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Public forum on offshore oil exploration held in San Pedro

A community-based Public Forum on Offshore Oil Exploration took place at the Central Park in San Pedro Town over the weekend. The aim of this event was to create awareness on this important national issue.

Hipolito Novelo reporting…

“If there is one subject that can unite the environmental community, it’s their stance against Offshore Oil Exploration. For years, environmental organizations have been battling foreign companies and the Government on anything relating or that can lead to Offshore Oil Exploration. The issue is complex with both sides fighting for supporters. For environmentalists, their weapon is education, as knowledge is power.  On Saturday, Projects Abroad held a community forum in San Pedro Town with the aim of increasing awareness. Country Director, Kristin Martin, spoke to Love News.

Kristin Martin – Country Director

“The purpose is not only to have us out there speaking, but to get the community members who are directly impacted by these activities and these issues to come and speak and tell their stories and the San Pedranos and fishermen and tour guides all have something to say. We wanted this opportunity so that their voices can be heard and it’s not only the one and two we constantly hear. We are using this event, kind of like a pilot to get the rest of the country going too. We want those in Belize City, the Associations in Sarteneja and Placencia and everywhere to use this as an example and get their communities together to do the same thing and we just want it to be a countrywide issue. If we have to do this again next month and the next month after and another after we will do it because the San Pedro Community this issue is important for them.”

Oceana’s Vice President, Janelle Chanona, says the issue is not only for the conservation community but for the entire country.

Janelle Chanona – Oceana VP

“We really need to have this be a national conversation. The conservation community has taken a position, tourism stakeholders are taking a position, fishermen are taking a position, so it’s to get as many people as involved and who are already invested in those industries and in this conversation to be a part of that conversation. The other thing I think that is definitely going to happen in the future based on what we’ve seen, is that other communities will follow lead and look for ways to make it known to their leaders where they stand and that they want to be involved because at the end we can be dismissed, we know that the conservation community, the environmentalists, we can be dismissed as the tree huggers and people that want to lock up resources but communities like San Pedro and Caye Caulker, Placencia, Hopkins they also know that their voices can’t be dismissed as easily so they have seen where they’ve attempted to do that to us and they are picking up that baton and saying that they will carry this forward because this is their bread and butter. So that is a beautiful thing and we think that is sensational and we are very optimistic about what the future can bring because we think we can get there together.”

That belief, that together as a community the issue can be approached head on, is shared by San Pedrano, Omar Arceo.

Omar Arceo

“We have to protect our natural resources especially our reef, we need to be very vigilant and turn ourselves into reef guarders so we can say no to oil exploration and that there is proposed and we know that at any moment that without our voices we could lose our national heritage.