Friday, January 28, 2011



January 25, 2011
The organizations, namely the Sarstoon-Temash Institute for indigenous Movement, SATIIM, the Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations, APAMO and the Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage, continue to stand firm in their opposition to oil exploration in protected areas and off shore. Their fight now has been thrust into a stronger sense of urgency following a statement made by the Prime Minister, Dean Barrow earlier this month where he said oil drilling will be permitted at the Sarstoon-Temash National Park. SATIIM’s Executive Director Greg Choc says the statement was irresponsible.
Greg Choc – Executive Director, SATIIM
“I said the statement was irresponsible, inaccurate and misleading as it relates to the SATIIM versus Forestry Department judgment of 2006. I stand by my words.Through the instrument of law these communities that live around protected areas have been denied their traditional resources for their livelihoods by denying them access to these protected areas. Therefore, government has a moral and legal obligation to respect these protected areas law and honor the sacrifice our communities make and keep making. So honorable Prime minister you have said you will not break legitimate contract. Is it then that our laws which mind and commit us as a people to protect our natural wonders not worth the paper it is written on? Furthermore are the international conventions that Belize has signed on also rendered meaningless in this country? Are you saying that the only legitimate contracts recognized by government are those signed to accommodate special interest groups at a specific time?”
Coordinator at APAMO, Yvette Alonzo says the government should be more committed to respecting the protected areas legislation.
Yvette Alonzo – Coordinator, APAMO

“APAMO strongly believes that as a country we need to have areas that are off limits to oil exploration and production and protected areas should be one of such areas. After so many years of conservation efforts and resources invested in these protected areas by conservation groups, the international community the government and the people of Belize it is unacceptable for any oil company to pursue profits with total disrespect for both our protected area and the people of Belize. Furthermore the government has failed to develop a policy dealing with protected areas and oil exploration in order to protect the country’s precious resources. The government does not have the proper legal framework nor the human and technological capacity to protect the natural resources and the people from oil exploration and production.”
Geovannie Brackett, Chairman for Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage adds they are not completely against oil exploration but says parameters need to be set.
Geovannie Brackett – Chairman, Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage
“Where exploration extraction is considered, we must ensure that the highest environmental standards are adhered to. But let us not confirm our debate to only the environmental as ecological aspect but government should ensure the people of Belize must benefit significantly from the oil industry. We are not saying no completely to oil, but conduct it to benefit the people, let it be done in a safe manner, with parameters to protect our people.”

When asked whether they have considered joining in the development of policies or framework to protect Belize’s natural resources should their efforts prove futile, this was Choc’s response.

Greg Choc – Executive Director, SATIIM

“If we embrace what you are saying, in fact we have become like the politicians because we want to amend the law, we want to circumvent the law for personal interest when we should be looking at the interest of this country.”

At this juncture, Choc says they are hoping the Prime Minister heeds to their cause.

Greg Choc – Executive Director, SATIIM

“I hope he stand with us; I hope he reasons with us because I think what binds us together is our commonness, our wish to safeguard and protect Belize, what we call home. Rebuilding our economy requires innovation and creativity, certainly not by destroying its foundation”.

SATIIM Executive Director, Greg Choc added that they maintain their options open in terms of the next action they will take in their protest against oil exploration in protected areas in the country.

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