On Wednesday evening the People’s United Party (PUP) held a press conference at Independence Hall, to report on party leader Francis Fonseca’s Sunday tour of the Chiquibul Forest Reserve and Caracol Archaeological Reserve.
According to PUP leader Francis Fonseca, the tour has underscored both the grave dangers faced by Belize’s frontline personnel in the NGO community and national security leadership, as well as the importance of a united front on the issue. Mr Fonseca and Deputy Party Leader Julius Espat saw firsthand the effects of illegal logging, agriculture, looting of cultural and historical pieces and other activities in the area.
They presented a list of recommendations, chief among them the establishment of a budgetary allocation for Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD) to boost the ranger program for which only limited funds are currently available.
Francis Fonseca explains why this is necessary.
“Approve a fixed budgetary allocation of seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars each year to Friends for Conservation and Development , to strengthen their effectiveness and allow them to increase their number of rangers from six to twenty-four.
This is in addition to PACT funding, which is very useful, but it is not enough. We need a fixed budgetary allocation of seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars to FCD, to allow them to increase the number of rangers from six to twenty-four.”
Among the other recommendations are the establishment of an Environmental Police Unit to specifically combat these types of activities and direct management by the Government in clearing the zone of illegal plantations. Deputy Party Leader Julius Espat further developed the case for the necessity of the allocation in light of how lightly the FCD personnel and law enforcement are equipped in the area.
“The allocation that they’re receiving, the FCD, the BDF, the Special Patrol Unit, is insignificant. In fact, we have soldiers at the front line that don’t have equipment. They don’t even have a vehicle. I was mentioning to the Party Leader, a company in Belize, a small construction company in Belize, has more equipment than the BDF has at the front line, defending out territory.
That is what affected me, because it annoyed me that we can come to the House of Representatives and we can talk about political spending, but we don’t have the interest to protect thousands and thousands of acres, to protect Belize.
When you see those professionals working with the bare minimum, it saddens you.”
Francis Fonseca also spoke about reports of a contingent of Guatemalan soldiers, who recently returned from West Africa, possibly being looked at for contamination with the Ebola virus. He says there is no attempt to cause a panic, but the party wants to know what the Government is doing about it.
As we told you last week the Ministry of Health is still building its plans for cooperation with other Ministries and authorities in that regard.