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 (left in image above), 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 and European 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.
And this editorial from The Amandala, Belize’s leading newspaper:
Too Big A Problem To Dump That Mud There
Belize’s first prime minister, George Price, once advised his people that “progress brings problems”, and at some point we will have to overcome the problems if we want to have the progress that will come to the nation with improved facilities at the Port of Belize Ltd. Presently, Waterloo Investment Holdings Ltd. has a proposal before the government and people of Belize which they say will deliver this necessary improvement.
Waterloo’s proposal is to improve the piers and the buildings at the Port of Belize, acquire better equipment, and deepen the access channel to the port so that big vessels can come in. The Port of Belize is presently only involved in the movement of cargo, but the proposal calls for considerable investment in cruise facilities, which the group says will make the enterprise more profitable.
Waterloo says setting up a cruise port at the Port of Belize is essential, because come 2023 the cruise ships will not be visiting countries that use tenders to take the tourists onshore. Presently, passengers on cruise ships have to get on a boat that transports them about five miles to the shore, a journey that dissuades the less agile ones from exploring Belize.
Belize already has a modern cruise facility coming on stream, the US$82 million Stake Bank Cruise Port, the construction of which started in 2019, and many people are wondering if little Belize can sustain two of such enterprises. In fact, there is also a proposal for a third cruise ship terminal —the proposed US$150 million Port of Magical Belize that would be sited just a few miles south of the Port of Belize.
We had to have this discussion about deepening the channel and improving the infrastructure of the Port of Belize, maybe even about the investment in a cruise port, and we would have been having it with the government, not with Waterloo, if the previous government had set about rectifying what the government that preceded it had done wrong.
The Port of Belize was owned by the people of Belize, and it was sold to Mr. Luke Espat by the PUP “privatization” government of 1998-2003. Control of the port landed in the lap of the Belize Bank, which is controlled by the same person who controls Waterloo, Lord Ashcroft, when Espat defaulted on loans he had received from the bank.
See more at: The Amandala Editorial