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Belize Coalition Wants Moratorium on Oil Exploration Ban Formalized

About one week ago, a release from the Government’s Press Office had announced the banning of oil exploration in certain areas.  The Barrow administration, as a result has received much applause, due to the move, from various entities both locally and internationally.  Coupled with those applause, came the request that the two other reserves be included in the list of areas that are to be left unexplored; those being the Honduras Port Marine Reserve and the Turneffe Marine Reserve.  Today, in addition to that request, the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage is asking for a formalized moratorium.  The Belize Coalition circulated a release earlier, stating, quote, “This major milestone is the result of more than five years of campaigning by the Belizeans, the Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage and its partner organizations.  We are however compelled to point out that the moratorium has yet to be formalized and made official in writing. We also endorse the collective call being made by Belizeans for legislation in order to protect the integrity of these milestones. In the words of the World Heritage Committee, “The next step is to make an “unequivocal legislative commitment to eliminating all oil concessions granted within the boundaries of the property and adjacent waters and ensure that necessary legal and institutional instruments are in place to effectively control oil exploration and exploitation in areas outside the property which might have negative impact on its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV).”   While we support and applaud this significant move, a permanent ban of approximately 15% of Belize’s territorial waters is just a step. The Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage reiterates its commitment to advocate for a permanent ban in all of Belize’s waters as well as our protected areas onshore and within watersheds.  We will work with officials from Belize’s Ministry of Economic Development, Petroleum, Investment, Trade and Commerce to create a set of meaningful and enforceable conditions in order to ensure protection for Belize’s marine resources if the moratorium is ever lifted. Given the response from our “People’s Referendum”, an official referendum would have to be conducted in order to determine the wishes of the Belizean people.”  End of quote.  In the release sent out on December 2 by the Government, it was mentioned that Cabinet at its meeting today, Tuesday, December 1, 2015, approved a policy that will legally apply a ban on offshore exploration in areas along the Belize Barrier Reef System, and within the seven (7) World Heritage Sites in Belize.