GOB: “NO de-reservation in Belize!” - (...unless it goes through proper procedures)

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 17, No. 43            November 8, 2007

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The town came together with a resounding “No” to the sale of Bacalar Chico, and as President of the San Pedro Tour Guide Association Billy Leslie stated, “Even though they have said they are not going to de-reserve it, we want to see it in writing that they will not de-reserve it. I don’t want a press release. I want to see it in writing so that our reserves can’t be de-reserved.” After Minister of Natural Resources Florencio Marin stated on Reef Radio that Bacalar was not going to be sold, other areas around the country were in the de-reservation process. Because of this, a peaceful demonstration was to be held in Belmopan, however, after the Government of Belize backed down from the potential de-reserving of Bacalar, the Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations (APAMO) got even better news. Better news for the entire country.

    A meeting was called by the Minister of Natural Resources Florencio Marin and he had senior officers from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Fisheries, Natural Resources, and the Departments of Lands and Environment with APAMO on the other side. What came out was the following:

1) Government will not de-reserve the Bacalar Chico National Park.
2) Government will stop de-reservation of all other protected areas.
3) Government will activate the National Protected Areas Commission.
4) Any future de-reservation will go through this Commission and all other required procedures – both scientific and consultational.
Government of Belize issued a press release on October 30th where it stated its position on conservation saying At no point did Cabinet take any decision to de-reserve these lands in the Bacalar Chico area. The de-reservation of any protected area, much more that of the Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve, which forms part of the Belize Barrier Reef System, and is also a World Heritage Site, cannot be approved solely by the Cabinet. The de-reservation of any of these protected areas would require considerable consultation and proper justification in the process before any such approval is considered. Cabinet could not and would not act arbitrarily in such a decision relating to the environment.

    The Government of Belize remains committed to maintaining its good record on environmental protection and proper stewardship of its natural resources .The Prime Minister and his government has taken the position that it will continue to work along with its regional and international partners in the protection of this internationally recognized reef system which is regarded as the crown jewel in Belize’s environment. The government is cognizant of its responsibility to provide, not only proper stewardship, but also leadership in ensuring compliance with the country’s environmental laws and in the preservation of this area as part of a world heritage site as declared by UNESCO in 1996. This is because of its outstanding universal value. The Chief Environmental Officer, Mr. Ismael Fabro, has recently written to the Global Environmental Facility of the World Bank expressing Belize’s commitment to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef Systems Program for the continued proper stewardship and prudent management of Belize Barrier Reef and supporting system, a position which the Government of Belize fully supports.

    The Office of the Prime Minister assures all Belizeans and in particular stakeholders involved in the protection of the environment that at no time Cabinet will take any decision that would prejudice its commitments.

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