Residents in Punta Gorda Town, Toledo District are protesting once again over the construction of a Gas station at the entrance of the town. The issue came to light last year and was given a stop order by the relevant authorities. Work has once again begun at the site and a protest was organized subsequently. Our Toledo correspondent Paul Mahung was at the site and spoke to activist, Wil Maheia.
Will Maheia, Activist: “And the residents of this area are very concerned about this development. The Department of Environment has been acting illegally, the Central Building Authority has come down here we have not heard from them as yet. It’s just kind of frustrating to watch all the laws being broken when the ordinary Belizean who wants to build have to follow every environmental and CBA regulation yet these Chinese developers they do not have to follow these regulations. People are tired of it, this development is in an area that’s very sensitive, it’s right next to the sea it’s right next to residences like they have no regard for the people who live in this area. We are standing up for justice. We are not against development we just want that the laws be followed. How can you put a gas station so close to homes ? How can you put a gas station so close to the sea that feeds us Belizeans ? We can’t eat gas. We need to be concerned about this kind of development and the people are taking a stand. We’re calling on the Mayor of Punta Gorda Town Mr.Ashton McKenzie to do your job. You have to see this development you inspectors would have had to approve it. Right here they dig a hole less than five feet and they’re already running into salt water, you can see the water right there so how can this be environmentally friendly? It’s crazy. You know it’s crazy they just feel like they can come here and do what they want. This is PG Town they can’t do what they want in PG Town. They can’t and the people are standing up and it’s time for the Government of Belize to listen to the people. The last government did not listen to the people we’re calling on this government to listen to the people. Listen to the people.”
Mayor Ashton Mackenzie responded to Maheia’s claims indicating that consultations were held across the board on the project.
Ashton Mackenzie, Mayor of Punta Gorda Town: ““Subsequent to that meeting in the following week I believe it was on Wednesday of last week if I’m not mistaken there was a site visit done by representatives from the Central Building Authority in which they basically perused the plan using the plan, the did an entire walkthrough of the said property and those findings a report was actually generated by them in relation to that matter. As I’ve said in the past this particular development is certainly one that while it raises concerns for a particular fraction of the population here in the municipality it’s critically important to bear in mind that our country is governed by rules and regulations. This said individual is looking to develop his property, he has gone through all the requisite processes that concerns when any sort of development is happening in our country. He has received his requisite clearances from the Department of the Environment, CBA, the building unit here and he’s functioning within the scope of the law. We presently have no zoning regulations in place here in Punta Gorda Town which speaks to what sort of development can happen where. There is also the fact that this individual his plans they are in conformity with the Building Act as well as the Environmental Protection Act so with no zoning regulations this individual is following the Building Act this individual is not contributing to any sort of environmental degradation that can be verified by the soil test which was done independently by GeoTech Belize which found that the area is favorable or conducive for such development to occur. The Department of the Environment also received expert analysis from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing as detailed in their correspondence to our technical manager. It was based on those particular findings that the technical manager for the building unit in consultation with the Central Building Authority decided to lift the stop order. You will note that during the course of last year when concerns were raised it was noted that the said developer had deviated from the plan but despite deviating, when you deviate from a plan that was approved a stop order is issued and that stop order is issued so that the requisite modifications can be made so that your site or whatever you’re building is in alignment with the plan that was approved. So this particular person is following protocol and as I have mentioned to the group there is not anything that we can do because if in fact we do that and we breach any law where we infringe upon this persons’ right, while this person is a Chinese developer it is also important to call to mind that he’s a Belizean and as such he’s afforded all the rights and privileges of any other person that is Belizean. From the Town Council point we have approached this matter in a very cautious and professional manner because of course there is tremendous risk of litigation that is involved.”
Love News will continue to follow this story.