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National Oil Spill Contingency Plan still in the making

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The National Oil Spill Contingency Plan for Belize is still in the making. Today representatives from various sectors met in Belize City to review and improve the working draft of the plan. When the plan is completed and approved by Cabinet, all organizations associated with disaster risk management and oil spill response will be able to better prevent oil spills and be fully prepared and coordinate emergency response in the event of an oil spill of any nature. Maxine Monsanto from the Department of Environment spoke to Love News.

 MAXINE MONSANTO, ENVIRONMENTAL OFFICER, D.O.E.

“The consultancy itself is in two phases; or rather it has two specific deliverables. One is a risk assessment which will guide us as to identifying our limitations and our gaps as a country and what we need to respond to- what are our specific risks that we need to respond to for an oil spill. The second is identify our resources, our capabilities and setting out the procedures, the standard operating procedures of how we respond; who are the first responders, who are you notified, what are you supposed to use, how you go about it, how do you address issues of health and safety. When we say oil spill we are using it in a broad term but it also addresses what they call petroleum products which are the refined products; diesel, gasoline, jet A fuel and it also refers to the crude oil that BNE ships out, the petroleum product that PUMA ships in. So it’s a broad scope providing guidelines as to how to respond in general to these activities. So like one of the things that is in the document, is that it says you do not bond gasoline. So if you have a gas spill within the marine environment you are not supposed to contain it because that can cause an explosion so it’s telling you very clearly you don’t contain that but it’s also providing you with guidance of what you do contain and how you contain it and how you recover it if necessary.”

Participating in the consultation is Southern Environmental Association (SEA) which is being represented by Arreini Palacio Morgan.

ARREINI PALACIO-MORGAN, S.E.A.

“The Southern Environmental Association co-manages two protected areas off the coast of Placencia; one of them being laughing bird national park and the other being Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve. These two protected areas are in close proximity to the Big Creek and is one of the more southern areas in Belize so clearly we would be very concerned about any oil spill contingency plan and it is in that respect that we are here today.”

HIPOLITO NOVELO, LOVE NEWS REPORTER

“Would you say that this plan is long overdue?”

ARREINI PALACIO-MORGAN, S.E.A.

“Absolutely. We have a small but potential oil industry and we have to be prepared for whatever might happen, our natural resources are very precious to us and we have to safeguard that. We have a green economy and we have to safeguard that. Oil is not the only thing that contributes to our gross domestic product so we want to make sure that we have a healthy oil industry as well as healthy natural resources, and this is how we do it by having plans in place and so on.”

The meeting continues tomorrow.

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