PM Wants to Connect San Pedro to the Yucatan with Highway

Posted By: Marty

PM Wants to Connect San Pedro to the Yucatan with Highway - 10/05/21 10:56 AM

Bring Maya Train Close to Belize

The Prime Minister was ebullient this weekend after what he describes as a very productive five days of meetings in Mexico, as guest of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Among the mutually beneficial projects he says they discussed were bringing the Tren Maya close to the Belize border and hooking up San Pedro directly to the Yucatan.

Prime Minister John Briceno

“We had a very exciting five days in Mexico. We had several meetings with several functionaries. We met with Funatur, who is the group in charge of developing the Tren Maya project that connects entire south and southwest of Mexico. And looking at how sooner we can, more sooner hopefully than later, to link up Tren Maya. We discussed how at the moment to bring at least the range to end at the border where we can put the modern facilities for tourists to off load, and again goods that we can bring to the country. We also discussed a very interesting concept - How is it that we can connect San Pedro all the way up to to Cancun, which is called the Rivera Maya and we’re looking at – there’s a canal that separates the island of Ambergris Caye from Mexico and so by Mahahual so once we can connect that you can get on your car and from San Pedro Drive all the way to Cancun or from Cancun drive all the way to San Pedro. We’re talking with Fonatur to see how we can come up with a master development plan for northern San Pedro.”
Posted By: Roberto El Vagabundo

Re: PM Wants to Connect San Pedro to the Yucatan with Highway - 10/06/21 02:44 AM

Jajajaja laugh
Posted By: Marty

Re: PM Wants to Connect San Pedro to the Yucatan with Highway - 10/14/21 10:46 AM

A Road From San Pedro To Cancun?

And with the Belize Investment Summit coming up, that may also be good news for the economy. The summit is being organized by the government to attract foreign investment and is scheduled for November 10th and 11th in San Pedro. When the PM told us about it today, he noted that there has been a lot of international interest, especially amongst Central American nations. He spoke about his most recent trip to Mexico and one of the biggest projects discussed was a road connecting northern Ambergris Caye to the Mexican peninsula - that's right, in the future, you may be able to drive from San Pedro Town to Cancun.

Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister
"In the investment summit, we are making it international and certainly we are getting a lot of interest from Belizeans here in Belize but we're getting a lot of interest from the United States but now we're getting interest from Guatemala and Mexico in Central America and that is simply because now we have been active in the region, we've been going to SICA meeting both myself as head of state and Eamon Courtenay as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we went to Mexico, we've had a series of meeting in Mexico when I was there for about a week, we met with Compramex which is probably one of the largest public sector organizations and they are expressing interest to come and look. When we made note that we were interested to see how we could connect to the Tren Maya and to see initially to get it to the border of Belize and eventually to see if we could get it into the country, obviously it has to be a private/public sector partnership, again that generated interest in Mexico. We have a number of issues or ideas that we're looking at, we're trying to see how we could connect Ambergris Caye to the Mahahual area, to the peninsula. It's just we have an opening of a canal of about 40 feet, and we believe if we can put a bridge there then that means the Rivera Maya would start In Cancun and end in San Pedro and when we said that to the media in Mexico, that excited them because you'd pay well to drive from Cancun to San Pedro and vice versa and it would open up that market so there are so many things that we're doing and people are very excited about the investment summit and looking at the opportunities that Belize can offer them."

And with the Stake Bank Saga concerning the causeway, the question came up of whether a bridge connecting Ambergris Caye to Mexico would be environmentally viable. Here's how the PM answered.

Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister
"There's this theory that San Pedro or Ambergris Caye was connected to the peninsula but there's this theory that the Mayans dug a Canal there, you could imagine paddling 20 plus miles to get to the tip and 20 plus miles to go up when you figure you could just cut a canal and so that I don't think will be an issue because you talk about 40 feet, I've not been there but I'm told it's about 40 feet of water that we have by putting a canal and then that would open up that whole area, the north Ambergris area, I mean in Cabinet we just appointed a north Ambergris developing committee that would try to look at having planned development in the northern part of Ambergris Caye."

