Belize’s Government Under Pressure At Home For Offshore Drilling Concessions
By Bilal Morris
The debate around offshore drilling in Belize hit center stage in June of 2010 with the Mayor of San Pedro, Elsa Paz, calling on her own government to have ‘consideration’ about making decisions on offshore drilling. Paz joined forces with advocates like the Coalition To Save Our National Heritage on the island to send a message to the Barrow administration to stop making decisions without consultation that can hurt the environment of Belize in the long run. “I believe that government should have some consideration before doing any decisions of this type, “ said Paz. “I have always said that both administrations don’t have respect for local authorities like myself with my council because we are not informed of what is happening in our island.”English: Fire on the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon as viewed from the offshore supply vessel Laney Chouest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The government of Belize has already taken a lot of criticism and condemnation for many offshore oil-drilling concessions that the Ministry of Natural resources has given to international oil companies to drill for oil off the coast of Belize. Prized for its pristine waters and incredible barrier reef by many environmental groups like Green Peace and now OCEANA, which is directed by its Vice President, Belizean lawyer Audrey Matura Shepherd, Belize’s cherished environment continues to face incredible threat as the prospects of its oil wealth grows.
But it appears that the Belize government will push its agenda to the forefront because of the lucrative gains to be had if more oil finds in Belize are realized. Presently, it enjoys the inflated revenue from taxation that has already been gained from the oil finds in Spanish Lookout in the Cayo District, and will try to ram its agenda done the throats of its opposition. Since the country faces a serious recession in a time of global economic pressures, the Barrow administration cannot afford to lose out on opportunities that can bring its cash strapped economy out of the red. Like Green Peace before them who were successful in 1985 to stop the Esquivel administration to proceed with the Coca Cola land deal, OCEANA and The Coalition To Save Our National Heritage will have to ‘bun fire’ on this government’s march towards offshore oil drilling.
It appears that most of the offshore drilling will be concentrated around the Island of San Pedro that has already taken a beaten from serious environmental damages over the years through the development of tourism. An aerial view of San Pedro shows the massive environmental damages that are to come from more large-scale multi-million dollar construction of hotels and resorts that lined the island’s coastline. It is apparently strange that there has not been any outcry from these environmental groups against the rapid disintegration of the Belizean coastline caused from massive dredging and alterations of the San Pedro coast to create the so-called La Isla Bonita. The huge revenues that are raked in by the Belize government from taxing these luxurious tourists destinations in San Pedro has taken precedence over any environmental concerns. “We have written the Prime Minister and the Minister of Tourism, the Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister of Fisheries to ask them for a meeting,” said Matura-Shepherd. “We have to be practical that it is best to reach at least a negotiating table for them (government) to officially hear our position.”
While all eyes were focused on the recent environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico which is already the largest environmental disaster in United States history caused from British Petroleum’s massive oil spill from offshore drilling, it will be interesting to see if the Barrow administration will take heed and avoid such a catastrophe.