There was a protest this morning in the nation’s capital, where taxi drivers find themselves at odds with the Belmopan City Council. The cabbies are outraged that the number of parking spaces at the bus terminal has been reduced to twenty-one and they are being relocated to areas that are not as heavily trafficked, which means less money in their pockets. News Five’s Isani Cayetano has that report.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
Cab drivers operating outside of the bus terminal in downtown Belmopan are irate following their removal from a parking lot they occupied just a few months prior to the implementation of the Belize Municipal Development Project. The initiative, carried out by the Belmopan City Council, has seen an upgrade of the area surrounding the station; however, the much needed improvement has led to the displacement of a number of operators.
Pedro Larios, Taxi Operator
“The problem is that dehn seh dehn only wah leff twenty-one [parking spaces] but everybody di park at the front and then whole ah dis piece right ya soh empty. Watch weh dehn got wih di park, right ya soh pan di side when dehn got lotta space right ya fi we cause dehn got man out deh weh dehn deh eena di twenty-one but dehn noh wahn park out deh. So why dehn noh give somebody else di chance or at least mek dehn park da front and put we right da front ya pan di side.”
Since completing the project a total of twenty-one parking spaces have been made available to cab drivers, a selection which was based on seniority. According to Mayor Simeon Lopez, the reduction was necessary in order to address the issue of congestion.
Simeon Lopez, Belmopan Mayor
“The project came on stream and we let them know, after they saw the proposal and after the project is completed [that] we will regularize the situation. And one of the ways to regularize it was to keep just a certain number of taxis out there and the rest will be placed in other areas of the city where they could also do their trade. They had all agreed, we even have notes, we have signed letters and now they are claiming that they signed to something else but it’s right there in writing, in black and white.”
Regularizing the situation, nonetheless, meant that a handful of operators would be relocated elsewhere. Jorge Romero, like many of his associates, has been working out of this area since 1999.
Jorge Romero, Taxi Operator
“I’m operating at this time from the University of Belize Campus here in Belmopan so we have some times that the university closes, so at that time we come to the market to give my service to the city and dehn ya months here we affected because maybe you know UB is closed already so I come and I do my business from out here. Sometimes I noh tek customers from here but I come and I park and attend to my calls and my customers but now where will I park, at UB weh closed? I can’t come into the compound and operate from there so I noh have no parking spot.”
Despite claims that transferring the drivers to other parts of the city would not be profitable, Mayor Lopez says that plans are underway for their relocation.
“They are claiming that they won’t make any money in those other areas, I don’t know. They don’t know, I mean [there is] the Lands Department, Immigration Department, the Garden City Shopping Plaza, the Nim Li Punit shopping area here, UB, well UB is, we know that is closed right now for the Christmas season so we won’t be able to put anybody there. There is a big shopping mall, which is called The Mall, out on the Hummingbird Highway. Those are areas; some of the areas that we intend to relocate the rest of the drivers.”
The association awaited a response from City Hall this afternoon, following a meeting which was scheduled with the Belmopan City Council to discuss the matter.
“What is to happen if at four o’clock the mayor tells you guys that this is final, the decision of the city council is such that you guys can’t operate in this area? What would you guys do then because it seems as though the majority of the economic activity happens right here in this central location?”
“Well, I noh know what we wahn do but we have to stay out ya. If we go somewhere else we cyant mek nothing deh. Everything di happen right ya, even though if we go da Lands or the mall, anywhere, Immigration, dehn noh have enough people deh. We wah stay deh whole day and we noh wah mek nothing.”
During this evening’s meeting it was agreed that the list of twenty-one approved cab drivers will be expanded to accommodate several others. We are told that a subsequent meeting will be held on Thursday morning to resolve the issue. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.