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The Belize Network of NGOs Expresses Concern over Threats to Headwaters of Belize

The Belize Network of NGOs (BNN) is tonight expressing concern about the direct threat to the headwaters of the Belize River. In a release, the BNN says that there are other (quote) “negative economic impacts generated by the Boiton Minerals Ltd. (BML) operations in the Chiquibul Forest.” (Unquote) Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD) accused BML last week of building a road high in the mounts of the Chiquibul which then poses a significant threat to the country’s water supply. FCD says that BML has committed several environmental infractions. In response, BML said the (quote) and GOB committed to further facilitating the company by advising the company in writing of areas of improvement together with apparent minor infractions to remedy.” (Unquote) BML said that no new road was built. The government has confirmed the infraction, saying that BML will face penalties. Senator for the NGOs, Osmany Salas says that any impact on the Belize River watershed threatens water and food security for a large percentage of Belizeans, particularly those in the Cayo and Belize Districts

Osmany Salas, Senator, NGO’s: “These companies should be regularly monitored by the respective authorities and I think even the co management agency itself in this case FCD have a role to play. So when FCD issued this report we were concerned. We must listen to what FCD is saying because they are our eyes and ears out there and I need to emphasize if it was not for FCD, this NGO that has been managing the Chiquibul National Park and has a presence in the overall Chiquibul Forest, the nation of Belize would not be aware of so many illicit activities that have been taking place in that part of our country. A lot of the incursions from Guatemala for example it is because of FCD that we are aware of these things and therefore should make every effort we can working in partnership with all the relevant authorities to put corrective measures in place. The media should be invited as we have recommended in our press release , the media and other independent entities should be invited or should be allowed access to the site. Belizeans need to know what is happening in there from an independent perspective and the media can provide that and Belizeans also need to know what are the benefits of such an operation to the government and people of Belize. What are the benefits ? How much gold has been extracted over the years? This company has been in operating in the area for many years I believe there may be new owners of the company now it has retained the name but it would be very good for the public to know who much gold has been extracted, how much royalties have been paid to the Government of Belize, how is the country benefiting from that operation ? So it would be good not only as our press release mentioned for media and independent entities to visit the site and have the opportunity to ask these questions but also try to get information on some of the questions I have raised about the economic benefits from such an operation and how it benefits the government and people of Belize.”

It’s its first press release, BML questioned the authority of the FCD. Today Chair of the BNN Andre Carrillo told Love News that the FCD as well as any other Belizean entity or group has the right to know what is happening inside the Chiquibul

Andre Carrillo, Chair, BNN: “FCD is a registered non profit NGO and it’s a comanager of the national park so in terms of assisting the government with oversight you know they’re doing their part in ensuring that the people are made aware of the activities that are occurring within the national park itself. Any Belizean has a right to ask questions about activities occurring within our national park or any public space and so there isn’t a jurisdiction here. The park belongs to everyone and the conservation basically benefits everybody in our economy. Why we question what’s the benefits to Belizeans there’s a royalty and there’s a reason that you charge royalty. Government provides services and regulations and oversight from revenues that they earn and so in terms of the royalties that are collected that’s revenues that should assist to improve the oversight systems that would keep the operations in check and balance. We understand that in the context of COVID-19 and post recovery it’s important that we have operations continuing and even development and growth there has to be some balance between the oversight mechanisms that exist to ensure that you follow the compliance plans. And so that’s the reason why we’re asking the question about royalty because really and truly that’s where the government should be focusing those revenues and resources on in improving the oversight mechanisms.”

The BNN urges the Government of Belize to strongly reconsider the issuance of licenses to extractive com