Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage disappointed with Government’s Decision to grant Maranco petroleum blocks – Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area included in blocks

Belize City, Belize, March 30, 2011 - - The Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage is extremely disappointed that the Government of Belize has proceeded to grant Maranco Ltd. the petroleum blocks in Northwestern Orange Walk, which includes the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area, a protected area. The Coalition remains firm in its position that the democratic process should be allowed to proceed and the Referendum results should dictate whether or not oil exploration should occur in Belize’s offshore and protected areas.

While the Coalition submitted its objection to the issuance of the concession, a complete review of Maranco’s technical and financial capacity was not conducted as all relevant documentation on the technical and financial capacity of Maranco Ltd. was not disclosed to the Coalition. As a result, the Coalition’s objection statements are limited based on having reviewed only the company’s work plan.
It is important to note that in other countries, all documentation for companies who are bidding for lease sales are publicly disclosed in order to allow for public comment or objection.

Belizeans have been vigorously participating in the petition drive to trigger the Referendum - an indication of their strong desire to be part of the decision-making process on the issue of oil drilling in the offshore and protected areas. Continuing to re-issue relinquished concessions within the offshore and protected areas is negating the rights of Belizeans to be heard on this issue. As such, Government should not re-issue any relinquished petroleum blocks until after the conclusion of the Referendum. It is not a far-fetched request as Government has publicly stated that it will await the results of the petition drive and subsequent Referendum prior to considering the re-issuing of the relinquished OPIC lease in the offshore area.

The Coalition calls on the Government to respect the democratic process that is underway through the petition drive and let the people of Belize, through the Referendum on oil drilling in the offshore and protected area, decide how the oil industry will be developed in Belize, particularly as it relates to the risks and rewards of this industry.

All Belizeans can participate in the petition drive by collecting signatures from registered voters and all registered voters can sign onto the petition to trigger the Referendum.

The Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage protects our natural heritage by serving as a channel for the voice of the people through advocacy, education, research and actions, which promote the best interest of Belize and its people.