PUP Senator Valerie Woods spoke about Caye Chapel and the development of it into a mega tourism destination. According to Woods, the Government gave the developers clearance for the development of a pilot beach project on the island without the Environmental Impact Assessment being completed and presented.
Senator Valerie Woods
“It was a clearance that was issued for a pilot beach project for Caye Chapel and it was issued on December 23 of last year, it was under a year, given the ruling provided by the Supreme Court regarding the EIAs but it was issued when the so EIA process really has not even been vetted or if you will, when it hasn’t even been brought before the NEAC on the larger portion of that project. I am concerned as so are many others when they see things like this happening because it defies the very integrity and intent if you will of why we have those good laws on the books. It is to respect a process, to ensure that any development particularly the bigger ones, that they are done at all times in the best interest of Belize but taking into consideration the input of not just the developer and not just members of NEAC but to allow members of NEAC that opportunity to consult with communities as well as their other regulatory bodies and that was not done in this case. So on December 23, the Chief Environmental Officer by way of letter, approved this. It’s for a temporary beach club and sales center but it is to develop a beach area and it is only part of that larger mega development on that island. Just to put some context it was back in 2014 regarding the same natural resource that same island that CEO Michael Singh, then in Beltraide, quite accurately stated to those developers in writing, that an EIA needs to be done.”
Responding to Senator Woods was Senator for Government Business and the Chairman of the Cabinet Sub-committee on Investment, Minister Godwin Hulse.
Senator Godwin Hulse
“I have no idea that any approval was given for dredging of Caye Chapel. Back in 2012 when we first started this whole matter of looking seriously investments, a cabinet subcommittee was formed on investments to look at all the big investments coming to this country. Indeed at that time it seemed that the only requirement was environmental, I remember the Santander project was environmental and people felt that once they got some kind of environmental clearance they were good to go. But the committee developed a five point policy paper which was approved by cabinet and endorsed by the Honorable Francis Fonseca and it goes like this and it applies to every investment, that and I repeated it ad nauseam , that “every potential investment in this country must meet these criteria. First, it must be economically and socially acceptable and legally doable.” and we are dead serious about that I could read off some huge investments that would not have been socially acceptable, I will not elaborate but one of them had to do with the creation of an adult only beach on Placencia and I thought about Senator Rocke and we said that we are bible belt we are not in a fight with the church and we told them to carry their investment elsewhere, although they said that it was a billion dollars which was the second thing that frightened me because a billion dollars is not floating around like that only President Trump has that kind of money. The second one is, it has to bring some revenue to government and we are unabashed about that, we don’t pretend that we will waive everything because the government has street lights and street that need to be maintained and you can’t come here only to profit from the great resources of this country and not leave anything so you have to pay some taxes. Third one is that it has to bring foreign exchange because that is why we need investment. You know the Belize dollar can’t go anywhere so if you’re not going to bring your U.S or Euro or Yen or anything, goodbye. The fourth is to create meaningful employment and I don’t mean that there is any employment that is demeaning and I was chastised by a certain friend for using that term but by that we mean people who have the managerial posts and those we want those jobs and last and not least and equally important is to protect the environment and cultural identity of this country. We have had people also who have said to us that we would love to invest but we have too many holidays and we cannot support these Garifuna Days and 10th of September, the people who work for us must understand, we said well absolutely not you can entice them to work by paying the necessary double time but you cannot force them to work and this Minister is not going to carry anything to cabinet to say do away with those holidays you are crazy.”