First phase of North Ambergris development to start with Basil Jones airstrip say BIS release, NACDC Chairman

Fidel Ancona, Chairman of the North Ambergris Caye Development Corporation (NACDC) said this week that the former Basil Jones airstrip, jetty and road west of Punta Azul would be developed by a private company, First Company Limited, whose chief shareholder is John Grief Sr. In exchange for rebuilding the three installations, a tract of land in the area comprising of 150 to 200 acres would be given to First Company Limited to resell, generating the cash needed for the construction. The proposal has been discussed for some months, according to Mr. Ancona, and recent discussions in cabinet have resulted in the go-ahead for the project. The proposal by Nova Shrimp to construct a shrimp hatchery in the area (2,000 feet away) has added impetus to the need for the airport. Mr. Ancona is acting as a consultant to Nova Shrimp. When asked about the proposal by Dolphin Development (who plan on a 65 million dollar investment at Punta Azul over the next ten years) Mr. Ancona said, "Dolphin will still be able to do their project the way they want to do it."

The San Pedro Sun delayed printing an article about the situation last week due to unresolved conflicting information. A meeting is scheduled for this Thursday, June 12th between Dolphin International and the San Pedro Town Board, after which an article, hopefully with solid information, would be printed. However, a press release issued by the Belize Information Service (BIS) on June 10th requires an explanatory article this week. The San Pedro Sun advises readers that next week's newspaper may be more accurate by reflecting events scheduled for later this week. The BIS release reads as follows:

"Belmopan, 10th June, 1997. - BIS - The North Ambergris Caye Development Corporation, on behalf of the Government of Belize, has announced the launching of the first phase of a development project on North Ambergris Caye.

The project has as its first objective the rebuilding of the old Basil Jones airstrip, the construction of a new pier and connecting roadways. This infrastructural development is being financed by a joint venture with NACDC and First Company, a fully Belizean-owned company.

The NACDC is confident that the refurbishment of the airstrip jetty and roadways will greatly facilitate the development of the North Ambergris area's vast commercial potential. Already, Nova Companies Ltd. has begun negotiations to set up a shrimp larvae hatchery in the area." End of Press Release

This information appears to conflict with previous materials supplied to The San Pedro Sun indicating the airstrip and marina would be built by Dolphin International as part of their development, according to documents signed by Minister of Tourism and the Environment the Honourable Henry Young on behalf of the Government of Belize dated the 24th of June, 1996 and amended on October 30th, 1996 which appear to give Dolphin International the right to develop the Basil Jones airstrip. The documents were in the line of a concept approval, according to the Honourable Henry Young. He said, "The development we want to get could be done so both parties could benefit."

Dolphin International issued the following press release on June 10th, 1997:

Dolphin International Development, Ltd. announced today that it had received written notification by its finance group that initial due diligence had been completed and that final commitment for funding of the initial $41.5 million dollar package had been approved. This would mean that funds in the pipeline would be expected within 60 days, subject to cooperation of the Government of Belize on issues of tax incentives and the final status of Basil Jones Airport.

Johann M. Smith, U..S. corporate counsel for Dolphin International stated: 'What we have stated all along is that this project requires out of country finance and the complete enthusiastic support of the Belize public. This project will eventually employ 400 plus workers, many of them from San Pedro. The tax revenues from the project will, in part, be earmarked for use in San Pedro. These revenues will assist schools, roads, trash collections, etc. We hope to start hiring in the next 60 days.'

On another subject, attorney Smith announced the donation of $5,000.00 U.S. to the San Pedro High School facility. Smith stated that these charitable donations reflect our continued commitment to the town and people of San Pedro. The distribution of the $5,000 is expected in July when Dolphin officials expect to be in Belmopan for talks with Government, and in San Pedro for talks with San Pedro Town officials. Dolphin officials also expect to meet with the San Pedro Town Board on June 12th to discuss progress on the project." End of Press Release

Regarding the legal status of the NACDC property (basically the former Basil Jones Plantation), Mr. Ancona said a receiver had been named by the bankruptcy court in Nevada and that the receiver has visited Belize twice. The receiver is currently working on a formal proposal to present to the Government (GOB) of Belize for the settlement of any amounts that may be due for the "acquisition of the property for a public purpose." Since the former owners (Breeze et al.) filed for protection under the bankruptcy laws of the United States, it has not been possible to negotiate any settlement with the former owners as these negotiations must be done by a receiver named by the court. Any settlement proposal made by the U.S. bankruptcy receiver will, of course, be subject to review, possible adjustment, and agreement of the GOB.

Regarding the Nova Shrimp proposal for a hatchery in the Punta Azul area, Mr. Ancona said that on the 19th of June, a joint meeting will be held with the San Pedro Town Board and the Ambergris Caye Planning Committee. A public meeting will be held the evening of the same day (June 19th) to discuss the Nova proposal. Mr. Ancona indicated that Nova Shrimp intends to obtain the required reports (Pepé Garcia is working on an Environmental Impact Assessment report) and permits. They wish to build at that area of the island due to the composition of the water - which is what is needed for their shrimp larvae operation. Currently, Nova is importing shrimp hatchlings from abroad, an expensive undertaking. So far, a 20' X 50' pier has been built and 3 acres of land have been cleared.

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