On Thursday we told you about the issue that some environmental conservation NGOs took up with the Government’s proposed draft for offshore exploration, condemning the Government for keeping zones near delicate oceanic ecosystems on the drilling map.
On Friday, the Ministry of Energy, Science and Technology, and Public Utilities sent out a press release, reiterating the Government’s position maintaining the prohibition of granting concessions to any new offshore petroleum explorations, until a comprehensive offshore petroleum policy is developed and accepted by GOB.
The press release also stated that, “The Ministry wishes to reiterate government’s commitment to the sustainable use and conservation of Belize’s natural heritage. As such, the Government of Belize will continue to ensure that any future policy on petroleum exploration will be guided by an inclusive, evidence-based and data driven process that takes into account socio-economic and environmental concerns.”
In other words, the Government has the best interest of our country’s natural heritage at heart and gave examples of this by saying that “In 2013, the Ministry of Energy, Science and Technology, and Public Utilities successfully negotiated with Princess Petroleum for a relinquishment of more than their 25% required under their contract in an effort to ensure that the Blue Hole and other areas of Lighthouse Reef Atoll are no longer part of their active concession.”
While that is the Department’s statement , COLA, Citizens Organized for Liberty Through Action, issued a statement of its own late Thursday evening, saying that since 2010, COLA asked… “Director Cho and the Prime Minister to consider implementing a moratorium on offshore drilling; consider suspending concessions that have already been signed to obtain further information; restructure the ways that concessions are distributed by introducing an environmental impact assessment and socio-economic assessment at the earliest stages, before any work is done; and to ensure more of the public’s participation in the issuance of these concessions.”
The release says, “We see no evidence of this in the draft guidelines; further, since 2010 we have said that there must be attention to the outdated laws and capacity built to separate the responsibilities for petroleum in terrestrial areas and those in marine and offshore areas including wetlands and marshes. The guidelines meld both of them together while paying lip service to that suggestion.”