Posted: Sunday, December 17, 2017. 6:32 pm CST.
By BBN Staff: Non- governmental organizations, which promote environmental sustainability, 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.
“As a nation, we would never have gotten to this point were it not for the enduring participation of the Belizean people. That engagement reflects the national consciousness that we are ‘people of the reef’. We will ensure that the world knows that the Government and people of Belize are serious about safeguarding our heritage and protecting our collective future from the reality of offshore oil,” said Janelle Chanona, vice president for Oceana,
Both organizations noted a concern that Section 6 (2) of the law, empowers the Minister of Petorleum, 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 today’s 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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