, 2001 with funding of US$11 million
provided by the World Bank.
Acting as Master of
Ceremonies for this very important ceremony was Mr. Noel D. Jacobs
Director/Regional Coordinator for MBRS. Hon. John Briceño, Belize's Minister of
Natural Resources, Environment and Industry gave the welcome address stating
that our Barrier Reef had always been in good hands but with the support of
Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico it will now be in better hands. "With the main
office of the MBRS located in Belize, it means more responsibilities for us.
Other reefs have been damaged by many factors and we can learn from their
Representing Mexico was Dr. Victor Lichtinger,
Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources. Dr. Lichtinger was pleased by
the warm welcome he received and stated that just by being on the beach with a
spectacular view of the barrier reef it could be clearly seen what they want to
protect. "This regional cooperation to preserve our natural resource - the
Mesoamerican Barrier Reef project launching is a day to rejoice. This project
surpasses the political borders. It means a combined effort of all the Central
American countries since we have the support of the rest of the world," stated
Speaking on the importance of the MBRS
Project in Honduras Mr. Antonio Fuentes stated that our Mesoamerican Barrier
Reef generates a lot of resources for an economy which is shared among the rest
of Central America. "This project is a big challenge for our countries. To
complete it will be a great achievement and an example of what our combined
countries can do together," ended Mr. Fuentes.
Lavarreda, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources from Guatemala
commented that the MBRS Project is an excellent way to show the rest of the
world an example of a good, practical sustainable system. "We have the task and
duty to follow up on this project and as a region, Guatemala accepts the
challenge," said Minister Lavarreda.
Also present was Hon.
Roberto Stadthagen Vogl, Minister of Environment from Nicaragua. He saluted the
countries involved in this project stating that it will help strengthen their
political ties when it comes to conservation and protection and the sustainable
use of their marine and coastal resources. During his remarks Hon. Stadthagen
Vogl stated, "Like Martin Luther King we have a dream of a better world, more
healthy and safe. This dream should be a reality for the benefit of all Central
America. God gave us the reef for a purpose; to give us a better life and that
is why we should preserve it."
Castellanos de Jarquin, Minister of Environment from El Salvador expressed that
her country is grateful to be a part of this project which enhances their
economy. She stated the job will not be easy but with the aid of other agencies,
they can fulfill the need to preserve the largest barrier reef in the Western
Representing Panama was Hon. Bessie Vasquez
who spoke of some of her country's natural resources including Boca del Toro
which is recognized for its rich coral and marine
life. She emphasized the beauty of the view
immediately in front of them and joked at the fact that she brought a slide
presentation but that the panoramic view she was admiring surpassed any of her
slides. "Panama emphasizes reef conservation and practices a lot of scientific
studies on marine organisms," stated Mrs. Vasquez. "The management of the
coastal area is important to any government, especially if we want to benefit
from it. It is important so that the future generations can enjoy this natural
beauty," ended Hon. Bessie Vasquez.
Project Task Manager
for World Bank, Marea Hatziolos remarked on the World Bank's support for this
project but remarked "it was up to the leaders of these countries to nurture and
protect it." She congratulated the "dream team" which is made up of diverse
partners and genders for undertaking this challenge.
was guest speaker Prime Minister Said Musa of Belize who reaffirmed our
country's commitment to the Tulum Declaration signed in 1997. "We share a common
environment and a common destiny and today is proof - if ever proof was needed -
that all of us inhabiting this space of earth on middle America's mainland, do
possess the vision and the will to live in harmony with our environment and
protect our common heritage so that future generations will also be able to
enjoy its blessings," said the Prime Minister. He was proud to mention that
Belize has already declared nine marine protected areas and since June 1991 has
fully supported the Central American Commission on Environment and Development
(CCAD). "Many stakeholders are involved in safeguarding the integrity of the
MBRS Project. We are grateful to the international consultants and the countries
involved. Recruiting responsible young people to be trained for this project
will be the key to the success of the MBRS Project," stated Prime Minister Musa.
Ingeñero Mauricio Castro Salazar, Executive Secretary and
General Director of Environment for CCAD and System for Central America
Integration (SICA), gave the closing remarks. Very eloquently he explained that
many years ago a small group from Central America had a dream to work together
with the rest of the countries. He continued that, unfortunately, twenty years
ago this dream was interrupted because many things divided them. Ten years ago,
when Central America wanted peace, some thought that one way to begin was by
working together to promote the sustainable use of our natural resources. "We
started talking and dreaming and in 1994 we signed an alliance to advance to
sustainability. We did not really cater to marine resources but this was brought
to our attention. We also managed to convince the rest of the four countries to
sign the declaration of Tulum. At first they thought it was crazy, then little
by little they began to realize that it would be possible, and today everyone
wants to take the credit for this great achievement. The MBRS Project is a
united one. One that has easily been approved. The myths and realities are due
to the hard work of the past. We now ask, what are our dreams for the future? We
should not lose perspective. We have to nurture this project socially and
financially for it to be a success. We now start a new process of how to
harmonize the eight countries. International organizations have also helped us
through this dream. If we ask if these dreams can continue, we say YES. Why?
Because Mexico and Central America are naturally united which makes our job
easier. Being in Belize is like being in our own home - our Central American
home," ended Mr. Salazar.
the official ceremony, the congregation was entertained with cultural dances
courtesy of the San Pedro Dance Company. The following day the visiting
delegation was given a glass-bottom boat tour of the Barrier Reef.