DOE descends on Coco Beach Resort and halts construction

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 20, No. 5            February 4, 2010

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Coco Beach Resort; it’s one of Ambergris Caye top resorts situated north of the island. It’s a resort that upon completion will consist of 25 two bedroom units, five single level casitas, 20 one bedroom units, 12 hotel rooms, a store room, restaurant and a large swimming pool. All in all, it’s a large resort still conducting on-site construction, but work forcefully came to a stop this week. On Tuesday, construction on the two remaining buildings came to a halt after Department of Environment (DOE) personnel escorted by Police, descended on the premises to shut down construction and operations of the resort.

    DOE in the Legal Authority Action Letter, stated that Coco Beach has embarked on the construction of the resort “without first obtaining Environmental Clearance prior to commencement of activity.” The letter continues to state that construction violates the Environmental Protection Act Chapter 328 of the Laws of Belize and the Amended Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation SI 24 of 2007. In an enforcement notice and cessation order, DOE outlined 12 reasons as to why Chief Environmental Officer Martin Alegria ordered the developer to “cease all operation and construction activities associated with Coco Beach Resort.” Reasons stipulated date back as far May 3rd, 2007. On that date, DOE first visited the site for inspection and found that Coco Beach had already commenced construction on five buildings prior to having received the green light from the Government department. Despite several notices given to Coco Beach, and listed in the Legal Authority Action Letter, they continued with construction until Tuesday, when DOE decided to come down on Coco Beach with the full force of the law. DOE ended by pointing out that despite going on with construction, Coco Beach Resort has yet to sign an Environmental Compliance Plan (ECP) for the construction and operation of the development.

    In speaking to a representative of Coco Beach Resort, The San Pedro Sun was informed that Coco Beach does recognize their fault in having carried on with their constructions without first receiving the approval of DOE. Coco Beach’s representative however explained that DOE had been “dragging their feet,” in approving a project that had been submitted and was in the pipeline since 2004. In addition, Coco Beach also pointed out that on several occasions they have responded and submitted all the necessary documentation requested by DOE to the point of traveling to Belmopan’s headquarters to hand deliver them on several occasions. They do admit to not signing their Environmental Compliance Plan, which is still in a draft stage, until a proper assessment of the fine is carried out. According to the representative, DOE had been demanding payment of a $10,000 yearly fee as based on the draft.

    Over 100 people depend on the jobs generated by the construction at Coco Beach Resort. The San Pedro Sun learnt that when work came to a stop on Tuesday, Area Representative Honorable Manuel Heredia Jr. spoke to the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment to allow construction to continue. According to Coco Beach, they were given the green light to resume construction on Wednesday once Prime Minister Honorable Dean Barrow intervened.

    All attempts to speak to Chief Environmental Officer Martin Alegria and Prime Minister Dean Barrow were unsuccessful. As we go to press, representatives of DOE and Coco Beach Resort were meeting in San Pedro to finalize the signing of the ECP that will legally give the resort the go ahead to continue with construction.
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