Representatives of the Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations (APAMO) today spoke to the press about the controversy surrounding the signing of co-management agreements with the Government of Belize. Four of its members, it charges, have been made to sign the agreements under duress of losing important funding and it points the finger squarely at the Government of Belize. After enforcing numerous changes to the original agreement crafted by APAMO, says director Edilberto Romero, Minister responsible for Forestry and Fisheries Senator Lisel Alamilla has earned herself no friends among her former environmental colleagues.
Edilberto Romere – APAMO Director:
We think that prior to 2006 illegal activities such as illegal logging, illegal hunting, illegal fishing, illegal cultivation, were the largest threat to protected areas, to the security and integrity of protected areas, to the proper management of protected areas. After 2006, oil exploration became the largest threat to protective areas. By her actions and inaction today, we think Minister Alamilla is the largest threat to protected areas, especially if she goes preventing organizations from doing their work to protect the protected areas.
APAMO says that the revised agreements, which the Minister has called “final,” are “bad deals” for protected areas, as they limit the involvement of co-managers in third party agreements such as for oil exploration and development. As evidence of alleged mistreatment and coercion by the Minister, two managers of protected areas in the Belize District, the Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary near Caye Caulker and the Spanish Creek Wildlife Sanctuary in the River Valley spoke to the press today. Marcial Alamina III, president of Friends of Swallow Caye NGO, explains why he will not sign the agreement.
Marcial Alamina III – president of Friends of Swallow Caye NGO:
This is not a co-management agreement – they are telling us this is co-management, my buddy here is saying, you shoot across but how can you say that they are forcing him to sign, it’s big people, how do you know it’s because they need the money. These reserves and sanctuaries depend on funding, and they use PACT as, ‘if you don’t sign it, you can’t get money from PACT’. It’s like working for a regulatory agency, period, and they can come in and say, ‘you are not doing this right’ and who is the judge of that, this is supposed to be a democracy.
But it is different for Raymond Reneau of the Rancho Dolores Development Company which manages Spanish Creek. He tells us why.
Raymond Reneau – Rancho Dolores Development Company:
The reason why I didn’t sign the co-management agreement is because of the third party, part under licenses, says the that ‘after consultation with the co-managers, the government which is the regulatory agency body can give license to a third party’, it didn’t say for what purposes. A co-management agreement should be between two bodies agreeing, with what should be done, it shouldn’t be, ‘you tell me what to do’, it’s like I’m working for you. If it comes to signing, I will sign but I am letting everyone know that the part I don’t like with this signing. They told me it’s the last week to sign. No one wanted to sign under those agreements, because the villagers already knew that if we signed on to that, what will happen? Which third party will come in?
A deadline of the end of the month has been set for signing. Of the list of organizations the Minister read on Thursday that she says have signed or are considering signing the agreement, only four – TIDE, STACA, SEA and Yaaxche Conservation Trust – are members of APAMO.