Along with the drilling at San Juan and its promises to the community?
In May of this year, Treaty Belize Energy went full steam ahead with oil drilling operations in the south at San Juan near Independence. That was despite a court ruling declaring that the license to the oil company was null and void. Fighting a public relations nightmare, the company made big and attractive promises to residents who would have been affected. There was talk of electrification of the village’s water supply system, road upgrades and even the construction of a new police station. Well, it is six months later and News Five’s Isani Cayetano returned to San Juan only to find that the promises were just that.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
Earlier this year, residents of San Juan and Cow Pen, through their village council, signed onto an agreement with representatives of Treaty Belize Energy concerning a number of initiatives to develop the community. The social improvement project, including the electrification of the water pump system, says chairman Zabdiel Martinez, was to have been carried out regardless of an oil find in the twin villages. It has been six months since and none of the commitments in the agreement have been honored. In fact, the company failed to find oil and has cancelled operations at the drill site.
Zabdiel Martinez, Village Chairman, Cow Pen/San Juan
“Our people felt that the company has failed us and we tried to continue negotiations with them as to at least get some of the projects. But at the end the company didn’t comply with none, with none. They diverted some, which as I said the last time they did provide a little bit for the school, a little bit of funds for the school which was minimal funds for the flooring of one of the classrooms. But compared to the amount of projects that we signed up and agreed for it was nothing.”
San Juan Bosco Roman Catholic Primary school is the only elementary learning institution in the community. With an enrolment of approximately two hundred students, the school’s management, as part of the agreement with Treaty, requested the installation of a computer lab. That promise has also been broken.
“Up to now we still feel that that was a total failure what they have promised us. As you can see, they have left now and nothing was done.”
Treaty, as we understand it, was contracted by Princess Petroleum, the concession holder for that block within the Stann Creek District, to conduct exploratory work at three sites; namely: San Juan One, Two and Three. According to Andre Cho, Director of Geology and Petroleum, the company has begun its withdrawal from the area.
Andre Cho, Director of Geology & Petroleum
“Treaty, who they had hired to operate and carry out exploration work for them, they are, Princess, I believe, they are finalizing their arrangement with Treaty and so we’re waiting on that. But they’ll plug and abandoned the three wells and then move on with other exploration work.”
“Was there ever an issue on the part of the Geology & Petroleum Department with regards to the security and the relevant measures therein being taken by Treaty to secure San Juan Two and Three?”
“In regards to drilling or the protection of the ground water?”
“Okay. In the beginning Treaty’s drilling operations were not up to industry standards and we had asked them to stop and bring everything up to standard, which they did. And we had worked closely with the Department of Environment too to ensure that they were carrying out operations according to their requirements.”
While those standards were later met, the companies, in this case Treaty and its contractor, have all but neglected the agreement with the village council. In fact, the council wasn’t even given notice of the withdrawal.
“Since I teach at the school I was unable to come the day that they were going, I came on the evening and then I said, “but what happened to all the machines that were here. All the machinery has gone.” And they told me well the company just decided to pick up and go. Apparently they have a problem with the drilling. Some problem they met and then they were unable to, they were not successful. They didn’t find oil.”
Despite the fact that many of the past employees of the company refused to comment on record, they too are disgruntled. In speaking with one worker, he told News Five that the company still owes them for work done. Like them, Martinez also feels slighted because he gathered the support of the villagers to green light the exploratory work.
“When they came they were behind us. They were behind us to sign the agreement if we were going to give them permission to drill and all that. All they needed was the signature and they just forget about all the agreement that we had at the initial moment that we signed.”
Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.