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#471727 - 09/03/13 06:07 AM The Media Makes A Trek Through Temash
Marty Online   happy
And, as we told you that press conference came at the end of day 1 of an extensive tour which Ch’oc organized. One of the central issues which he wanted to deal with first hand is the impending exploration by US Capital Energy inside the Sarstoon Temash National Park.

SATIIM’s co-management contract was taken off the table a month ago, but because the Mayan communities of the Toledo believe that the national park sits on Maya Customary Lands, they say they continue to have authority over park territory.

And according to SATIIM, that’s being threatened by this oil exploration, and so they’ve been making regular media rounds to keep the issue fresh in the public’s mind.

He did so once again, by taking us to the drill site on Friday, and our Daniel Ortiz has that story:

Daniel Ortiz reporting
SATIM took the media to the drill site, inside the Sarstoon Temash National Park, on Friday afternoon. The trip started with a 30-minute boat ride from Punta Gorda town to the estuary of Temash River. From there, SATIM took us up the river for another twenty minutes before we arrived at their final chosen entrance. Here Ch'oc briefed us about where we were and why he chose that location.

Gregory Ch'oc, Executive Director, SATIM
"What we are seeing her today is what the are US Capital currently has it's drill pad sitting. We have made submission to the government of our concerns and when they approved the Environmental Compliance plan, we recognized that none of our concerns were addressed. It is fortunate that we have come at a time when you can see this land is under water and if we were able to go a little bit further, you will find that the area that has been filled and reclaimed by US Capital is surrounded by water like this. We cannot do as if though this is highlands, it is like an oil rig setting out offshore, and yes they prepare the platform, but below the platform is water log, and it is important to address that."

Immediately as we jumped in to make our way to the drill site Ch'oc's explanation became relevant. Traveling for a few hundred feet to the location the media had to wade through waist deep water which went sometimes as high as our necks. The terrain was a combination of forest, mangrove and mud - lots of mud. The true difficulty of navigating the rough terrain was that there was no way to tell what the next step would be like

One second, it was a simple, sturdy foothold, and the next, we made a wrong choice and plunged deep into a hole. After about 15 minutes battling through the wetland, we finally arrived at the drill pad being prepared by US Capital Energy.

Once there, we found BDF and Special Patrol Unit officers along with members of the Forestry Department, who were not expecting us and were understandably on their guard. We basically barged unto a heavily secured location of Temash #2 without the proper permissions, which seemed to upset the lawmen. But, according to Greg Ch’oc, as our guide, he felt that he didn’t need permission from anyone because, according to him, the drill pad was sitting on Maya Lands.

Gregory Ch'oc, Executive Director, SATIM
"US Capital insisted that we get permission from the government of Belize, and US Capital to come here. As I said earlier on when we embarked on this difficult trip to the drill site, this is Maya traditional land, and what we have here today begins the restriction to contain the movement of our people on our own land. That cannot be countenanced. I refuse to have government and anybody else tell me what door I should enter my house."

Even with those very strong words from Ch’oc, the site manager from US Capital was still courteous enough to indulge us in an interview, fielding as many questions as were in his capacity to speak.

Nuani Cayetano - Engineer, US Capital Energy
"As you can tell we are not near the completion of raising our platform, we are actually raising the platform up to about 1.75 meters above sea level and then we begin constructing our facilities when it comes to housing, a pad for the drilling and putting all the necessary precautions in place so we don't have any seepage or spilling. Within the pegs that you see standing, this is basically where our drill pad will be located. Of course, like I said before, this area has to raise up to 1.75 meters still, so we still have a long way to go."

We notice that behind us there is a road near this location. When did US Capital get the permits from the government of Belize and when did the company start building this road and when was it finished?"

Nuani Cayetano - Engineer, US Capital Energy
"The road actually started in April, so that's exactly when the road started. The permission for entering the national park was actually around May, so that's when the permission came to enter the national park, so nothing could have been done. Beyond the national park is national lands so the government has the authority to issue permits for that. The length of our platform, like I said before, is 109 meters by 87 meters. The road clears 10 meters within the national park, which is well within our prescribed line. We have a 20 meter permission outside of the park itself, and we are well within that 20 meters and we only use 5.5 meters for the carriage way itself, and we have 7.4 kilometers of road. After the platform have been raised, then of course we have to stabilize the drill pad itself and then we install the drill pad and after that drill pad has been installed then we bring in our team, which of course, we have more drill teams in Belize, so it would probably be like an international team to begin perforation."

So, US Capital is still a ways off from actual exploration, but a look around the edges of the development show clear signs that water is a prominent feature of the location. So it begs the question the level of preparedness for a spill in the event that one does occur, since the swamp is connected to the Temash River, which is important to the water table in the area.

