NO OFFSHORE DRILLING
On Thursday the PUP issued a statement calling on government to place a complete ban on offshore oil exploration and drilling. For the Party’s leadership this was important, not only because it signals that as a Party we are listening to the complaints and concerns of people, including those in the environmental community, civil society and the business community, but also because it shows a clear distinction between the PUP and the UDP. While this UDP administration continues to resist the call of Belizeans to stop offshore oil exploration, the PUP is showing a sincere desire to reach out to all segments of the Belizean society.
The Party is right in its timing to issue such a statement, but more so, it reaffirms the commitment of the PUP to principles of justice, including doing what is right to ensure the protection of our environment while at the same time being mindful of the Nation’s development.
Currently, many Belizeans in the fishing industry have expressed their concern over offshore drilling and how this could affect migratory fish stock. Our Belizean fisher folk as well as the many that form the larger fishing cooperatives have all been concerned over the future of the industry. Coping with some of the current challenges is already overwhelming; to add to this the fear of an oil leak reaching the reef would be unimaginable to those in the industry.
Likewise those in the tourism industry have come out to say that anything which could have a negative effect on tourism is of concern. Their fears are equally justifiable. Considering the many tourists who come to Belize to dive the Belize Barrier Reef, to fish or just to swim with the sharks off the San Pedro coast contribute millions in tourism earnings. Anything that could have a negative effect on the sustainability of the reef or for that matter Belizean territorial waters is a cause for concern.
Since coming to office, the UDP Administration and particularly Gaspar Vega, the Minister responsible for the issuing of licenses to explore for oil, has issued a number of licenses for offshore exploration. His silence in the midst of this entire discussion is an indication of his complete lack of leadership in the matter. The incompetence by Vega and his cronies closest to him shows that with respect to the development of the petroleum industry in Belize, they are clueless.
The problems currently facing US President Obama in respect to the oil leaking in the Gulf of Mexico provides us with a kind of hindsight by proxy. In May, despite complaints from those in the oil industry and others in favour of drilling, President Obama suspended deep-water drilling activities in the Gulf of Mexico.
Our lesson from all this should be that we can never allow anyone to drill for oil offshore in Belize unless they have the money and the ability to deal with a spill. Any oil company that seeks to drill offshore Belize must show their ability to drill safely and have the capacity to fix any problem, to assure Belizeans that nothing they do will ever cause damage to the Belize Barrier Reef.
Will any of the smaller oil companies ever be able to offer such comfort to Belizeans? Do we leave whatever is down there untapped? These are only a few of the questions that must be addressed before any new licenses can be considered for offshore drilling.
For sure the PUP will not support any move to drill for oil offshore until everything has been done to make drilling as safe as it can be and to ensure that all the safety measures are in place in the event that something goes wrong.http://www.belizetimes.bz/2010/07/16/no-offshore-drilling/