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Offshore drilling still has "green light": Prime Minister Barrow
Author: Adele Ramos

[Linked Image] 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, "´┐Żuntil 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.

Live and let live
Joined: Jan 2010
Posts: 610
In my mind I cannot help but compare offshore drilling to Chalillo. As the PM's law firm represents one of the principals, he should not be making the decision, that much is clear.
He should define "in a limited way" and "particular areas". Does that mean they will only drill where they think they will find oil or that they will not compromise the MPAs or World Heritage Sites?
There also seems to be a big discrepancy concerning the potential amount of oil to be extracted offshore. Mr. Cho has made wild statements that we can profit $1.5BILLION annually. I have not heard one other expert support that claim. Everyone, based on geology, agrees there is little likelihood of that being the case.
That begs the question as to why Cho would say such a thing. It is critical because if there is little chance of a commercially successful venture why start it. The geology of this needs to be analyzed by an independent source as I do not believe the Cho's claims are true based on other opinions and the history of the issue. The major oil companies have tried for years to find oil here and we have all that seismic data at our disposal as well.

Joined: Feb 2010
Posts: 153
Mike: there ARE similarities between offshore oil drilling and Chalillo. Lets hope the outcome is different.
I agree that Mr Cho's statements are wild in the extreme. That estimate is based on assumptions about oil reserves which have yet to be discovered. That is why they plan to do seismic testing-to see if there is oil there. So does Mr Cho know something about offshore oil reserves that the oil companies do not?
Too much loose talk about how much we MIGHT benefit. There MIGHT actually be none there at all. I don't notice Shell and Texaco fighting to get concessions off Belize. Now maybe they DO know something.

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