Yesterday the Government of Belize announced that it has decided to ban offshore oil exploration in Seven World Heritage Sites as well as areas along Belize’s barrier reef system. This is great news for environmentalist groups and activist groups such as Citizen Organized for Liberty through Action, COLA, which has been at the forefront of the issue. Today, COLA’s President, Geovanni Brackett, applauded the Prime Minister for the Government’s decision but says more needs to be done.
“We at COLA are very pleased with the announcement yesterday by the Cabinet and it’s not that many times that Government and COLA agree on a matter or are in collaboration but I must say this move by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet is a very excellent start to a complete ban on offshore drilling. We have fought a very long fight along with our partners in the Coalition to save our National Heritage and COLA, this is like a baby for us. Having being the founding member to really advocate on this issue however we are very pleased. Now moving forward in terms of the work in its entirety and the completion, there are a lot of things that need to be done. Nevertheless, we’ve always advocated that the laws within Belize should be separated, that which just as in the US where there is the Department of Interior that deals strictly with offshore drilling and then there is another department that deals with onshore and the reason for that is understandable because you are dealing with two different ecological systems hence the reason why we can’t put an umbrella law that deals with on shore drilling. It’s very different when you are drilling for oil in Spanish Lookout than when you are drilling in the Port Marine Reserve which brings me to another issue which is the two marine reserves that have been excluded within this ban I think should be included because they wouldn’t have been a reserve if there were not sensitive ecological systems. It will be left to those managements that are dealing with those reserve areas to further advocate. I think what we have done in the beginning in January 2010 is that we helped to push the environmental NGOs by providing them with the documents necessary to know that this entire country was blocked off. It is the responsibility of these NGOs now to further the advocacy within their particular areas, they have the resources and they have the funding and so we while we are happy that we have an excellent start. We would like to see further work but we want to applaud the Prime Minister on this particular move it is only fitting so that it is not a contentious move and it is not one that we welcome and we at COLA would like to work with the Government in moving forward and dealing with any issues pertaining to oil exploration.”