In the past, co-management of protected areas has been based on somewhat of a gentleman’s agreement between the Government of Belize and non-government organizations. But there is a move to form a legal framework for that agreement. Stakeholders came up with a draft which was then submitted to Cabinet. And that’s where the problem began. Cabinet has made changes which most of those NGOs and the Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations do not accept. APAMO feels that government has been trying to bully NGOs into signing a co-management agreement which is not in their best interests. One of the areas of contention is the fees which are needed to manage those areas. APAMO’s Chairman Edilberto Romero says that especially where the head tax from cruise tourism is concerned, the allocation to protected areas is unfair. And the fact is that if the parties cannot reach a compromise in the matter, eventually the NGOs might need to walk away.
Edilberto Romero, Chairman, APAMO
“Protected areas co-managers have invested a lot in developing infrastructure, putting trails, putting management mechanisms, mechanisms to collect fees to help pay for the management of these areas. Because the government is not putting a penny to these protected areas. In fact every year what we’re seeing is that they reduce the budget for the Forestry and Fisheries Department who are responsible for the state-managed protected areas…for the co-managed protected areas they are not putting anything. So the fees should be considered, should be included in a way that the co-managers could use the fees for managing the protected areas. Some organizations have grants coming up, there are other organizations that have developed self-generating revenues and then there are the smaller organizations that really and truly if you look at them most of them have been operating on a voluntary basis. We’re hoping that we can negotiate further with government. There is the need to develop the legislation that hopefully will give us the opportunity to negotiate with the government. If not well it means that the organizations will be managing the protected areas as far as they can…and if not then eventually they will go down which would be a huge loss to Belize.”