Posted: Wednesday, September 7, 2022. 1:51 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Prime Minister John Briceno, citing legal counsel to the Blue Bond Unit in his office, established in response to the August 25 letter by a dozen environmental NGOs that according to that advice, the government is in full compliance with the Blue Loan agreement and the Conservation Fund Agreement “in its letter and in its spirit.”
Additionally, while the articles of the Conservation Funding Agreement and Blue Loan Agreement are both applicable outside the geographic scope of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System and also to all new or major development projects that require Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs), that is only “in so far as those articles oblige the Government of Belize to ensure that any EIA approvals are granted in adherence to Belize’s laws and regulations,” and it would be “a clear overreach” to suggest that all such assessments should be paused, the Prime Minister wrote.
The organizations wanted all such processes paused pending associated and relevant environmental impact assessment regulations and laws being appropriately amended and fully realized. They argue that the Blue Loan Agreement requires that before any new project is approved, the EIA regulations need to be updated. Notably, the NGOs have also pointed out that nearshore dumping will still affect the reef as the material will eventually end up on the reef.
The Prime Minister goes on to state, “Conservation and development are not antithetical to one another. In fact, my government believes that our future lies in achieving their congruence through sustainable human development. We have high levels of poverty in this country. This cannot be ignored in the interest of conservation. At the same time, we are highly vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather events. We must therefore not only build climate resiliency, but it is also in our interest as part of this global community to support conservation.”
On the point made by the NGOs that the approval process, in particular for the Waterloo project, is proceeding without there being a finalized National Port Policy, there appears to be no response from Belmopan. On October 19, 2021, when the government made a statement on the cruise sector and ports development, it spoke about an imminent cruise port policy but almost 11 months later, that has not been finalized.
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