P.M. says Placencia tour guides want Norwegian Cruise Line in peninsula

Earlier in the newscast, you heard Healthy Reef opposing the Norwegian Cruise Line’s interest in Crawl Caye. That mega tourism project also elicited a response from the Prime Minister at today’s press conference. The PM said that there is no contract with NCL and there is no final deal. But the government can’t ignore a proposal that would include an investment of over a hundred million dollars and also provide jobs for locals. As to the response that the BTIA, FECTAB and Healthy Reef Initiative are all against the project, Barrow says that there is a tour guide group in  Placencia that welcomes NCL to the Peninsula.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“I’ve had a letter from Placencia Tour Guides Association and I think they appended to that letter a petition with a number of signatures. The thrust of that letter is that they fully support the Crawl Caye Project and that the village according to them in the large majority supports the Crawl Caye Project. In informal conversation with one of the officials from that organization, there is a feeling that the big hoteliers have their all-inclusive resorts: they do their own touring, they do their own dive, and there set and it is wonderful. And we all certainly rejoice over the fact that overnight tourism is surging. But they think that there is a lot that they can get out of cruise tourism. Norwegian is talking about an investment of possibly a hundred million dollars. At least I my view, given the need for employment especially in that area, given the need for opportunities, government must have the conversation that it is having with Norwegian. Given then location of Crawl Caye, cabinet insisted that the relevant ministries do the proper assessment to ensure that we could even do the project there. And that if we could in what ways the project would have to be limited. I hear B.T.I.A. saying that this is going to be a kind of free for all; Norwegian brings hundreds and hundreds of cruise passengers in their big ships. Well if we go ahead, one of the limitations might be that you can only bring a small ship. So what I have to say ultimately is please, I don’t think the B.T.I.A. ought to get ahead of itself. I understand that they want to signal from now their opposition, but government will take on board their point of view, government will take on board the point of view of any number of persons including the Placencia Tour Guides Association and in particular, the advice of the technical people. There is concern I see that B.T.I.A. raised in terms of heritage location and that sort of thing. There is no way that we are going to move in a precipitous fashion on this thing.  I don’t know whether we will move at all, but the conversation must occur because you simply don’t just turn away this potentially huge investment without making absolutely sure that this cannot happen in the larger scheme of things. I don’t know that I have seen the terms of any MOU. I don’t…there is a subcommittee. There may have been a draft MOU; certainly no MOU has been brought to cabinet. But if it has gone beyond the draft state, it can’t be more than just a MOU, a Memorandum of Understanding; it can’t be any contract, it can’t contain obligations at all. The cabinet subcommittee would never do that and if they did, government would reject that sort of thing.”

Jose Sanchez

“It also makes reference to hiring foreign workers; it doesn’t make reference to the need to hire locals.”

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“Well Jose I am telling you that if an MOU exists that is by no means the last word and that can have no contractual obligations; can have no legal standing. That was not the remit of the Cabinet Sub-Committee is not to enter into any kind of a binding obligation. As far as I know the process is nowhere near the point where cabinet can make a decision as to whether proceed. I also heard that this may be good to go as early as next week.

Healthy Reefs joins B.T.I.A. and FECTAB against Norwegian Cruise Line

The cruise tourism project proposed by giant Norwegian Cruise Lines for Crawl Caye in the south of Belize is going before Cabinet for their approval, and one organization committed to the long term integrity of the reef is doing everything it can to ensure that doesn’t happen. In a letter to Prime Minister Dean Barrow Director of the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative expresses strong concern about the project and calls for a firm rejection of the proposal. McField asks the question – how could this development possibly be worth it? And today she explained the rationale behind her organization’s position.

Melanie McField, Director, Healthy Reefs Initiative

Melanie McField

“Our letter to the Prime Minister focused on one fundamental question: Could this proposal possibly be worth it. And we grounded our view on four main points. One being the environmental repercussions—they are unavoidable and irreparable; the damages that would occur to that reef system, the mangrove and sea grass all there where they would have to dredge and fill and create the port; that’s very clear. The second point was the World heritage Site. We were listed on the sites endangered due to coastal development in 2009. We’ve been examined every year, we haven’t gotten out of this state; we were hoping we were getting closer because we’ve had some progress. And now this would just totally set us back and I think it is a serious real danger of actually being delisted as a world heritage site. The other two points, one was looking at Placencia as a destination and we have been involved in all of these planning processes over the years. I mean you give your time to all these processes, creating plans and we talk and talk. We have all these wonderful plans on the shelf and we are ignoring them. All the plans have said keep the south free of cruise tourism. Overnight tourism is booming; that provides many more jobs, much more revenue stays in the country. So why mess that up by bringing in cruise tourism? Because it does mess it up; you can’t have both coexist very happily. The good thing about the cruise industry in Belize City, we don’t have a large overnight tourism industry here and it adds a value to the city and we’ve already invested. We got people doing this for their livelihoods; they’ve taken out loans. They’ve built a life off of the policy that the government stated which was we are only allowing cruise ships in Belize City. So they felt confident to go take a loan, build a bigger boat, buy buses; whatever. So in terms of both the national tourism strategy and plans and what it would do to the Placencia area is negative. What it would do to Belize City is to me the worse of all; that’s thousands of people depending on the cruise ships now for at least part of their income. So it will be a big blow to a lot of people and I can’t see how if the government had given enough consideration how they could come out thinking that its benefits outweigh all these costs.”

Mcfield is asking the Prime Minister for a seat at the discussion table where she says they can jointly examine the costs and benefits to Belize. From what she’s seen so far, McField maintains, only Norwegian Cruise Lines seems to benefit from the proposal.

Channel 5