The offshore drilling question is split among political lines. Several ministers of the ruling United Democratic Party have publically stated that they want offshore drilling. On the other hand the People’s United Party has made it a manifesto issue that they don’t support offshore drilling. And though the party lines are drawn in oil, politicians’ viewpoints can be as slick and sticky as petroleum itself. So knowing the party perspectives, News Five’s Jose Sanchez became devil’s advocate and asked two representatives if they would go against the party position if the people in their constituency rejected the party viewpoint. Since the issue primarily affects San Pedro, Jose posed the question to PUP standard bearer Patty Arceo and incumbent area representative Manuel Heredia. How well did they respond? You decide.

Jose Sanchez

“Do you yourself intend to be a part of their exercise?”

Manuel Heredia, Area Representative, Belize Rural South

Manuel Heredia

“Well I might go over there to exercise my right and when I get there, I will decide how I will vote. One thing that I have to say clearly is that there is nobody in any NGO that loves the reef more than I do. I was a fisherman for over thirty years, my bread and butter use to come from the reef. I love it so must because as the Minister of Tourism also, it depends on the tourism industry and anything that will come and destroy our reef; that we know that can cause damage to our reef, I am the first one that have said that I will jump on anything that will cause damage to our reef. That is my position on the part of where I stand with the reef. With the technicalities about the referendum if they should have; that is up to the people to decide. What they are doing today, if the NGOs feel that it is something good and the people want to support it, I always behind the people and I believe that government is not stopping that from happening. The referendum that they were triggering; the way it was done, well that’s why we have an election and boundaries and the governor general that exercise their rights and see how it is. If it didn’t happen that way, I cannot comment on that one because I don’t know exactly how those rules and regulations go. But what they are doing today, if the majority of people feel it is right, I am with my people—that is the way I have always been.”

Jose Sanchez

“Okay because some ministers are saying they should have offshore drilling. And like you are saying your bread and butter, San Pedro, the people; this is their lifeline—it affects nobody more than San Pedro itself. So if the majority of San Pedranos says we don’t want this, we don’t want offshore drilling. Would you be prepared to be their voice?

Manuel Heredia

“As I’ve mentioned, anything that would cause damage to the reef—it doesn’t have to be offshore drilling, but anything that will cause damage to the reef—I will be against. But other than that, I feel that the NGOs and government should work together in the best interest of the nation.”

Jose Sanchez

“So we should take it as a yes?”

Manuel Heredia

“I am not saying yes or no. I am just saying that is my position; any damage to the reef. I have been very clear ever since.”

Patty Arceo

Patty Arceo, P.U.P. Standard Bearer, Belize Rural South

“We just voted and we voted no.”

Jose Sanchez

“If San Pedranas in general would say when it’s all counted up that they don’t want it or what if they say they do want it; would that sway you in your opinion as a representative of your people?”

Patty Arceo

“On a personal level, I still stand very strong on no offshore drilling especially in our beautiful Belize barrier reef. But the people today will be deciding and we have to respect the people’s decision and what thing that I like here in San Pedro is that they also put a booth for out district voters so that they can go right there and vote. But overall, I am seeing the turnout and I am talking to people and they are not in for offshore drilling.”

Jose Sanchez

“But as a representative, if the voice would be that they want it, would you then be their voice?”

Patty Arceo

“We have to work along with them. We have to go with what the majority says. And today we are practicing a democratic process and these people are coming in—and these are registered voters of Belize Rural South so we have to look at what the decision will be and if the people decide no, of course we will be there. And if they decide yes, then we will have to work along with that.”

Channel 5