Today, the Belize Tourism Industry Association filed its claim for judicial review in the Supreme Court. They're seeking to challenge the decision of the Department of Environment and the National Environmental Appraisal Committee's decision to give the green light on Norwegian Cruise Line's Harvest Caye Cruise Port. That's the decision they took after receiving a response from the Government about their concerns on how the committee approved the project.
At a press conference this morning, their attorney, Godfrey Smith, explained it to us:
Godfrey Smith, attorney for BTIA
"We have received instructions from Belize Tourism Industry Association to file an application for leave to bring judicial review proceedings challenging certain decisions of the NEAC (National Appraisal Committee) and the Department of the Environment."
"The challenge will be based on decisions reached by NEAC, as well as decisions reached by the Department of the Environment. In relation to NEAC, certainly, without going into all the details of it, the essence of what we are saying, the essence of what we are challenging is the decision of the NEAC to not recommend a public hearing in relation to this matter, in circumstances where we believe the law requires a public hearing and we will be challenging the fact that in breach of the regulations or environmental laws, the required publication and notice requirements were not met. I shall not list all of those, suffice it to say that at the end of the day when one examines what transpired in relation to the publication of notice of the addendum and the time given to respond to it, what we are left with is a clear picture that it was severely, drastically truncated."
Janelle Chanona, VP - OCEANA Belize
"We are monitoring the developments of this case as the president for BTIA mentioned it is regrettable that in order to feel like you are a part of the conversation at the table you have to seek redress through the courts, so we are certainly monitoring this matter very carefully."
Roberto Pott, Representative - Healthy Reef for Healthy People Initiative
"You've heard the representative Mr. Mike asking for a public hearing rather than just a public consolation. It seems that if they took your comments but it went nowhere and the public hearing would allow you to document the contributions that you would make. It make no sense for us to share our views if it won't be heard, if it's fallen on deaf ears."
Nicole Auil Gomez, Executive Director - Southern Environmental Association
"Southern Environmental Association is the organization in the south that manages protected areas in the south. One of the main concerns that we have is the fact that this large scale development, the environment impact assessment in its totality still does not correct a lot of the mistakes that were there in the original version, so that was a disappointment in the additional documentation that was sent forth. Our primary concerns are the stakeholder communities and really how the totality of benefits to these community members has not been explicitly and properly documented."
According to Smith, the BTIA will write to the executives of Norwegian Cruise Line, requesting that they reach and undertaking not to start any physical works on the Harvest Caye Project until after this matter is concluded in court. If that undertaking is not met, then, they will seek to block the cruise company by way of an injunction.