There is increased environmental chatter recently after the Geology and Petroleum Department released its draft petroleum exploration policy. According to the wording on that draft, every part of the Belizean territory, onshore and offshore, is open for oil exploration. It’s caused great consternation among those N.G.O.s who have consistently said no to offshore drilling, and the Opposition has now jumped on board. P.U.P. Leader Francis Fonseca told News Five that they have been on the record about offshore drilling since 2010, but he’s willing to restate that position and to stand by it.
Francis Fonseca, P.U.P. Leader
“We are not in favour of offshore oil exploration. The risks are just too high. It has the potential, obviously, for economic benefits, which we understand and realize. But it also has the potential for great risks to our tourism product and our natural heritage, the barrier reef. So the risk and threats to our environment far outweigh for me at this time any potential economic benefits until as a country we can be absolutely satisfied that those risks are eliminated or significantly reduced and minimized I am not and the People’s United Party is not in support of any offshore drilling at this time. The risks are just too great. As you know from following news reports in other countries it just takes one accident to completely wipe out hundreds of years of environmental creation and we can’t risk that. We have a wonderful, beautiful barrier reef that can be placed at risk. We have our entire fishing industry that can be placed at risk. And our tourism industry, our tourism industry depends on the environment…the natural pristine beauty of our country. So we should not be having that conversation at all.”
The Geology and Petroleum Department has invited comment and feedback from stakeholders or interested Belizeans, to be submitted to the Ministry before February second.