The Chiquibul Forest Reserve is the largest forest reserve in Belize with 459,000 acres; however, it has become quite a challenge to protect from illegal incursion such as poaching, gold panning, illegal logging and illegal farming by Guatemalans. In an effort to address this enormous problem, the security forces, the Forest Department, and the Friends for Conservation and Development have been jointly patrolling the forest reserve. The authorities realized that there was a need for a standard procedure to be implemented which would define the roles and responsibilities of the various parties which we have been told at times did not always meet eye to eye. Today, the protocol finally came to fruition with the signing of the Chiquibul Joint Enforcement Protocol. At the signing ceremony, the Minister of National Security, John Saldivar, gave the keynote address.
Honorable John Saldivar Minister of National Security: “We at the Ministry of National Security we set our strategic objectives every year in order of priority as we develop our annual work plan. For the past year priority one continued to be the maintenance and sovereignty and territorial integrity of Belize which underlines the continuous effective deterrents of the illegal border incursions. With regards to the Chiquibul for 2018 our goal has been to reduce transborder illegal activities by criminal elements and also to stop illegal cattle ranching activity along the western border and to develop mitigation capabilities that will deter illegal gold panning. For the execution of our own task and the achievement of our shared mandate of conservation we continue to march proudly with the Forest Departments and with FCD at our side and from time to time we are joined by Immigration and Customs officials who also have a vested interest in deterring and arresting the related offenses that are frequent in Chiquibul due to our porous borders. A formalized joint enforcement protocol was required because although all these agencies have a common vision of securing our border areas and forest reserves, how we administrate, how our standard operating procedures and our main interests do not always align. The joint enforcement protocol ensures unity of security in environmental management and in law enforcement.”
The Ministry of National Security, the Forest Department and the Friends for Conservation and Development were all signatures to the protocol. Rafael Manzanero, the Director of Friends for Conservation and Development explained to the media that the patrols conducted in the reserve over the years have been able to eradicate some of the incursions; however, some still remain.
Rafael Manzanero – Director of Friends for Conservation and Development: “In the case of the Chiquibul it is always a dynamic situation. Xate or illegal logging are no longer a problem in the Chiquibul. The terminology of xateros probably is just remaining on the minds of Belizeans and in the vocabulary of Belizeans but in reality we do not really have any major significant problems with xateros today. Cattle Ranching is still an issue out there, in terms of agricultural farming, as a result of the conservation posts there have been a reclamation of the territory by 25% at this point. We still have a lot much more work to do but certainly you can see the recovery of the forest, the reclamation of the forests that are returning back again by some 25% at this stage. The way the incursions have been occurring has been really also one that has been moving and change from time to time. We believe that the protocol now that once we and all the units are able to digest it well we certainly should be much more protective in doing the type of patrols and being able to command systems out here in the field.
Felix Enriquez, the Chief Executive Officer, at the Ministry of National Security said that a committee has been put in place to make any changes to the protocol as deemed necessary.