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RAC-REMPEITIC hosts workshop on oil spill disaster

RAC-REMPEITIC – it is quite an acronym.  Its role, however, is not so complicated.  RAC-REMPEITIC stands for Regional Activity Centre/Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Information and Training Centre.  The centre is currently hosting a four-day conference, focusing on how to respond in the event of an oil spill disaster. The conference is a very timely one since it was only last year that Belize completed updating its National Oil Spill Contingency Plan. Caryn Margarita, a Commander in the US Coast Guard said that the participants are being trained on how to effectively respond to an oil spill disaster.

Commander Caryn Margarita – US Coast Guard: “Belize is a very environmentally conscious country and so the development of this plan that the agency has been working for the past two years is important because if there should be an oil spill and hopefully there will not be, but if there is, all of the agencies in Belize have properly prepared and planned to respond as quickly as possible to protect the environment and the people of Belize from the negative effects of that oil spill.”

An oil spill may occur on land or offshore and the participants are learning about the actions to take in either situation. Martin Alegria, the Chief Environmental Officer at the Department of the Environment spoke on the training and its necessity.

Martin Alegria – Chief Environmental Officer: “Part of the plan was and is to update, modernize what we call the sensitive index mapping which is identifying these key areas, key sites, key resources that we need to protect in the event of a possible marine oil spill. Likewise terrestrially if there is any resource such as the cenotes for example or villages, water sources, etc. that we need to protect from these oil spills that could happen so it is important to do the proper planning that we are doing this week here about marine and terrestrial. We will have a lot of agencies in Belize, Coast Guard, Fire Department, Belize Port Authority, ourselves, BDF, etc that will be sensitized and trained during these four days on how to implement these plans. Thereafter the first order of the day is to have that same oil spill response being approved by Cabinet hopefully in the next week or two. Thereafter this specific proper planning tool will be used to see what type of equipment is required to be purchased to have at least the basic equipment out there is available at strategic sites in order to respond through the eventuality if it happens and thereafter within the contingency plan we have a three year program for training all our national agencies on how to respond and implement this plan.”

Alegria added that the Department of the Environment is working on a Marine Pollution Prevention Bill. The conference is being held at the Radisson Fort George Hotel and has participants from different Caribbean countries./////