Despite having in place two top servants in the Belize Cabinet, the Ashcroft Alliance appears to be running into strong headwinds as public, environmental NGOs, and even the Belize government are rejecting this project.
The new Minister of the Blue Economy, Andrés Pérez, appears to be pushing back on the project that envisions dumping millions of tons of sludge, including clay and heavy metals, into Belize’s delicate marine ecosystem that encompasses the Great Belize Barrier Reef.
Pérez is not seen as a servant of the Ashcroft Alliance, and has to support his political base that includes North American expats, Belizean fisher folk and tourism operators.
We start off with OCEANA’s concerns:
Prime Minister John Briceno, 3rd Floor, Sir Edney Cain Building, City of Belmopan, Belize
November 27th, 2020
RE: PORT OF BELIZE CRUISE AND CARGO EXPANSION PROJECT
Dear Prime Minister Briceno,
We the undersigned hereby formally and in the strongest possible terms share our objections to Port of Belize Cruise and Cargo Expansion project as presented by its consultants and via the material posted on the Department of Environment’s website (https://doe.gov.bz/environmental-clearance/.
While there are several overarching environmental concerns, we highlight the following:
- No adequate rationale has been provided that justifies that ocean dumping should ever be considered for Belize. Responsible management mandates that every effort be made to prevent adverse effects on navigation, scientific study, fishing as well as the economic, recreational and aesthetic values of our world-renowned resources. We therefore strongly recommend that the Government of Belize immediately reject this aspect of the proposal and require that the developers abandon the ocean dumping proposal forthwith.
- That we are aware of, there are currently three cruise port development project proposals for the Belize City harbour: Port Coral, Port of Magical Belize and the Port Loyola Cruise Port. We maintain that these projects must be reviewed and considered collectively as opposed to independent of the other given the culminative effect of all these activities in the same geographic area. We therefore recommend that all procedural progress on these projects be put on hold until a comprehensive Cruise Port Strategy for Belize is prepared by an independent consultant for the Government of Belize to enable informed decision making on next steps in investment in the cruise industry.
- This project has once again revealed that existing laws do not require developers, regulators or advisory bodies to ensure that there has been meaningful public consultation or that the public’s contributions are adequately addressed prior to being submitted for approval. We therefore recommend that all relevant laws be reviewed by appropriate legal experts and wherever necessary, such laws be amended to strengthen the right
of the Belizean public to play a more meaningful role in the management of shared natural resources.
We look forward to your response to our recommendations.
And conclude with this statement from the Minister for the Blue Economy. Expecting that it not a shambolic press release:
Statement on the Proposed Port of Belize Cruise and Cargo Expansion – Hon. Andrés Pérez, Minister of Blue Economy and Civil Aviation
December 1, 2020
As the newly assigned Minister of the Blue Economy, I have been following with interest the recent developments regarding the proposed Port of Belize Cruise and Cargo Expansion Project. I have had the opportunity to be updated by our Fisheries Department as well as other concerned environmental non-governmental organizations that are all important players in the development of the new Blue Economy model. We have been listening to the concerns of those that have been studying and opposing this project ever since it was proposed under the previous government as well as the consultants for the Port of Belize Cruise Project. I have also had the opportunity to dialogue with the Prime Minister and other ministers on this matter.
After only two weeks of being installed as a government, the overall consensus is that there are so many other pressing issues of national importance that need our urgent attention such as the economic crisis our country is presently in; the increasing number of COVID-19 cases and deaths; and the effects of major flooding in many parts of our country. These are the issues that are priority for us.
This is a new government, a government that has envisioned and brought to reality a Ministry of Blue Economy which will ensure equilibrium between economic growth while protecting and conserving our oceanic ecosystem. We must emphatically state that this proposed project has not been endorsed by the Ministry of Blue Economy.
From our discussions with other key entities including our own Fisheries Department and other environmental groups, we gather that the consultation process has been flawed. There are several entities that have been called out as having endorsed this project while they have publicly stated that they have not. They may have been consulted but that cannot be classified as an endorsement. With that said, the developers of the Port of Belize Cruise and Cargo Expansion Project are advised to re-think their consultation process and seek ways of addressing major concerns such as ocean dumping in the area proposed which has the potential to jeopardize Belize’s important World Heritage Site, the Barrier Reef, while significantly impacting the tourism sector. These are the important discussions that must be tabled under the watchful eye of the new Blue Economy Ministry.
Our Ministry has swiftly embarked on the process of formulating a Blue Economy Master Plan. Under this process, proposed projects such as the Port of Belize Cruise will be given greater attention and consideration. Recognizing that sustainable development is needed to catapult the economic recovery of our country, our mandate calls for greater reliance on the scientific community while assuring economic, social and environmental security for Belize.