Waterloo Holdings Alleges Government Bias in Press Conference on Port Project Challenges
Tonight, we bring you an extensive look at what the representatives of Waterloo Holdings are saying regarding the rejection of their environmental clearance, the Ashcroft connection as well as potential lawsuits against the government. Waterloo Holdings hosted a press conference this morning to ventilate on the snags, setbacks, and challenges in getting their port project off the ground. It is the company’s sentiments that the government has been intentionally giving them a hard time in order to accommodate the Port of Magical development for Portico Enterprises. It has been a long road for Waterloo, as the project dates back to 2008 when they say that the then government had made the initial proposal. Luis Prieto-Munoz along with Jelle (YEA-LI) Prins of Piedroba Consulting Group led the press conference this morning at the Radisson Fort George.
Luis Prieto Munoz, Representative, Piedroba Consulting Group: “Some years ago the Government of Belize asked us to consider building a cruise port at the existing Port of Belize facility. At that time, and given that in 2008 a cruise project had been approved at that site, that it was going to be sited within an existing port and that this project would potentially bring brake bulk and expanded cargo, that this process, as long as we followed the necessary and prescribed legal steps of the EIA process that’s defined by Belizean law that it would be a straightforward approval. We are here today because we believe that a great injustice was done against us despite all of these different elements that were put together to present the Port of Belize project to government. No MOUs were ever signed between us even though we sought them for many years. No definitive agreement was offered by the GOB to our group and obviously environmental clearance was sought vigorously but never provided. Neither project has yet started. Ours, for obvious reasons, but why the Port of Magic Belize has not commenced is unknown to us.”
Jelle Prins, Representative, Piedroba Consulting Group: “We were asked to meet a standard, which we did. We were asked to do more, which we did. We were asked to do even more, which we did, until we got denied once, until we got denied twice. The cards were always stacked against us. We were never going to get our approval. So we sit here in front of you to talk about the irrationality of that process. How could one project get its approval, whereas another one that represents the existing port of Belize that would offer a key piece of national infrastructure to Belize and its people, was being denied and discriminated against.”
According to Prieto-Munoz, there is clear evidence that the Waterloo Project is being intentionally delayed. He added that the rejection of the environmental clearance from the National Environmental Appraisal Committee (NEAC).
Luis Prieto Munoz, Representative, Piedroba Consulting Group: “We have long suspected that the Government of Belize deliberately, irrationally and consciously withheld approval of the Port of Belize project for the benefit of the Port of Magical Belize and its backers and these recently leaked documents, including the definitive agreement and various cabinet actions show that these suspicions were indeed correct. That the Government of Belize deliberately denied us due process and that was to our detriment and to the detriment of the Belizean public more generally. The Port of Belize project, which submitted virtually at the same time, so they submitted I believe in April we submitted in June of the same year. We still haven’t been granted clearance but over the active pursuit of that clearance we spent pretty much until November of last year. So one round of 18 months for the first EIA and then on the guidance of GOB we went for a second EIA which took an additional nine months before the most recent and definitive rejection by the NEAC, which we are obviously now contesting. I think it’s important to recognize that the definitive agreement signed six months prior to Port of Magical Belize’s EIA, or sorry, ECP, clearly contractually obligates the Government of Belize to reject any project that is within the 25-mile zone of exclusivity that is conveyed to them within the definitive agreement. And further, the definitive agreement requires the Government of Belize to expeditiously assist the Port of Magical Belize in their environmental approvals. So this is evidence, this is clear explanation as to why what happened has happened. And we also believe that the government has approached the DA as a legal agreement, as has been said many times by the current administration.”
Also at the head table for the press conference was Allan Herrera of the Nextera Environmental Consultancy Firm. According to Herrera, it is clear that both projects are not being treated the same in terms of their approvals and support from the government. He further added that the actions of the government are not instilling confidence in potential investors.
Allan Herrera, Nextera: “For me from the environmental perspective, it seems to be the difference between light and day. There’s just no comparison. There’s no comparison. And if you look back in the early 2000s just to compare you and just to juxtapose the two developments. In the early 2000s, the development started at the Port of Belize even before an EIA was approved. They began dredging and they began development there in anticipation of an environmental approval later on. So they already approved the Port of Belize project, including the cruise port, in early 2000s. Now we went back again about three years ago and we pretty much resurrected that development that was originally proposed. And this time we went in there 100%. I mean, we had some of the best engineers in the world. We had detailed studies. We presented those studies to you in the public consultations. We spent about three years doing this. We went to the environmental community, we went to the national stakeholders, we had our public consultations, we got our feedback. They asked us to do additional things. We were in the impression that if we did those additional things, then that would have allayed the public concern and the approval would have followed after that. And so it became apparent over time that what we had there, what the NEAC decision was, was really a political decision cloaked as an environmental decision under the very flimsy pretexts that there were going to be some environmental impacts in that era. But I mean, most of you are from Belize City or at least know Belize City very well and you know that area is everything passes into that area. I mean the Haulover Creek is there, all the waste from Belize City passes through there. On top of that the area is, the waters in that area is already murky. If you go there today, it is you know, very turbid water. If you went there yesterday you have seen that it’s turbid. And if you go there next month you’ll see that it’s turbid. So, what they gave as their reason for not accepting this development, to me, is very flimsy and like I said it comes back to trust. It’s a deficit of trust in the national planning process. And we’re sending the wrong signals to our developers who want to come to this country and want to contribute to our national development. And it confounds what we’re saying in our national planning documents that we want to encourage these investors.”