs in the southern part of the Peten Department. In other words, we are the partners of FCD in Guatemala and we work together under one vision, one concept of collaboration, ensuring that the governments take correct, efficient decisions to be able to promote the economic, social and environmental development in Guatemala and obviously, FCD working in Belize."

Our Jules Vasquez is returning back from the trip at this hour, and on Monday's newscast we'll have much more on this story as we ask executive Director Rafael Manzanero - how it is that a Belizean NGO comes to sign state level agreements with Guatemalan agencies.

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