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NGOs celebrate offshore oil moratorium

Posted: Thursday, December 14, 2017. 3:30 pm CST.

Posted: Thursday, December 14, 2017. 3;27 p.m. CST.

By BBN Staff: Environmental NGOs in Belize are celebrating that both the Government of Belize and the Opposition have supported the legislation which puts a ban on offshore oil drilling in Belize.


The Senate debated and passed the The Petroleum Operations (Maritime Zone Moratorium) Bill 2017 this week, effectively making it an offense to conduct oil exploration or extraction activities in Belize’s territorial waters. The act also prescribes a fine of up to $3 million, imprisonment of up to two years or a combination sentence for anyone who commits an offense under the act.


The Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage and Oceana (Belize) have both said that the legislation, which comes after years of advocacy, a blocked referendum, and court battles, represents a victory for the people of Belize and for democracy.


Janelle Chanona, vice president for Oceana, noted that the legislation sends a message to subsequent parliaments that the safety of the reef and Belize’s marine resources is a cause that Belizeans will champion until they get results.


Both organizations noted a concern that Section 6 (2) of the law, empowers the Minister of Petroleum, currently Prime Minister Dean Barrow, to enter into compensation agreements with oil companies that may have lost their concessions due to the passage of the legislation.


“During the Senate debate, the Attorney General confirmed what the public records show: no offshore oil licenses exist. It is therefore unclear why a clause for compensation is necessary,” the coalition said.


The passage of the legislation represents the culmination of a seven-year movement.


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