Minister of Sustainable Development responds to queries regarding Waterloo’s appeal
Waterloo Investment Holdings has announced that it will appeal the Department of Environment’s denial of the Port of Belize Limited’s Port Expansion Project. On December 23, they invoked Section 27 of the Environmental Protection Act, which gives the power to a three-person tribunal to make a definitively final decision. We asked Minister of Sustainable Development, Orlando Habet for a reaction.
Orlando Habet, Minister of Sustainable Development, Disaster Risk Management and Climate Change: “I wouldn’t be able to tell if it is public because based on section 27 if you follow through it also tells you that the tribunal will form it’s own proceedings, will guide itself with it’s own principles and proceedings so we don’t know if they will say if it’s going to be a public hearing or not or if it will be in closed quarters. But certainly in regard to the legislation, and I have heard the concerns that you have fourteen or fifteen members of NEAC going through this assessment coming from professionals in the field and some administrators and then you put it to a three person tribunal. If we look at how our courts operate we know that you go to the Magistrate or to the Chief Justice and if you don’t get justice served in your opinion then you could go to an appeal and normally the appeal would be maybe if you go as far as the CCJ then you have a three person tribunal. So it goes from one to three and now we’re going from fourteen to three. So looking at it from that standpoint I believe maybe there is something we will have to do in terms of amendment to the regulations. From my standpoint I’m not a learned attorney so I think that from where we stand from the Ministry an interpretation of the regulations it is telling you that this appeal has already been triggered when the company has already sent that appeal to the minister. So I don’t know if any changes can be made now because that is already in process but certainly for the future it’s something that we have to consider.”
The Act says that one of the members is an appointee of the Chief Magistrate or a judge nominated by the Chief Justice to chair the tribunal. Another member is appointed by the Minister – in this case, Habet – and the third is the private sector Senator, Kevin Herrera. Questions have been raised about the power of three people to overturn a decision made by 16 individuals and whether the laws need to change. Here’s how Minister Habet responded.
Will the deliberations be in public? That’s what Minister Habet was asked about and whether he supports the idea of having those meetings public. The environmental community also raised this issue late last year. Minister Habet also weighed in.