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Thumbs up for Stake Bank; “Maybe” on Magical Belize, PBL/Waterloo

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Posted: Wednesday, October 20, 2021. 5:15 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Government of Belize says at least two, and possibly all three, active proposed cruise ports surrounding Belize City are expected to go ahead with relevant environmental conditions satisfied.

In its statement issued on Tuesday, the Government said the Stake Bank port is in construction and expected to open in 2022, but it is reviewing the issue of connected causeways that caused environmentalist consternation. It notes that during Cabinet’s briefing by Chief Environmental Officer Martin Alegria, “Serious questions have arisen from such briefing including purported missing files.” Alegria has been made to produce a written report on the issues connected to that matter.

The Port of Magical Belize, envisaged for development south of Belize City, has received environmental approval, subject to a strict and detailed Environmental Compliance Plan. The compliance standards for this project are particularly sensitive to eco-marine protections and to the health of the coastal environment. If the standards of this plan are met, and if the operational and financial aspects of the project take shape, actual construction, under a strict monitoring regime, is, according to its developers, expected to commence in 2022, says the Government’s statement.

In the case of the Port of Belize proposed cruise terminal the proposal to dredge and deposit in a critical area of the coastline has been vehemently objected to; the National Environmental Appraisal Committee (NEAC) is reviewing the alternative proposed by the promoters.

Cabinet distinguishes the development of “modern, efficient and cost-effective cargo and bulk shipping port operations, a service that is essential to the health of the macroeconomy and to private sector competitiveness,” from that of cruise ports. This view is to form the basis of an updated National Cruise Tourism Policy and the National Ports Policy.

Belmopan also says that while cruise tourism is important and will continue to be supported, it prefers overnight tourism as more lucrative, more sustainable, more stable, and therefore worthy of foremost focus and attention.

Finally, Cabinet emphasizes that its highest priority, within the framework of the cruise industry, is adherence to Belize’s commitment to ecological conservation and sustainability, both marine and terrestrial. Sustainable development, including cruise tourism expansion, must not contemplate only this decade’s gains, or even this generation’s, but must be demonstrably sustainable for the long term. It points to its recent efforts with the Blue Bonds for Conservation Agreement that will save millions and invest more in conservation programs.

Finally, to undertake timely and efficient follow-up on all aspects of the cruise tourism sector, Cabinet has designated a sub-Committee comprised of the Ministries of Finance, Natural Resources, Tourism, Logistics, Sustainable Development, and the Blue Economy.

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