Channel 7

Posted By: Marty

Re: PM Wants to Connect San Pedro to the Yucatan with Highway - 10/15/21 10:46 AM

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Prime Minister sees the possibility to connect Ambergris Caye with Mexico

The prime minister commented that if this project materializes, islanders could drive from Ambergris Caye to any destination in the Mexican Riviera Maya up to Cancun. Travelers through this part of Mexico using the Tren Maya route would also be able to cross over to Ambergris Caye without entering through the Corozal District. Between northern Ambergris Caye and the Yucatan peninsula, there is a 40-foot canal where a bridge could connect with the Mexican side. Briceño believes it will open up the market with Mexico. However, significant development must occur in northern Ambergris Caye before any possible network to connect with Mexico can be established. Many islanders like the idea but believe that proper infrastructure must be put in place first. Indeed, such a project would lead to rapid growth and development of the island’s northern part, but it needs to be well planned and environmentally friendly. Another concern is that massive development up north could displace the island’s rare wildlife. Deep north, the island is home to jaguars, deer, peccaries, pumas, among others. Those undeveloped areas are also the favorite nesting spot for sea turtles every year.

Prime Minister Briceño believes the project would have a minimal environmental impact. Other islanders think the opposite and prefer the island to stay the way it is. According to him, Cabinet appointed a group called North Ambergris Development Committee. Briceño said this committee would try to have planned development in the northern part of the island. No further details were made available of this group and who is part of it.

Click here to read the rest of the article in the San Pedro Sun
Posted By: Marty

Re: PM Wants to Connect San Pedro to the Yucatan with Highway - 10/20/21 10:30 AM

A Road Through A World Heritage Site?

Switching now to real news...

The Briceno Administration has made an unprecedented commitment to marine conservation with the Blue Bond, which is predicated on protection and preservation of the marine environment. This blue bond is expected to yield millions of dollars for marine investments and management over the next 20 years and will include expanding marine biodiversity zones, initiating a comprehensive marine spatial program, revamping coastal management and more.

But even with this commitment, Prime Minister Briceno, has proposed a road that leads to a bridge connecting Ambergris Caye north to the Mexican portion of the Yucatan Peninsula.

For this to happen, a delicate eco system which has been preserved for centuries and is teeming with protected species will be disturbed.

Once the PM broke the news, it rattled conservationists on the island. So today, Courtney Menzies took a trip to the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve with a drone to get a better idea of the flora and fauna that will be affected if their home becomes overrun with construction and the constant flow of traffic. Here is that story.

Courtney Menzies: This is one of only three areas in this region where the reef meets the land - on top of that it's a well known nesting site for three different protected species of turtles, and it's all right here in the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve. But this precious natural wonder is under threat of disruption since the prime minister has in his sights a bridge connecting Ambergris Caye to the Mexican peninsula - a road that conservationists say will tear this fragile eco system apart.

Rebecca Arceo, Member, ACCSD
"The reserve has not only things like turtles but we've got jaguars in there, we have peccary and there's a whole slew of animals and environment that we haven't even explored yet because it's been untouched and before we open it up we have to figure out how to protect it and what is there and the best way to proceed to protect that environment and those animals before we just open it up and put a road right through it."

But that's what the PM is proposing - a road that will take you from San Pedro Town to the Tip of Ambergris Caye, and then a bridge that goes over the Bacalar Chico Channel and connects to the Mexican peninsula. Here's how he outlined it:

posted (October 13, 2021)
Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister

"We're trying to see how we could connect Ambergris Caye to the Mahahual area, to the peninsula. It's just we have an opening of a canal of about 40 feet, and we believe if we can put a bridge there then that means the Rivera Maya would start In Cancun and end in San Pedro and when we said that to the media in Mexico, that excited them because you'd pay well to drive from Cancun to San Pedro and vice versa and it would open up that market."

It an undertaking of epic proportions, so we took a trip with a local guide who often tours the area and a San Pedrano passionate about conservation to see the area that will be affected. The channel is a narrow strip of water that connects the two countries - meaning this boat is technically in Mexico.

And while this project promises economic benefit, Rebecca Arceo of the Ambergris Caye Citizens For Sustainable development says she's not sure it's worth it.

Rebecca Arceo, Member, ACCSD
"I don't think the benefits outweigh the damage it will cause at all because again, we don't know what they're plan is, we don't know how they're going to protect the environment that being people here. People come to Belize to fish, to snorkel, to see our natural habitat. BTB's slogan used to be mother nature's best kept secret, and I still believe that's why people come here and if we put roads through and we don't have a master plan for what can of buildings can go in, we're jeopardizing all of that."

"My concern is that all developments here are supposed to have an EIA, an environmental impact assessment, and this road because it's government done doesn't require that right so they can go ahead and do the road without even examining how it's gonna effect the environment and also we don't have a master plan for the island still so I'm concerned how they plan on develop an area where there's no plan for zoning, infrastructure, not only roads but even the road here are flooding during rainy season because the drainage isn't appropriate so my concern is that without that environment impact and without a master plan it's just opening us up to a world of problems without any solutions or planning."

