On Friday the 26th of June the Government of Belize introduced two bills concerning Protected Areas without the full support of APAMO, the umbrella body for Protected Area organizations. The First was the National Protected Areas system bill, 2015 and the second was an amendment to the protected Areas Conservation Trust bill. The bills came from the office of the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries, and sustainable development as a way to, in the words of the Minister,” modernize “ the laws protecting Belize’s Natural wealth. But while most NGO’s agree that there are some good provisions in the bill, many of them, including APAMO, have concerns with some key components of the bill. As a result, the bill was not passed through all its stages at the last sitting and the PM promised further consultation. Today, the first stage of that consultation took place inside the upper chambers of the National Assembly where NGO’s met with the Natural Resources and Environmental Committee to table their contributions to the bill.
Jose Perez, Executive Director of APAMO – “For any system to be improved, we need to have the proper framework and we feel that we have always been the primary stakeholders in protected areas, as co-managers and we need to sit around the table. So what we did this morning and we’re pretty happy and we thank the government for this opportunity. We asked the committee to provide us a little bit more time for us to consult more in depth and they agreed. So, we are very happy with the outcome of this morning’s meeting and we look forward to studying the documents more for another round of consultation.”
Reporter – “We spoke to the Minister about this when they came in here, when they were at the House meeting it was introduced and she is saying that, specifically APAMO, you all are trouble makers, you are creating mischief and this thing is comprehensive and it is going through.”
Jose Perez – “I cannot speak on behalf of the Minister but hearing the statement you just said, I represented this morning, the umbrella organization, which is comprised of 13 members and we make decisions by majority, very democratic, and 9 of the members are in full support of our actions and so I can freely speak on behalf of APAMO.”
In an interview with the Minister of Forestry Fisheries and Sustainable Development Lisel Alamilla, she said that there have been over 10 years of consultation on this bill but the NGO’s we spoke to disagreed.
Edilberto Romero, Program for Belize – “She hasn’t done proper consultation on this. Yes, there has been consultation in the past on different bills, different amendments to PACT and to be honest, we have arrived at agreements on two versions of the Protected Areas amendment in 2008 and I believe in 2012 again. But those agreements were not moved upwards and made into legislation. I don’t know what their reasons are for that. But now, these new bills here, the PACT Amendment Bill and the National Protected Areas System Bill are completely new documents, so she cannot say that there has been 10 years of consultation on that. You cannot have 10 years of consultation for a document that’s completely different. So in my view, there’s been very little and in the case of the National Protected Areas System, there has been no consultation at all. There’s no mischief in that and everybody knows that conservation organizations like ours have huge interests in protected areas and in sustainable development and in the benefit for the people of Belize.”