Placancia residents say "No" to cruise tourism BTIA Placancia Vice-Chairman David Vernon.
Nearly 90% of the residents of Placencia Village are opposed to the proposed introduction of cruise tourism, according to results of a two-week petition drive which ended on December 3.
David Vernon, Vice-chairman of BTIA Placencia, said the results come as a powerful backing to the Placencia Village Council in their stance against Belize Tourism Board’s intention to allow Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, a company that has already purchased several acres of land in the area, to build a tourism village akin to that in Belize City.
The petition was a private initiative executed by an area resident . It was designed to empirically prove that opposition isn’t coming from only a “few” residents — as was believed by the cruise ship supporters — but rather from a majority.
Vernon said the petition’s goal was more than realized. The petition revealed that 330 registered voters in the villagers are opposed to the proposition. This is only slightly less than total number of 367 persons who voted in the last village council elections.
After the results were in, the village council and BTIA Placencia held a meeting on Thursday, December 9, at which they discussed the way forward since it has been evidenced that they are backed by the village.
Vernon said that it is the Placencia BTIA’s aim to continue to educate the people of the dangers this proposal can bring to the good health of the area. He pointed to the chaotic state of the Tourism Village in Belize City, as a preview of what could befall Placencia.
In addition to concerns about disturbing the peace, the proposal also points to possible detriments to the environment.
The Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations were among the first to sound caution that the ecosystem in the area is relatively fragile and at the same time one of the richest areas in terms of biodiversity. APAMO made it clear that it believes that cruise tourism could easily and seriously injure the protected areas such as Laughing Bird Caye and Gladden Spit.
There is also concern over the loss of mangrove which presently occupy the proposed site for the development and which provide essential protection to both the shore and marine life of Belize.
The loss of the mangrove would be one more blow against the Belize’s Barrier Reef System.
As was divulged by the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage, UNESCO had placed Belize’s reef on the “List of World Heritage in Danger”, and had given GOB an ultimatum saying in effect, “shape up or have your reef de-listed as a World Heritage Site.
The cutting of mangrove was one of nine major concerns specifically referred to in the ultimatum.
APAMO Executive Director Yvette Alonzo said this plan, should it become a reality, would not only affect the immediate area in which they plan to operate, but would threaten the very status of the Belize’s Barrier Reef, the second largest in the world.
As successful as the petition was, it will not quell the controversy which is bound to continue. However, the village council and BTIA Placencia have forwarded the petition to key government officials, including the Prime Minister, and they feel they’ve gained a pivotal weapon in their fight against unwelcome development.