And this project comes after the ACCSD had made plans to work on a biodiversity corridor, which would essential connects the nearby reserves to create an area of potential safety for the marine life.

Rebecca Arceo, Member, ACCSD
"What we did recently, or in the past few years was we did the Hol Chan Marin Expansion, where we took the areas along the back of the lagoon and connected them and made them part of Hol Cahn, we did that to protect those areas and now Bacalar Chico, we were looking at doing a co-management with government of Bacalar Chico again to kind of connect all the reserves and make sure they were protected and they were utilized properly. We've got a lot of flat areas in the back and up through Bacalar Chico that are for flat fishing which is one of our biggest industries and so before putting a road through it, I think there needs to be a plan for the reserve, the protection, and how those areas are protected."

Arceo says that once development does start, the organization will take a poll of the residents to get a better consensus - but she believes that even those who agreed with the project will want to ensure the preservation of the natural phenomenon - including the nesting of the loggerhead, green, and hawksbill turtles that share this area.

And one San Pedrano - Jorge Aldana - says he'll fight against this project for as long as he can.

Jorge Aldana, San Pedrano
"I just think that it's not feasible, if you look at the environmental aspect of it, it falls within a marine reserve and for the prime minister to want to pitch the idea of accommodating a bridge, it will need a certain level of infrastructure and the certain level of infrastructure that will be put in place will do more damage to the eco system in the area."

Courtney Menzies:
"When you speak to other San Pedranos what are they saying?"

Jorge Aldana, San Pedrano
"I think the general feeling is that there needs to be some level of consultation, some level of discussion before a project of that magnitude can be pitched to investors."

The president of the Tour Guide Association told us that while he is neither for nor against the project, he believes the PM should have first consulted with the community of Ambergris Caye first - including the hoteliers, private owners, tour guides, commercial fishermen, and the general residents.

Channel 7

Posted By: bywarren

Re: PM Wants to Connect San Pedro to the Yucatan with Highway - 10/20/21 11:33 AM

Brilliant idea. Build more road When you can’t maintain the roads that are already there.
Ambergris Caye is in the tourist business. It’s akin to someone in the restaurant business. They have 25 tables of which a third of them are in need of repair And the customers sitting at those tables cannot fully enjoy their meal. So to solve the problem the restaurant ads 25 more tables that soon are also in need of repair. So instead of solving the problem so that the 25 tables they have provide the customers with a enjoyable experience, they double the number of customers that have an unpleasant experience.
Of course the owner of that business figures that there will always be more new people to come only to not return and tell their friends of their one and only trip to that restaurant.
Posted By: Marty

Re: PM Wants to Connect San Pedro to the Yucatan with Highway - 10/21/21 10:25 AM

Did You Know that the mangroves in northern Ambergris Caye are included in the Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve? This protected area is also a part of Belize's World Heritage Site that just got off the In-Danger List in 2018 owed to development threats.

This world heritage protected area is what connects Ambergris Caye to Mexico. A road through it would be devastating!

Photo copyright: Miguel Alamilla and Wildtracks

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Posted By: Marty

Re: PM Wants to Connect San Pedro to the Yucatan with Highway - 10/21/21 10:37 AM

Inside The Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve; Will It Survive A Road Running Through It?

In environmental news, The plane ride from Belize City to San Pedro Town is about 15 minutes. Then, it's approximately another 40 minutes to get to the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve. But once you're there, the golf cart clatter of the town recedes into a deep background, and you're transported to an untouched natural environment. Lush greenery ensconces a lagoon at the tip of the island, and mangroves form a natural arch over the channel that separates Belize and Mexico.

It's the type of view tourists travel miles and spend thousands in hard currency to see - and we've got it only about an hour away from the most populated part of the country.

But conservationists say that could all change if the area sees the development of a road and a bridge that will connect Ambergris Caye to Xclak, Mexico.

It's an investment plan that the PM first floated in Mexico to encourage more tourist traffic to Ambergris Caye. But, environmentalists warn that it could disrupt this fragile ecosystem.

Yesterday, we went into the marine reserve and showed you the area that's under threat. Today, we'll show you the journey to get there and the animals that call it home - wildlife that could face displacement. Courtney Menzies has this story.

A journey to the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve usually begins within San Pedro Town, so we headed out on a flight to the island.

And once we got there, our guide, Pawny Arceo, was ready with the 25 foot lanchon to take us out to sea.

It's a trip he's made in the rain and sunshine, but yesterday, the grey clouds blotted out the sun for a skyline the color of slate, while the sea was as black as a bible.

