At the sitting of the House of Representatives today, the Petroleum Operations (Maritime Zone Moratorium) Bill went through its final reading. The bill seeks to impose a moratorium on oil exploration and other petroleum operations in the maritime zone of Belize. While the bill received bi-partisan support Prime Minister Dean Barrow and the Opposition Leader bucked heads when it came to the recommendations.
John Briceno, Opposition Leader
“We got about a little over $600 million dollars; oil done, money done and what do we have to show for it? Poverty didn’t go down. We never said that we gave thousands of students’ scholarships out of the oil money but the money is finished, the oil finished. The point I’m trying to make is that we can’t risk for a little bit of oil to do oil exploration into our waters madam speaker because when you look at the Belize Barrier Reef in my mind the Belize Barrier Reef gives us more than $600 million every year, every single year we are getting $600 million or more from the Belize Barrier Reef- it’s a gift that continues giving every single year. And that is why madam speaker I am recommending and advocating and asking our Honorable Members from the other side to consider making the amendment to the constitution that whenever we want to end the moratorium about exploitation of oil around our Belize Barrier Reef that we are going to put that solely in the hands of the Belizean people.”
Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“You talk about amendments that need to be made and almost every single amendment that you are urging on us has been made in the committee that considered the bill. Its here, it’s among your papers. I wasn’t there but how do I know? It’s among the papers.”
John Briceno – Opposition Leader
“I just got it right now. I just got it so how can you expect me madam speaker…”
“Honorable Members. Kindly take your seats. Proceed Prime Minister.”
Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“I don’t buy that for a minute. And in any event, you are the leader of the party. If you weren’t there your members were there, according to you, you are so centrally preoccupied with this matter you mean they didn’t voluntarily report to you or you didn’t seek to find out what had happened? Before you come here and you run your mouth you didn’t think that it would be a necessary caution to find out from your fellows on the committee were amendments in fact proposed. I am sorry sir bottom line you look bad you look terrible.”
The bill has now been referred to the Senate which is scheduled to meet next Wednesday. Once passed by that legislative body, the Bill will be signed into law by the Governor General of Belize. The Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage says this law will be a critical step in getting Belize off the Sites In Dangers list as oil was identified as a direct threat to the site’s integrity.