Waterloo VS Portico

Waterloo VS Portico

A crucial part of the press conference was where Luis Prieto-Munoz drew comparisons between Portico and Waterloo.  Following the contrast, the consultants say with all that has been highlighted, they remain at a loss as to why the government is playing games.

Luis Prieto Munoz, Representative, Piedroba Consulting Group: “Port of Magical Belize is a greenfield project, whereas the Port of Belize is a brownfield project. To provide a little bit of context, greenfield means that the project is sited within an environmental area that has been previously undeveloped. It is, for the sake of it, virginal mangrove forests and a pretty much pristine coastal environment. Conversely, the Port of Belize project was sited entirely within the envelope of an existing port facility, a brownfield project. From an environmental cost standpoint, it’s pretty straightforward. The one that is built within a previously disturbed land, which has little to no environmental value is less impactful than one that is built within an environment that is currently full f wildlife, vegetation, and pristine habitat. From a dredge volume standpoint, the Port of Magical Belize purported to dredge 8.5 million cubic yards compared to the 7.5 million proposed by the Port of Belize. While both are large numbers, a million cubic yards difference is significant and it is by far the largest, Port of Magical Belize is by far the largest dredging project ever approved in Belize for that sort of excavation. From a terrestrial footprint, I already touched on this, but ultimately the Port of Magical Belize is sited entirely within a virginal latitoral mangrove forest as well as a pristine coastal area, whereas the Port of Belize was sited entirely within the existing port project envelope. From a biological value standpoint, the Port of Belize waters have been influenced by the port for many, many years, so the biological value there is very limited. There’s a lot of coastal flushing, there’s very little seagrass, there are virtually no corals of significance within that footprint. Conversely, the Port of Magical Belize project, because this channel is being dug entirely within a previously untouched coastal zone, it comes very close to existing corals, it comes very close to pristine seagrass meadows that support significant amounts of coastal habitat including manatee feeding grounds and manatee transit areas. So a significant difference between the two. And as I just alluded, the manatee impact within the Port of Belize is very low. The area is not known to have frequent manatee transits, whereas the area around the Port of Belize, especially in the opening of the Sibun River is well established as a known and frequented manatee habitat. So obviously any construction that might take place within that watershed has the potential for being very detrimental to manatees and marine mammals more generally. From a material depositing standpoint the Port of Magical Belize included a variety of different material placement methods including the side casting of dredged material, meaning dredged material that would just be open discharge to the one side while the Port of Belize originally proposed for the offshore placement of dredge materials, but that option, which was very highly publicized, was ultimately withdrawn very early in our process. And so from that point forward, at no point was open discharge of dredge spoils contemplated nor was approval sought. So despite those two differences we were still rejected. Beyond that, the port project also was going to connect the Jane Usher Boulevard to the Western Highway which would have significantly decongested the south side and it would have also allowed for the movement of cargo from the port directly to the highway rather than currently going through the urban environment. As well as providing a significant amount of modern infrastructure within the south side, including drainage and water conveyance that would have significantly enhanced its flood resilience. So that is a very stark difference from our view. Whereas one project is an isolated, almost private destination significantly south of Belize City. The other one being built, and the Port of Belize being built within the urban environment brought significant tangential benefit as well as the enormous commercial benefits of a modern bulk and cargo facility. At the time that approval was sought, the Port of Belize was fully funded. We had letters of commitment from numerous financial institutions that were prepared to present the debt. We had numerous institutional investors that were willing to take on significant elements of the equity the project proponent in his own right would be able to, the Waterloo Investment Holdings would have been able to fund this entire project. So we went in with a project that was extremely viable and fully funded. Port of Magical Belize, conversely, at the time that their approvals were sought had no investment of significance. They had a loose arrangement with a large contractor that was not defined, and they had no investors, at least none that were publicized, which is a stark difference in terms of viability when you’re talking about a project of such significant investment requirement. Beyond that, the Port of Belize project was proposed by a company and a group that has developed infrastructure around the region and has a well-established track record of project delivery, whereas the Port of Magical Belize was proposed by a not unsuccessful businessman but a man who has very little track record of project delivery. From a land standpoint the Port of Belize owns all the lands that were suggested as part of the development. They were owned land outright, and all of that land tenure was provided to the government during the approval. Conversely, the Port of Magical Belize relied significantly on a number of lands that were either crown lands or privately owned as a part of the development, none of which were necessarily secured at the time that they sought approval.”

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