The rain pelted us like hail, and we were forced to take cover under this tarp that the wind whipped about.

But once we arrived, though it was still raining, the tranquility of the area - populated only by wildlife - made us better appreciate the journey.

And it is here in this reserve that many types of wildlife call home - jaguars, turtles, manatees, and more.

But it is also here that the prime minister has proposed a mega-project, which could turn this pristine and preserve's greenery into a road and a bridge connecting Ambergris Caye and Mexico.

And for conversationists, it's a nightmare, since Belize's barrier reef was recently taken off the World Heritage Site endanger list.

Nadia Bood, Reef Scientist, WWF
"For one thing it's a national park, it's a marine protected area, and it's world heritage site so any kind of development will compromise the system, the health of the system. Putting a road within a national park and a marine reserve that is a world heritage site can potential impact the integrity of the area."

"There will be some level of loss of vegetation because of the clearance that that road would cause so you can have loss of mangrove eco system, another interconnected wetland areas there that are very important for many different species. You can also have potential pollutants and sedimentation that can come with the construction of a road in such a sensitive location and the sedimentation and erosion in that area, those sediments can be carried to the marine environment killing off the grass beds, impacting the reef eco system in that area."

"You'll be displacing very important species to that area, as you mentioned, manatees are using the mangrove channels are nursing area, as feeding grounds, as habitat. We have other species that come and feed in that area, they come and quench their thirst, drink in those areas. Just recently about a year ago, jaguars were found swimming in those areas. So they're very important habitat for wildlife and for people because they offer very good flood control as well."

And the World Wildlife Fund was key partners in addressing the areas of concern to get the reef off the endangered list. And this point was also brought up by Miguel Alamilla, who developed the Ambergris Caye Marine Turtle Program back in 2010. He's spent years monitoring the three protected species of turtles that nest in that area - the loggerhead, the green, and the hawksbill turtles.

And before he left the program in 2018, he was seeing 90-95 nesting areas for turtles during the season at both Robles and Rocky Point, but all that will be put at risk if this project goes into development.

Miguel Alamilla, Former Member, Ambergris Caye Marine Turtle Program
"The nesting beaches within the Marine Reserve, because the turtles are nesting within that 66 foot high tide, beyond high tide line on the beach dunes, on the sand dunes and. Where are you going to put the road?"

"Are you going to place your road within the national park? Or are you going to place it within the beach dunes, which is the Marine Reserve, which is the public land, you know?"

"Right now, we're seeing a lot of problems with the little roads there because I think the road stops like about five miles before you get to Robles in within the Bacalar Marine Reserve. And we are seeing a lot of human impacts in the nesting beach of Robles and Rocky Point. People are going with golf carts, they're driving on top of the sand dunes. We have seen golf carts, You know, of beachgoers on top of Nest's, golf cart tracks, you know, just riding everywhere on the beach."

"And it's a challenge. It's a big challenge, given that we don't have major developments there. Now, let's say we build a road and we expand our tourism development to north Ambergris Caye, the human impacts would be a lot greater and would impact our nesting beach a lot more."

And this impact could be detrimental for the turtles, especially that hawksbill, which is critically endangered. Not to mention the other types of protected species in the marine reserve.

And like Bood pointed, once that is gone, it can affect our great foreign exchange earner.

Nadia Bood, Reef Scientist, WWF
"It will essentially be contrary to what we're saying because we're saying that we are a nature based country, that we want to prioritize the natural eco system, that these natural eco systems are nature based solutions for climate change. we are destroying the same thing that we are trying to map ourselves on and the same thing we are benefitting from economically."

Both Bood and Alamilla underscored that the government's Blue Bond is predicated on marine conservation

Bood also proposed that rather than a road, there can be ferries like the ones that travel from Chetumal to San Pedro - except these ferries can start somewhere closer, like Xcalak Village.

Channel 7

Beautiful Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve at the mouth of the Bacalar Chico Channel - the Belize/Mexico Border at the tip of Ambergris Caye!

Posted By: Marty

Re: PM Wants to Connect San Pedro to the Yucatan with Highway - 10/22/21 10:19 AM

Road and bridge proposal to connect Ambergris Caye with Mexico concerns environmentalists

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), some level of clearance of forest will need to take place to construct the road. This would see large areas of mangroves removed, and an interconnected wetland system disturbed. In addition, potential pollutants and sedimentation can lead to erosion and eventually affect marine life and the barrier reef. According to Nadia Bood from WWF, one delicate species of wildlife are manatees. They use the mangrove areas for nursing, feeding, and as a habitat. The effort to conserve such World Heritage Site areas was the same campaign that rid the barrier reef from the endangered list. Environmentalists ask the government to look closer at the proposal and diligently research and consult with the community.

