The National Gas Companyâ€¦ As you probably know, In May of this year, they took over Belize's importation of Liquefied Petroleum Gas, which Belizeans call butane. But, ever since they replaced the Central American Butane companies as Belize's only importer of cooking gas, the Central Americans have been on a public campaign to vilify them, as a substitute monopoly that, if left unchecked, will price-gouge you the consumers of butane.
The company has turned the other cheek here and there, and instead of firing back, they've given comments in response to some of the allegations that the former importers have raised through their attorney.
Several months ago, the company promised to give us a tour of their facilities to allow viewers, to judge for themselves if their operation is legit, and as customer-friendly as the former Barrow Administration advertised them to be.
COVID and other logistical challenges prevented it from occurring soon, but today, they invited our news team to their facility in Independence, Stann Creek to get an inside look behind the NGC curtain.
Our news team arrived a little more than an hour before the start of the news, and so, we will have to give you that full story on Monday's newscast. But for tonight, we have a small preview of the conversation we had with Danny Gutierrez, who was involved with several other colleagues from Belize Natural Energy in the concept that turned into the National Gas Company. Here's an excerpt of that conversation:
Danny Gutierrez - Spokesperson, National Gas Company
"Several years ago, the Government of Belize realized that it was in a disadvantageous position in terms of having a full understanding of what the pricing mechanism was for liquefied petroleum gas in the country of Belize. It also understood that given the way LPG was being imported into Belize at that time, meaning bowser by bowser, in relatively small quantities, any sort of sustainable mechanism to quality check that LPG would have been difficult. You'd have to have somebody at the border checking every unit, and that's not how LPG is checked in the industry. That would have been cumbersome, expensive, not practical at all. Well, that happens because Belize was the only country in the region not to have a marine terminal of its own. The rest of the countries in Central America had realized that they needed to be able to bring in bulk imports of LPG to deal with price, to deal with transparency, and to deal with energy security for their countries. We were behind, and something had to be done about it."
"National Gas Company was conceptualized by a team at Belize Natural Energy at that time. National Gas Company is really an entity that was designed by and financed by Belize's private sector, predominantly."
"NGC was established under a different government administration, the Barrow Administration. Is there any concern from the principals or the managing executives that this particular Briceno Administration may decide that NGC isn't the way to provide energy security in this particular sector?"
"It's certainly not only NGC that is saying that this project provides energy security. It's the IDB that is now saying that. It is the fact that we have thousands of Belizean citizens, through their credit unions and pension funds that are part of this project. It is the fact that themselves, GOB, owns 25% of this project. I certainly can't speak for the Government. That is not my role, but I can tell you clearly that the fact that this project brings energy security, the fact that this project has - compared, on a month-to-month basis, since operations started - lowered the price of LPG, as compared to what was happening under previous importers, that is undeniable. So, the fact the government will then inherit the project after 15 years of operation, that did not in any way encumber the people of this country is something that anybody is going to look at very closely."
Again, tune in to Monday's newscast, when we will provide a detailed look at how the National Gas Company does business, and how they have - so far - been able to provide cooking gas at a rate, cheaper than the former importers.