One man who is hoping that an off-shore oil drilling referendum may be a bit closer is Tourism Minister Manuel Heredia Jr.
As viewers will remember, the Government announced on Tuesday that those controversial seismic surveys, which they had to cancel when they came under pressure, are now canceled indefinitely. That was a decision from Cabinet on that day, and today, when we spoke to Heredia, he explained why the surveys went from being put on ice, to being thrown in the trash. Here's that conversation:
Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism
"There was a lack of consultation. I must admit that there was not proper consulting and based on that, and based on what happened in San Pedro a few weeks ago with people crying that they do not want the seismic test to be done and they do not believe in off-shore drilling, which I believe at this point I can say there is nothing about off-shore drilling in the minds of our government and in the minds of cabinet. Nothing has been discussed about the possibility of anybody getting a PSA for any particular thing. I think it was announced after that meeting in San Pedro that yes we will call it off and the company that was doing that test. As soon as they told them that the people of Belize I must say, because it was not only San Pedro there were another NGO's that were crying how they want this to be stopped. Like good leaders will listen to it and they decided that we will call it off and at cabinet we decided that, 1), the government will ban any off-shore drilling in the world heritage site and the protected areas and that the moratorium will still remain for the other waters of Belize. Whatever will be done to lift that moratorium will have to go to the people. If for instance they might feel like somebody might get a PSA, it has to go to the people for consultation and if anything, they have to do proper EIA's and all of that, it's a whole lot of things that need to be done before even considering anything about that. I will also be asking cabinet to consider deciding some more about the possibilities of probably banning completely in all waters of Belize but that is just a thought of mine and is something that will be discussed hopefully in other cabinet meetings. But at this point I must say that there is absolutely nothing that has to do with off-shore drilling."
The Government has committed that whenever such a matter comes up the next time, they will hold the appropriate consultations.
Tourism Minister Issues Fresh Apology for Seismic Testing Debacle
Manuel Heredia Jr.
The Government has completely backtracked, for now at least, on the issue of seismic testing, cancelling the visit of one ship scheduled to do testing but allowing another that will perform less invasive testing. The environmental community has gotten Belmopan to budge somewhat on its eight-point agenda for lifting a Government-placed moratorium on offshore petroleum-related activity, but has refused thus far to consider legislating the moratorium or an outright ban. Tourism Minister Manuel Heredia, who suffered the wrath of his constituents in a consultation a few weeks ago that led to the backtrack, admits that proper advice has not been obtained and the Government has now learned its lesson.
Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation
“What really happened is that there was a lack of consultation. I do believe and I must admit that there was no proper consultation. And based on that and based on what happened on San Pedro where people were crying that they do not want the seismic testing to be done and they do not believe in offshore drilling, which at this point, I can say there is nothing about an offshore drilling in the minds of our government and in the minds of this cabinet. Nothing has been discussed as to the possibilities of anybody getting a P.S.A. for that particular thing. I think it was announced after that meeting in San Pedro that yes we would call it off and you know the company that was doing that testing, as soon as they told him that the people of Belize—because it was not only San Pedro, there were other N.G.O.s that were crying that they want this to be stopped. And like good leaders, we listened to it and we decided we would call it off and then at cabinet we decided that one; that government will ban any offshore drilling in the World Heritage Sites and protected areas and that a moratorium will still remain for the other waters of Belize. And that whatever will be done to lift that moratorium will have to go to the people.”
Heredia has proposed further talks in Cabinet on a ban but insisted that it would have to be ventilated before a decision is taken.