Despite the thunderous opposition to the planned mega-tourism projects at Harvest Caye and Stake Bank, the Government has thrown in its lot with their developers.
Even as the Department of the Environment is accused of running roughshod over its own protocols and the Belize Tourism Board is charged with ignoring its own plans for tourism in the area, the Government clings to the hope that development will come sooner rather than later.
Senator Godwin Hulse, who chairs the Cabinet’s sub-committee on Investment, re-states the Government’s position.
“Our position is very straight forward and unabashedly so: “this country needs to develop; tourism has done well in the northern part. Why are we trying to segment the country?” Cruise tourism has not destroyed the northern part of the country, has not destroyed any out there. We have at least, of all the noise coming out of the South, that in fact we will not thrash and trample the sites; that the visitors will be to the maximum carrying capacity that the managers determine, and as you know, the managers are the other bond and some of the other NGOs- that’s the first thing. But at the same time, NCL was saying, well, if you don’t want anybody at our sites, we could develop the island and it could be on the island alone. That was another hue and cry, people saying that will not benefit Belize. So, we will allow- we want people to visit the site and we want local tenders to bring them, we want local tour buses to them; we want local tour guides to there”.
As for BTIA, Minister Hulse is not cowed. This, he insisted, is an opportunity to change things for the better down South, and because neither side is suffering from stupidity, the BTIA should get out of the way.
Senator Godwin Hulse: “I don’t think that at all. I think that the government is fully in board with them and I think we have had a win-win situation and upfront discourse. There is no hanky-panky, no waste of time; there’s been nothing that is not transparent; they understand that and BTIA understands that and BTIA should start to understand that”.
As for Stake Bank, which will see a cruise port backed by Michael Feinstein, there is some final business to take care of between some of the principals, but all systems are otherwise go, says Hulse.
Senator Godwin Hulse- Minister of Immigration and Government Business
“There has been one little issue with respect to FSDV and RCL investment therein, which Mr. Fenstein is, as we speak, clearing through. Once that is cleared through, we are going into a final agreement and they should be ready to vow”.
Reporter: “There is a commercial agreement that the government has not signed off and that is in fact, holding back Mr. Fenstein from going ahead. Is it a government’s hold back?”
Senator Godwin Hulse: “No, it is not a government hold back. The commercial agreement has not been signed off, and as I mentioned just a moment ago, there is an agreement between the government of Belize and Forth Street Tourism Village and Royal Caribbean Lines (RCL) which was tabled in the National Assembly on January 21st of 2005. That agreement encountered certain legal provisions. There needs to be an indemnity or some arrangements to ensure that there is no backlash. That agreement did provide for stake bank, it did provide for Mr. Fenstein’s investment. But there are some little legal hardies to be crossed and like I said, Mr. Fenstein is working through that “.
That project sees the building of a port for four cruise ships at a time with space for duty-free businesses, and a causeway to Drowned Caye and west to Belize City through a manatee sanctuary.