The Ministry of Natural Resources has moved swiftly to address the creation of new plots of land on the beach and seabed in northern Caye Caulker, located directly in front of established beachfront properties. A retired British couple and a former chairman of Caye Caulker Village had complained to the press a week or so ago and following investigation by the Ministry of Natural Resources, according to Minister Gaspar Vega, those properties had been canceled from back in 2011. The trouble is that they did not receive a formal complaint from the couple.
“It was canceled right away Jules, if you notice there’s a portion here in white. Those were the lots that were in question at the time and we right away went ahead and canceled the permission to survey and in some cases, I think there were three or four leases that were canceled also. We didn’t know who lived behind, they didn’t come to us. I don’t think we had to go looking for us, they should have come to us and find out if the lands were canceled and we could have told them right away that it was.”
” So it is settled, there is no land on the front in front of their [house].
“The cases with the Higgins, that is not so. It has been cleared long before the time that they came to the media. “
According to Vega hundreds of others are affected and he pinpoints the problem on headstrong employees in the Lands Department.
” It is a constant battle with us, not only in the survey department but in other sections of the Lands Department. There are certain things that we don’t like. As a matter of fact, I can say that there are certain characters that we would not want to have in the lands department. But it is so difficult to get them out of the department. It is a constant battle. We can again make another appeal to the Public Service Commission to see how we can address it. It is things that we have been battling with from the first day in 2008 that I went into the lands department. “
Belize Rural South area representative and Tourism Minister Manuel Heredia Jr says he also got involved.
Let me be very honest. Yes I have been informed of the situation. Yes it was brought to the attention of Cabinet and the minister was asked to cancel or try to remedy the situation with the land. When I saw the news, I saw Mr. Villanueva, who is my very good friend, and I saw the other two persons that I don’t know whatsoever. Yes I did know that there was a situation that they were giving permission to survey what should have been reserved. I personally do not support the idea of de-reserving what is particularly being part of the beach. That circumstance we started to address the situation. I was informed by Mr. Villanueva that the issue has not been settled as yet. I spoke immediately after that with the Minister of Natural Resources, just two-three days. And he guaranteed me that it was about seven leases that got cancelled and the only controversy is that two titles and the ones that have paid already. As far as I understand, people that have paid, it’s just like the own the land. Either relocation or compensation has to be done but the reserve has to be left as a reserve
Vega says the Ministry will meet with surveyors to dissuade them from considering surveying beachfront properties with questionable dimensions. He says the Ministry has been dealing with the problem from since 2004 and mentioned two prominent personalities – the politically connected Renan Briceno of Orange Walk who secured the property directly in front of his in order to avoid this same scenario, and land owned by Rodla Construction and since sold to former Minister Doug Singh. The Ministry has canceled as many as 15 leases and refused to allow others to proceed with title after collecting the purchase price, which presumably they will have to refund.