|Cliff, facilitator, explained that this forum was just a beginning to a life long process and encouraged working together to synergize the efforts made.
|Stakeholders and representatives from eight organizations participated in the forum. In the end, organizations strengthened their ties and opted to work together for a common good.|
I n an active endeavor to strengthen close working relationships with organizations in Ambergris Caye and addressing major community issues, the first ever San Pedro forum was held at the SunBreeze Conference room on Friday, June 6th. Spearheaded by the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) San Pedro Chapter, stakeholders and representatives from eight organizations came together for a full day to present what they feel their roles are in the community in which they listed their organizations objectives and issues which they tackle on a regular basis.
The full day session included participation from; BTIA National Office, BTIA San Pedro, Green Reef, San Pedro Business Association, Ambergris Caye Chamber of Commerce, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, San Pedro Taxi Federation, San Pedro Tour Guide Association and the San Pedro Town Board. Katherine Paz, President of BTIA San Pedro commented to The Sun, "When we (BTIA) got together in January we set goals for a twelve month period but started realizing that we were duplicating the efforts of several organizations, hence having the forum. [...] We know that everything on the island is based on tourism so every organization is important. We have some of the same issues for instance safety for residents and tourists. So this will not only benefit them but everyone in the community so it may not be the solution to challenges but it's a start," ended Paz.
As the organizations listed their objectives and goals, it allowed for the easy listing of the problematic areas which arouse from the presentations. Jan Brown represented the Chamber of Commerce; Valentine Rosado represented Green Reef, whilst Miguel Alamilla spoke on behalf of Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Katherine Paz represented the San Pedro BTIA, Elito Arceo spoke on behalf of the San Pedro Business Association, Alfonso Wiltshire represented the Taxi Association, Billy Leslie spoke on behalf of the Tour Guide Association, whilst the San Pedro Town Council was represented by its Mayor and Marion Mejia.
Highlights of the meeting were the discussion of more lighting in San Pedro, police training for security guards, bringing back the curfew, securing the business climate in San Pedro, placing moratoriums on vehicles, maintaining traffic signs, alleviating illegal fishing practices, and amending the commercial fishing laws, just to name a few.
The afternoon session brought together seven main issues affecting San Pedro namely; Training, Crime, Traffic, Marketing, Master Plan, Garbage and Beach reclamation. Participants then discussed who would be best to spearhead each area of concern and who would conduct follow up sessions to decide the best way forward to tackle the problematic areas and at the same time synergize the efforts already in place. Cliff and Linda Kirk, facilitators of BTIA who play an integral role in training on the island, led the discussion. It was decided that the BTIA will spearhead the Training and Marketing aspect, while the Ambergris Caye Chamber of Commerce will head Crime, San Pedro Town Council heads Garbage, Traffic and Beach Reclamation. The Master Plan will be spearheaded by the San Pedro Business Association. Paz went on to say that, "through this forum BTIA San Pedro hopes that efforts coordinated by all organizations on the island can be synergized and everyone can work as a group to achieve the common goal."
Mayor Elsa Paz also took the podium for some words of encouragement, "We are asking the organizations to appoint representatives and work together to solve the different issues of the community. As local authorities, it is under our jurisdiction to address concerns so we should accomplish this together."
In closing, Cliff stated "We have some power that we haven't used in a while. This is just a start but if we can keep the spirit together to coordinate, you will be surprised in the progress we make."