An update on the controversial situation regarding offshore oil exploration in Belize was held at the SunBreeze Hotel in San Pedro Town on Friday, December 2nd. Hosting the informative public meeting was the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage, who along with members of the Belize Tourism Association Industry (BTIA) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), discussed the most recent development of this issue of national importance.

The public meeting was attended by a handful of concerned island residents eager for an update. Coalition and Communication Officer Jacinta Gomez commended them for having made history in the country after they stood against the government on October 20th. “People power exist, and it does make a difference when we all come together to fight for a worthy cause,” said Gomez. “The San Pedro community got together and made a change for the entire country.”

Gomez then indicated that nearly two weeks after the Government of Belize (GOB) gave in and cancelled/postponed the seismic explorations on Belize waters, the Coalition finally received a response to their letters. The Ministry of Development and Petroleum stated that the Government’s position maintains a policy based moratorium on offshore oil exploration and drilling in Belize. According to Gomez, this means that nothing has really changed, and that the possibilities for the offshore oil drilling in Belize could be resuscitated anytime.

The Coalition had written to GOB, asking that before lifting the moratorium, a national referendum on this critical issue must take place. “Belizeans have the right to voice their opinion on this topic,” said Gomez.

GOB indicated that they are in the process of amending the Environmental Impact Assessment regulation. In that process, Government intends to conduct a series of public consultations, which according to them will replace a referendum. However, the Coalition’s legal representation fired back, saying that consultations cannot equate a national referendum. Gomez informed the attendees that the progress to get the Government on the same page has been very difficult, but indicated that they will continue pushing, and they encourage everyone to help in pressuring the Government to hold a national referendum on the issue. Prime Minister Dean Barrow had promised to hold one in 2012, and that referendum is clearly long overdue.

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