Tonight, we can tell you that the bus strike that was looming has been placed on the back burner as government officials and the Belize Bus Owners Association (BBOA) have come to an understanding. The discord had to do with the Government seemingly going against what was initially agreed to and what the BBOA felt was preferential treatment towards bus operators from Guatemala and Mexico. A meeting was held this afternoon in Belmopan. Our team was at the NEMO building awaiting the meeting’s outcome. Attorney General, Michael Peyrefitte explained why the outcome of the initial meeting held on August 7 had to be put on pause.
Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General of Belize: “On August 7 when we met we agreed to what a new SI would contain. We just wanted the bus association and the taxi association to appreciate that when you solve one problem or when you please one sector of the public other sectors are affected as well. Immediately after the decision we made on August 7 there was starting to be already kickbacks from the Mexicans, from the Guatemalans it was already affecting the local tourism industry. We felt that it was important that while we would not change our mind based on the agreement we had August 7, we wanted the taxi and the bus association to appreciate that when you solve that problem it created other problems. The Hotel Association and the Ministry of Tourism had that opportunity today to express their concerns about the decisions we have made and what we have done through the SI for the bus and taxi association. We have explained to the bus and taxi association that there will be a test period, that between now and October 8 for us to see the effects of the SI. If everything works out fine or it creates any problems that are manageable then we just proceed to deal with those. If it creates problems that we cannot fix or problems that are too big then we have all agreed that we would sit down and reassess the position that we have taken because at the end of the day whatever affects one aspect of the tourism industry will affect every aspect of it. So reasonable heads prevailed today, the Hotel Association they are not happy but at the same time they are prepared to wait and see what will be the result of the implementation of the SI for the next five weeks or so.”
As you heard, the Attorney General refers to a Statutory Instrument (SI) pending to enforce the outcomes of today’s meeting. He went into detail of what the SI will entail and what it will accomplish.
Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General of Belize: “Because we are a part of the Central American Corridor, if a Mexican bus wants to go to Guatemala and just in transit through Belize they will present a manifest at the Mexican border, transit through Belize, do not drop off any passengers, do not pick up any passengers and enter Guatemala with those same passengers. One bus will enter Belize from Mexico and go to the terminal in Belize City to bring people from Mexico to Belize, there will be one stop in Orange Walk and the next stop will be in Belize City but the only people who will be able to get on that bus are people who have tickets internationally. So for you to get on that bus in Belize City you must be going to Mexico. If you get on that bus in Orange Walk you must be going to Mexico and the same thing in the Western corridor. You get on that bus in Belize City you must be going to Guatemala with one stop in Belmopan for people who want to go to Guatemala from Belmopan but there will be no stops along the way to pick up people for others stops within Belize especially but that is essentially what the SI will cover.”
President of the BBOA, Brian Shaw spoke to the media on his satisfaction of today’s outcome. He also explained how the local bus operators plan to improve the services and the quality of the buses used in Belize.
Brian Shaw, Belize Bus Owners Association President: “I want to say a big thank you to GOB for actually listening to us and as I said sometimes we got frustrated and thought that it would never happen but in reality tomorrow the AG stated that this SI will be signed. To be honest with you that question that you asked a while ago that is something that the association has already actually worked upon because we have so many tour operators in this country, we have operators in this country that have actually upgraded tremendously throughout the past couple of years. We have actually the biggest tour company in this country which is Premier Charters, they are actually a part of our association, we have some operators that have the same type of buses and can give the same type of service that these guys are actually giving at the moment. So we don’t want anybody to figure that because it’s Belize that we should stay behind and let people try to discriminate and state that we can’t really provide the service that is actually needed out there.”