Elsa Paz, OCEANA and Hollywood celebs say no to offshore drilling
The massive British Petroleum oil spill in the golf of Mexico has affected numerous states in the US and threatened environmental disaster. The economic impact has not yet been fully determined but BP has paid out three hundred and ninety-nine million US dollars to residents and business in claims for damages. The Vice President of OCEANA earlier this month headed to the area for a first hand assessment of the damages. Audrey Matura Shepherd was joined by San Pedro mayor, Elsa Paz, who has distanced herself from the government’s stand on the offshore drilling. Paz says she hopes to enlighten those that are blinded by the greed of oil. News five’s Jose Sanchez reports.
Jose Sanchez, Reporting
The Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage has found an important political ally in San Pedro’s Mayor Elsa Paz. Paz is aboard the vessel chartered by OCEANA to tour the areas affected by BP’s Deep Horizon spill. She is joined by Hollywood celebrities on the gulf tour. At a brief press conference in the U.S. earlier this week, Paz was introduced by Ted Danson, actor and OCEANA Board member.
Ted Danson, Actor
“Elsa Paz from Belize. She is the mayor of San Pedro, which is the largest city on Ambergris Caye and she is very interested in what’s happening here in the gulf because her country is also starting to have to deal with people wanting to do offshore oil drilling in their waters and like this area also, the economy of Belize depends heavily on a clean, vibrant, vital ocean. So Mayor thank you for joining us.”
Elsa Paz, Mayor of San Pedro
“I bring greetings from my people of Ambergris Caye, Belize. I stand before you as a proud Belizean who today joined forces with OECANA with one common goal; to bring awareness about the harmful effects to our natural resources caused by oil exploration. My country, Belize, has the second largest living barrier reef in the entire world. This provides me the opportunity to learn from the experiences of those living with the impacts of oil drilling. With this firsthand information, I can relay it to my constituents, the realistic negative effects surrounding oil exploration. Unfortunately, the current situation regarding oil exploration in our country is being entertained by the government and my people are concerned about the impact this may have on our natural resources. San Pedro Town on Ambergris Caye is my hometown. It is the place that saw my parents grow and that has seen me grow. We have come a long way from a humble fishing village to a number one tourist destination in the country of Belize.”
One person with whom Paz will share her firsthand look of the experience will be Tourism Minister and San Pedro resident, Manuel Heredia. Heredia is in a tight spot as he owes allegiance to his pro-exploration party and also to the voters of San Pedro who are calling for the ban on offshore exploration. However, Heredia is not yet ready to join the celeb led OCEANA and the NGO’S that form the Coalition to Save Our National Heritage.
“She strongly believes in it. Do you think there is a possibility that you would also show solidarity to that cause along with the mayor or that can go against what the government is promoting in terms of business.”
Manuel Heredia, Tourism Minister (August 20,2010)
“Not really, I respect my mayor, I respect miss Matura a lot. As a government we can’t jump right away and aim into anything. If it is something that will affect the livelihood definitely we will not go with it. Even though I am a part of government I am a fisherman. I see how beautiful the reef is. We have been looking at all the options, agreements, contracts, internationally with the issue in the gulf and I can assure you at the end of the day we will come up with a solution in the best interest of the tourism industry. If it means to say that there is anything to cause damage to our reef, I will be the first person to say I will ride with that.”
Morgan Freeman, Actor (August 25, 2010)
“I saw the map, it’s dreadful, it’s awful. There is no government oversight in Belize. The government officials just say okay go ahead and do it and as you can see from this experience here, that could work out to be very, very bad for Belize. You have wonderful waters around Belize, you’ve got that reef, you’ve got that wonderful ecosystem there. It’s too fragile.”
“The residents of Ambergris Caye and Belize on a whole are distressed about this due to our dependency on tourism and the vital role the reef contributes to our economy. The people are alarmed about the current situation of all waters being concessional for oil exploration plus the lack of governance, transparency and consultations regarding the future of our most valuable resource. This visit allows me to carry the message back to my country with the hope of enlightening those who have been blinded by the greed of allowing oil exploration to develop freely in our country.”
Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.