The former manager of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Miguel Alamilla, is concerned about this project. As a marine biologist, he is worried about the turtle nesting sites, which are already in danger. Every year, the Ambergris Caye Marine Turtle Program, which he helped create, monitors the nesting season that runs from May through November, which sees between 90 to over 100 sea turtle nests. The most common species are the hawksbill, loggerhead, and green turtle. Alamilla shared that these nesting sites are in constant threat from human activity. There is no road in this area of the island, and people who visit it during weekends, mostly, drive on the beach. They sometimes go on top of turtle nests threatening the survival of the eggs and hatchlings. Alamilla believes that if such a project takes place, it will significantly impact the area’s sea turtle nesting grounds and other marine life.

Click here to read the rest of the article in the San Pedro Sun
Posted By: Marty

Re: PM Wants to Connect San Pedro to the Yucatan with Highway - 10/23/21 11:05 AM

Oceana Wants To See the Big Developmental Picture

The nation is wrestling with the feasibility of the PM's plan for a bridge to Mexico.

We've shown you the situation in the reserve and the precious natural balances that could be lost to progress.

But what does OCEANA have to say about the project?

We put that question to Communications Officer Alyssa Noble and she told us that what's missing is a wider framework for all of the nation's proposed infrastructure projects, especially one that could put a World Heritage site at risk.

Alyssa Carnegie, Communications Director, Oceana Belize
"And that's is one of the primary concerns we do have with all these projects that come up. It is more of a systemic issue, as opposed to a project by project position, which is often the position we are taking. Decisions are made as a project comes in. What we are asking for is the same thing I am sure all investors are asking for, predictability, understanding what is required, and what the processes are. And, that is what the Belizean people are asking for. The San Pedro community wants to be consulted, deserve to be consulted, as does the Seine Bight community with the gas stations that are being built. And so, it really is then about making sure that these situations don't occur over and over again, as numerous representatives of OCEANA have told you before, have said before. We are often painted as this anti-development institution. So many instances, because its airport on the reef yesterday you know, its port proposal today, all of which has different components to it. It can't be that everything is subjective, or individualized to each proposal that is coming in. There has to be some sort of systemic adjustment. And that is what we are asking for; the system needs to be fixed to give communities, give Belizeans the opportunity to understand what is happening in our country, to support it, or to also raise their concerns. But that process needs to happen and thats what we are really advocating for."

Channel 7

Posted By: Marty

Re: PM Wants to Connect San Pedro to the Yucatan with Highway - 10/26/21 10:42 AM

PM Says North Ambergris Bridge Still On Table

And while tomorrow the opposition will strongly oppose the bills, today the conservationists are debating whether the PM will actually go through with the road to Mexico, which would have to pass through a World Heritage Site. Even though it's just a proposal at this point, to the environment NGO's it seems like a rash decision and one that may not have been well thought through. Today we asked him about it.

Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister
"And obviously, before we make any such decision, we have to go through the process. At this time, we're talking about a plan, we're talking about a vision. And for that to happen, we have to make sure that we follow the process, that we follow the laws of Belize, follow the environmental laws and there's going to be full consultation. We're going to go through the NEAC, go through with the EIA process and everything. So I think they're jumping the gun before they start to criticize, I think you should join us to see what is it that we're proposing and how we could be able to transform north Ambergris Caye and the country because we truly need the revenues and the jobs for our people."

Channel 7

Posted By: Marty

Re: PM Wants to Connect San Pedro to the Yucatan with Highway - 10/28/21 10:44 AM

LOO Condemns Bridge Through World Heritage Site

The Briceno administration is proposing to build a Belize-Mexico bridge spanning the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve which is a World Heritage Site. According to conservationists, it's not a good look - and the Leader of the Opposition pounced on it yesterday:

Hon. Patrick Faber, Leader of the Opposition
"Man goes to Mexico and gets excited and come back and start to talk about building a bridge from the Mexican Riviera all along and coming down over the Bachalar Chico Reserve, it has got to be madness and I ask about it this morning if he joked, he says he doesn't know where he will build the bridge yet. Its only one spot you could build the bridge. But the fact that these people are saying to you we are going to engage in this kind of agreement with the country of Belize, because of the good environmental record and you sir are out here talking about building a bridge over the remaining mangroves and the coral reef. That has got to be madness."

The Prime Minister yesterday told the house that everyone should wait to hear the full proposal which will go through all the necessary environmental screenings.

Channel 7

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