And at the center of the coalition's cause is what they say is on particularly odious oil concession dating back to 2004. It is for Island Oil -which has a concession to drill for oil in the potentially petroleum-rich region of Southern Belize. Island oil is allegedly a subsidiary of the Guatemalan state oil company Petdegua which is a super majority shareholder in the Belize registered company.
The Coalition argues that Island Oil's contract is illegal, because it violates the provision of the Belizean Constitution that declares that all disputes with the Guatemala over this disputed area must be settled through referendum, and not privately through a contract. Vice-president of Oceana Belize Audrey Mature Shepherd called an impromptu press conference to reveal her findings of what has become the most controversial of the 17 concessions singed by the government of Belize.
"What's the position on the license that was granted or concession was granted to the company that is supposedly owned by the Guatemalan State oil company?"
Audrey Matura Shepherd. VP, OCEANA Belize
"Well first of all the Guatemala Embassy says that is not state oil but definitely it's a Guatemalan company. Second; it's not supposedly owed, its definitely, we have the records, we went to the registry, we did our search, the stamp of Petdegua is here and their director signed it as well so it is a documented fact in the official archive in the Belize Government that Petdegua is a super majority shareholder of Island Oil Company. our position as the coalition is that, that is basis enough for there to be a revocation of that contract and to declare it null and void because there is no way the government no matter which administration did it and it doesn't matter which administration wasn't to support it or didn't know about it there is no way we can allow a Guatemalan owned company under the facade of a Belizean company certificate to own that territory which is under dispute. For me it is in a contractual way giving the Guatemalans what they always wanted the Sapodilla range."
"So you're not saying that it is constitutional wrong, illegal to grant such a license."
Audrey Matura Shepherd
"Well for me my point of view as an attorney If I would be taken to court I would argue it in that vein Jim. I would argue that it would be unconstitutional because by our laws of contract when you become a company you get a certificate and we always call it your birth certificate. So this company is a Belizean citizen can sue and be sued. What we've done is taken a Guatemalan company under the facade and made them a Belizean citizen and I am saying that is unconstitutionally wrong because we can go to our different sections of the constitution that speaks to that."
"But what sets this concession apart from the other concessions? Because the owner is Guatemalan?"
Audrey Matura Shepherd
"Yes that would definitely make a big difference. It makes a big difference because you have to understand that area is in dispute, we don't even want offshore drilling there. But here is a company that is a Guatemalan company, If we lift the veil of incorporation as we would say in law and you look behind it say clearly here that 999 shares is owned by Petdegua and only one share is owned by Alistair King, this is a Guatemalan company. A Guatemalan company now carrying a Belizean certificate and then doing business as though it is a legitimate Belizean company. We are saying that cannot be. That violates our laws of when it comes to whether or not we have the right to give citizenship to a Guatemalan and to make it worse to add insult to this injury not only have we given them a birth certificate as a Belizean company but we said here that disputed area you always wanted; here Guatemalans, you could have it and you petroleum right trumps all Belizean land right there."