Yesterday came the announcement whereby the Government of Belize will be putting policies that will legally place a ban on offshore exploration in areas along the Belize Barrier Reef System as well as within the seven World Heritage Sites in Belize. As we mentioned yesterday, it is indeed a victory for the environmental lobbyists including a major player like OCEANA. Oceana issued a release today applauding the Government on their decision, saying that with a moratorium on all offshore oil activity in Belizean waters already in place, this move represents a tremendous step forward for Belize and her people as, for the foreseeable future, Belize’s entire marine area is protected from the inherent hazards of offshore oil. The release, reads, in part, quote, “The decision taken today by the GoB reflects recognition of what the people of Belize have been asking for years: the protection of job security, food security and cultural identity. From legal, economic, scientific and cultural perspectives, Belizeans agree offshore oil is a bad idea. We remain confident that the future will continue to reveal reasons why Belizeans should never risk our outstanding and globally unique resources with this type of activity.” End of quote. According to OCEANA Belize, they are looking forward to reviewing the details of the plans in this regard especially its relation to the status of two marine protected areas not named in the release: the Turneffe Marine Reserve and the Port Honduras Marine Reserve. While Cabinet Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Manuel Heredia Jr., would not speak on what prompted Cabinet to render such a decision on oil exploration, he did say that this may just have a positive impact on the tourism industry.
MANUEL HEREDIA JR
“Definitely I believe that whatever is done is done in the interest of the country and whatever is done together in consultation with the partners around I believe that will definitely be for the interest of the tourism industry or for the country as a whole.”
The release from Oceana Belize went on to state that in a telephone conversation with the Prime Minister, Dean Barrow, Oceana Belize will be able to contribute to the efforts of the Ministry of Petroleum in developing stringent environmental mechanisms as well as strengthening existing frameworks that will ensure that if every the moratorium is lifted, the country’s marine resources would remain protected.