New Butane Importer is Ready

Right now, the National Gas Company is finalizing its work to set up its operation. Like other businesses, it is trying to cope with all the challenges that have accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic, and the restrictions under the State of Emergency.

But once there is a return to normalcy, should customers expect any difference in the way they purchase butane?

We asked the Managing Director of the National Gas Company about how the retail end of the industry will work, with them as the sole importers of LPG.

Here's what he had to say:

Voice of: Dr. Gilbert Canton, Managing Director, Nat'l Gas Company
"The National Gas Company is going to supplying all the existing wholesalers, distributors and retailers. We do not get involve with that aspect of the business any at all. So what we are going to do to be able to make sure that there is adequate access to the supply, we have establish also the depot in Belmopan and the depot in Orange Walk. So the supply will be at those areas. For trucks that have a capacity of more than 2400 gallons can come in and pick up their supply directly and we will also be delivering for the same price that is available at the depot through the different larger players that are capable of receiving 10,000 gallons or more, let's say a truck load at a time. We will be delivering to the bigger players and we will have the ability to be able to load smaller trucks at the depot also. The distribution network is already set up and there should be no problem in making sure that supply is there and continuous."

"Explain to us what role does these companies have, these former importers who now have to take the responsibility of distributors and retailers only?"

Dr. Gilbert Canton
"That's really the only change in the whole supply chain is that instead of them bringing in the product from their depots in other countries whether its Honduras, Salvador or Guatemala, they will now be buying their supply from National Gas Company from our Belizean terminal in Big Creek. That really is the only differentiation. All their assets that they have in country are going to be fully employed because they use storage and distribution for retail purposes. So that should not change at all."

Will “Butane” Be Scarce With New Supplier?

Last night, we told you about the latest in the battle over Liquified Petroleum Gas, which has been playing out in the Supreme Court, and the Appeal Court.

The 3 Central American importers of cooking gas: Gas Tomza, Southern Choice Butane, and Belize Western Energy Limited, are no longer authorized to import butane into Belize. Their import license from the Government expired last week Thursday. As we've reported, they've gone to the high courts to challenge the Barrow Administration's refusal to renew those licenses.

We'll tell you all about their issues on that front, but first, we turn to a concern these companies raised in a press release from yesterday. They say that as a result of the government's refusal to renew their import license, they can't guarantee an uninterrupted supply of butane for customers who need to fill up.

Their press release says, quote, "Currently, there is a limited supply of LPG available to the public for distribution as today, the Belize Bureau of Standards has refused to give any further importation license and unfortunately, (the new supplier National Gas) has not been able to indicate how it plans to distribute LPG to consumers" End quote.

That's worrying news for all of us stuck at home and cooking as a necessity. Will there be butane to re-fill when you need to feed your family? We sought answers from the regulator, and from the National Gas Company, which is now the only company allowed to import LPG into Belize.

They told us via teleconference, and telephone this evening, that the country has more than enough LPG. Here's how they explained why you don't have to worry about a butane shortage for at least the next 2 months.

Jose Trejo, Controller of Suppliues, BBS
"We have been monitoring the importation of LPG like we normally do every given month. We know exactly what comes into the country. On average the country consumes about 12-13 millions. In the month of April alone we noted like beefing up of the LPG imported into the country. I guess because we had already written letters informing them that of April 30th we would be able to issue any more licenses to import LPG into the country, so what we know in terms of the importation of LPG we are looking at roughly about over 1 million gallons that was imported. I do know that there are current tanks sitting in Belize City right now for one of the companies. I haven't physically seen them, but based on the images that have been shared with me from my staff who have been working in that municipality - in their estimation its about 10-12 tanks that were sitting there waiting to discharge LPG into the country. Each tank is about 8,800 gallons."

Voice of: Dr. Gilbert Canton, Managing Director, Nat'l Gas Company
"The bottom line is that we have successfully brought in a shipment last week, the inaugural shipment into Belize of LPG directly from the US Gulf Coast. We have over 1.4 million gallons of LPG in the country stored in tanks in Big Creek. That in the normal consumption pattern would be about a month and a half supply for the country, with the lower demand and consumption right now because of Cocid-19, it could be more than 2 months of supply. So there is no way there would be a shortage of supply. The country I think has more LPG on hand right now than ever before."

Cabinet Not Seeing A Butane Crisis

Today the Attorney General told us that this is not a matter which has caught the attention of Cabinet.

Hon. Michael Peyrefitte- Attorney General
"It has not reached the point where it has become a national issue. We believe we have the situation under control. The cabinet is still dominated by the Covid19. That is our major concern and that's what 99% of cabinet is right now- trying to make sure that we can strike a balance between opening back the economy and keeping the people safe. But we are not at that stage where we believe there is a crisis for us to deal with. We believe we are secure in the production of butane and we believe that all Belizeans will have butane."

LPG Attorney’s Gets Sharp Response From The Court of Appeal

Today we also asked the Attorney General about the pending appeal to the Caribbean Court of Justice.

Audrey Matura, attorney for the Central American LPG companies, told us via telephone on Thursday that she is already preparing to seek leave to appeal this second judgment at the Caribbean Court of Justice.

She also pointed out that the substantive case that her clients have brought against the Government is still pending, and she will be pursuing that matter in the Supreme Court for a full hearing in the near future.

Today the AG says that Parliament has decided who it wants to buy butane from:

Hon. Michael Peyrefitte- Attorney General
"Well, they are claiming that this is urgent and our argument was that we pass this law, like you said, from last year. What's so urgent about it? I don't want to preempt or try to make it seem as though I am preempting the court but if they ever succeed in this matter I would be very surprised. I believe we have a strong case, I believe we have a good case so, I believe we will be successful. However, that is up to the court."

Peyrefitte also discussed a series of letters which 7News has seen. IT is an exchange between Matura and the the Court of Appeal where on April 30th, she is pressing them for a written judgement for Civil appeal #7 against the decision of CJ Arana. She asked for it by May 4th, and when it was not forthcoming she wrote another letter, pressing for it again citing precedent which says, quote, "it is ordinarily the duty of a professional judge to give reasons."

The Court seems to have bristled at that, and in a sharp reply, the Assistant registrar for appeals writes, quote, ""...You are advised to reread the announcement of the judgment of the court, as set out in my email of the night of Wednesday, April 29th, 2020. It is hoped that you will appreciate, after having done so, that the court has, in fact, promised written reasons for judgment... As to the rest of your request of the Court, it is repeated that the same is considered quite out of order by the Court. Accordingly, the Court does not expect to have to further repeat to you what it thinks of this remaining part of your request..." End quote.

It adds, quote, if and when counsel feel that they may be out of their depth or, for any other reason, in need of help, they should turn not to the Court but to members of the Bar possessed with greater learning and experience than they."

In legal talk, that's quite cold, and we asked the AG about it today:

Hon. Michael Peyrefitte- Attorney General
"Yes, there has been an exchange of letters between Ms. Matura and the Court of Appeal and essentially giving the Court of Appeal a deadline by when they should give reasons to her and her client for the purposes of an appeal. And then the court of appeal responded- and I hope in my legal career I never get a letter like that- essentially telling her that she was out of order and she shouldn't be writing to demand stuff like that. Then she wrote again saying that, I do know the law and that is why I am pressing for it. Then the Court of Appeal wrote again saying, well if you are out of your depth then you are out of your depth, your not necessarily to ask the Court of Appeal for advice but rather to go to other council. Another letter I never receive in my lifetime as a lawyer."

Channel 7