Milestone Reached: Agreement Signed for Oil Exploration in Southern Belize

Milestone Reached: Agreement Signed for Oil Exploration in Southern Belize

An agreement was signed between the government, US Capital Energy and Conejo Village this morning at the Biltmore Plaza. It is a milestone that came after years of talks and negotiations over oil exploration in the south.  Tonight, of the seven consent agreements needed, US Capital has garnered support from six communities in the Toledo District, and is preparing to move full steam ahead.  Dan Gutierrez, a consultant with US Capital spoke with the media after the signing, saying that today’s signing was with Conejo Village.

Dan Gutierrez, Consultant, US Capital Corp.: “Well it was the signing of a consent agreement, really fancy term to say a contract between the Government of Belize, US Capital Corp and the Village of Conejo. Basically it is where the village of Conejo, US Capital and the Government of Belize agree to certain conditions under which oil exploration, specifically for the seismic part of the exploration can occur within their community or in the area of their community. It’s been a long road indeed. It started some time ago and the idea was basically to work with the community to ensure that they were happy with how the exploration program was laid out, is that we understood what their cultural norms were, what is it that they wanted and the government of Belize essentially worked as that entity to bring us together to make sure that we were all on the same page. So that you know it’s a simplified way of a very long process that started a very long time ago. But essentially that’s what happened. We all needed to get on the same page so that we could move ahead with the seismic exploration but only in a way that the community was happy with. There are seven communities that we would hope to get a consent agreement with. Of those seven we now already have an agreement with six so we hope to continue working with the folks at Santa Ana to see if we can make this happen, we’ll see. And of course let us not forget that there are any number of communities outside of the Mayan FPIC communities that we also need to work with that are in the license block and these consent agreements don’t minimize our responsibility to work with them at all. This is just something that is now required given the ruling in the courts.”

Reporter: So you guys are actively seeking dialogue with those other communities as well ? 

Dan Gutierrez, Consultant, US Capital Corp.: “We will start very shortly yes.”

Minister of Indigenous People’s Affairs, Dolores Balderamos Garcia, signed the agreement but left before the villagers arrived as she was not feeling well. Deputy Prime Minister Cordel Hyde was at the signing ceremony, and noted to the media that the negotiations took some time, but this is the right path toward national development.

Cordel Hyde, Deputy Prime Minister: “Well I think there were people in the government who were pretty excited in the beginning but because the process took this long the excitement has kind of worn off because the actual FPIC process started in earnest in October of 2022 that’s fifteen months ago and some people got impatient I believe but ultimately you have to take your time with it. You have to be meticulous about it, you have to share with the communities as much information as you possibly can and answer all their questions so it took some time for us to get here but I think that that’s the idea. The idea is to ensure that once the communities sign off, once they agree it’s at the end of a process of education, it’s at the end of a process of understanding and ultimately not everybody will agree but I think that my sense is most of the community agreed to this and that’s why the leaders are here to sign and to start this process. Now having signed this it opens up the opportunity for seismic testing and our hope is that ultimately that will lead to discovering oil in commercial quantities but as I said in there earlier getting there is not easy and then once you get there that’s always been a curse for countries all over the world and that’s the great challenge, the sacrosanct duty that we have and responsibility to ensure that once oil is discovered that it’s not just a handful of people that really win but that the entirety of this nation, the people of the south in particular, but the people of the country in general benefit from this. We’ve done a lot of good things in the country over the last few years with free education and expanding NHI and building cement houses and having people have access to land like they haven’t had before. But ultimately this will create opportunities like we’ve no had before or in a greater way. But we have to do it right and a lot of cooperation, a lot of working together took place for us to get to this point but going forward that cooperation will have to be enhanced to ensure that things are done right because it’s so easy for things to go awry and go off track.”

Chairman of Conejo Creek, Santiago Coi, also lamented at the speed of the FPIC process, but says that the villagers have collectively agreed that signing the agreement was in their best interest.

The six communities that have signed a consent agreement are Boom Creek, Sunday wood, Crique Sarco, San Felipe, Midway, and Conejo.  The seventh community pending an agreement is Santa Ana Village.

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