Over the weekend, OCEANA intensified its campaign towards a referendum on the question of whether or not to drill. Seventeen thousand signatures are required and the results of the petition will be known at a later date. But before that, there is another development that is angering the Association of Protected Areas Management Organization. APAMO is expressing disappointment with the Government for giving out sections of the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area, a protected area, as concession to oil companies for oil exploration. APAMO’s Executive Director, Yvette Alonzo, told News Five that an adequate policy that deals with oil exploration and maintenance of the status of protected areas needs to be developed.
Yvette Alonzo, Executive Director, APAMO
“Indicating our disappointment and objection with regards to their information that we had gotten late Thursday with regards to the review of five applications for oil concessions that will include the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area, which is managed by Programme for Belize. While we appreciate them providing the information which is a first with regards to the different applications that they have received for that area, we feel that: one, it doesn’t give us enough time to look into these companies since Monday was a holiday and on Tuesday we understand that Cabinet will be making a selection of one of the five companies to be given that concession. So our position is in line with the coalition with regards to calling for a ban on oil exploration offshore and in protected areas. This area includes a protected area and we have not yet gone through the process of the petition to really able to allow people to voice how they feel about oil development within protected areas and offshore. So that was basically the objection that we have and also the fact that there is no policy currently that guides oil development and protected areas. Also the fact that these areas have been designated as protected areas because they are for an important value so they cannot be taken lightly when compared to other areas that are not in protected areas. No characterization has been done of the country that can guide us as to where oil can occur and where it absolutely should not occur. And we feel this is absolutely necessary before we proceed to exploring within protected areas. So those are our main concerns that we have with the information that we received with regards to that area and the proposed selection of a company to explore for oil in the Rio Bravo Management and Conservation Area.”