Daniel Ortiz
"How do you respond to Mr. Ch'oc's concern, which is pretty much valid, without this we are standing on, pretty much, wetland and the only difference is now that you all have gotten the go ahead to fill this area, but particularly, this is next to offshore drilling. Are you all prepared for a spill and what preparation do you all have?"

Nuani Cayetano
"Well that would be an excellent question for our environmentalist, had he been here, had we been informed he was here, however, yes we have provisions for a facility to be placed here and that facility will house definitely areas which will help to mitigate any concerns that has to do with spilling."

And while Cayetano is confident that there will be effective measures in place to contain a spill, Ch’oc wants the public to see how much of an onshore operation it really is.

Gregory Ch'oc
"So that when you see the propaganda on the screen, you can say no, it's water log, it's an island where that rig is going to be established."

Tomorrow, we will have more from that media tour, where we spoke with the members of the buffer communities in Toledo, who themselves told us that they are firmly behind SATIIM in this fight to resist oil exploration in the national park.


And while that story shows the high level of friction between the buffer communities and US Capital Energy – from the perspective of the state, the directive remains: Drill at Will. As the PM told the media today, he sees no issue in between competing claims on ownership and control of the lands US Capital hopes to drill on. He says those are vested thoroughly and exclusively in the state:

"Are the current relations between the government and the Maya people concerning to you and how do you foresee things going forward?"

Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister of Belize
"Are the relations concerning? No, not more than, I am concerned about all the people of Belize and the relations with all of them."

"In terms of them thinking of changing their approach."

Hon. Dean Barrow
"I don't know that."

"and their hard talk."

Hon. Dean Barrow
"Well, as Jules Vasquez famously said, I famously don't watch the news. No I'm not worried about that. We have, I believe, put out a statement saying that we respect the courts' decision, even though we are appealing it and so no new titles, nothing of the sort will be done, in the Toledo District; that ought to satisfy them. If it doesn't, then I'm afraid they are off base, they are out of kilter. The SATIM National Park is a National Park you know. The court hearings, the litigation, were at the instance of the villages and the court talked about lands owned by the villages. As far as I am concerned, the national park is not included in that and in any event, the national park is subject to a particular legal and statutory regime. In my view, there can be no question of any kind of ownership, other than the ownership of the state, when it comes to national park."

The validity of that position is expected to be tested in court soon when an injunction hearing against US Capital Energy is heard.

Channel 7

#471821 - 09/04/13 06:36 AM Re: The Media Makes A Trek Through Temash [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy

PlusTV tours the Sarstoon Temash National Park with SATIIM

vlcsnap-2013-09-03-09h42m11s37vlcsnap-2013-09-03-09h43m23s227 vlcsnap-2013-09-03-09h42m04s214
The two-day media tour of the Sarstoon Temash National Park and surrounding buffer communities got off to a late start on Friday due to unforeseen circumstances, but in the afternoon the group set off for the Temash River and the entrance to the Temash 2 drill site operated by US Capital Energy. For much of the year the area is under high water, sometimes chest high, and for the first time the press got to see it for themselves. According to SATIIM executive director Gregory Ch’oc, as it pertains to the search for petroleum, their environmental concerns are yet to be addressed.

Gregory Ch’oc – Executive director SATIIM:

vlcsnap-2013-09-03-09h44m28s115We cannot do as if though this is highlands.  I have noticed that US Capital Energy have made submission to the Supreme Court of images and pictures of the oil wells in Spanish Lookout.  Many of you have been to Spanish Lookout.  You tell me if this is what Spanish Lookout land looks like.  When there is an oil spill, where do Us Capital and Government begin to contain the spread of oil.  That is fundamentally important for the communities that rely on the resources of this region.   Our livelihood is on the land, our medicine, we gather, we hunt, we fish, we bathe, we drink, from these lands. It’s fundamentally important the Government and US Capital take measures to protect and safeguard those assets.


After wading for more than 45 minutes the team arrived at the drill site. Police on patrol in the river allowed journalists to pass with a mere warning to be careful, but site engineer Nuani Cayetano appeared somewhat reluctant to entertain the press’ questions. Here is that statement and the reply from Greg Ch’oc.

Gregory Ch’oc – Executive director SATIIM:

nuani.sept2.13vlcsnap-2013-09-03-09h59m08s208So we came on this route because I refuse to have Government, and anybody else, what door I should enter my house.  This is the homeland of the Indigenous people.  They can enter wherever, whenever, they decide to.  This is the fundamental challenge that we trying to resolve here.  I think, and as we go to the communities tomorrow, this will be echoed.  So, that is the answer to the question that Mr  Cayetano from US Capital asked, why didn’t we go through the office.

The press were allowed to freely film around the area and the team left around 4:00 p.m. for Barranco and Midway. Later we will have reaction from those communities where Maya villagers and leaders got to speak for themselves for the first time.



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