Offshore drilling still has “green light”: Prime Minister BarrowAuthor: Adele Ramos
Last week, the Opposition People’s United Party joined the call made by the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage for the government to put into effect a ban on offshore petroleum exploration, “…until Belizeans can be assured that all necessary measures have been taken to ensure that there will be no damage to our marine environment as a result of such drilling.” The position, said the party, was formulated after consulting with 31 constituencies across the country.
Responding to the PUP declaration, Barrow said that all but one of the contracts were given out when the Opposition PUP was in power, and they have also allowed offshore petroleum exploration. (As we have previously informed, Island Oil was allowed to drill an exploration well off Monkey River back in 2007. A total of 16 wells have been drilled offshore Belize since 1958, according to the Department of Geology and Petroleum.)
In light of rising public sentiment and the statement from the Opposition, Barrow indicated that he has still not been convinced to change the Government’s official position. He said that he will not be hurried into any decision or have anyone force him into imposing a ban, citing a lift of the recent US moratorium by a court there. [We note that while the old moratorium had been struck down, another with different specifications was later imposed.]
The jury is out until all the information and advice is in, said Barrow; until then, he told us, he is still in favor of offshore drilling in a limited way in “particular areas.” He has previously told our newspaper that the Department of the Environment would be charged with ensuring that the adequate environmental precautions are taken – however, those who oppose offshore drilling say that if it is allowed, environmental catastrophe will someday strike.
He said that they would make a final decision having regard to the fact that the petroleum concessions are commercial agreements.
Barrow continues to hold the position that nothing can happen before two years, which will give him time to reflect, review, listen and take into account what the various parties are saying.
Another two years would put Belize right in the campaign season for the general elections. Petroleum politics could form one of the hot button issues during that campaign.http://www.amandala.com.bz/index.php?id=10109