The Government of Belize has issued several offshore petroleum exploration contracts to companies such as Princess Petroleum, SOL Oil, Providence Energy and Island Oil, but Oceana in Belize has gone to the Supreme Court asking for judicial review, in a claim calling on the court to declare the contracts invalid, on the basis of violations against the Petroleum Act.

Vice President of Oceana in Belize, Audrey Matura-Shepherd, said that case management was held on February 23, but a date has not yet been set for hearing.

The essence of the claim is that Oceana is challenging the legality of the contracts on the basis that the government did not follow the law in issuing the contracts, such as ensuring financial requirements for the companies are met, and also ensuring consultation with Belizeans on the matter.

Matura-Shepherd noted that the Princess Petroleum contract was issued over Belize’s world-famous Blue Hole, where the eminent Jacques Cousteau came to dive in the early 1970s.

The suit, said Matura-Shepherd, is directed at the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment.

The Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage has been promoting a ban of offshore drilling, but the only concession that the Barrow administration has made is to maintain a moratorium (or a temporary freeze) on the 1,800 acres relinquished by the Taiwanese in October 2010.

The Coalition had pleaded with the Government not to reissue the concession, and Cabinet later approved the temporary moratorium.

Other offshore contracts include those given to Miles Tropical Energy Ltd. (Oren Miles, President, Olney, Illinois); Princess Petroleum Ltd. (Sudi Ozkan, President, Newtown Barracks, BZ City); Providence Energy Belize Ltd. (Todd Mortenson, TX, USA); SOL Oil Belize Ltd. (Carlos Arango, Marina Towers, Suite 302, Newtown Barracks) – all on October 12, 2007; and Island Oil Belize Ltd. (Steve Reilly, President, San Francisco, CA) on May 25, 2004.