The Department of the Environment has scheduled a public consultation process on the prospect of petroleum exploration drilling (inside and outside) of the Sarstoon National Park by U.S. Capital Energy to begin in Sunday Wood Village, Toledo District, on Thursday, October 25th, at 5:00 pm.
During the Environmental Impact Assessment process, Government is required, by law, to hold public consultations within sixty days of receiving an assessment by the interested party and “advise the developer of its decision”. The Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage is trying to stall the process. They have requested that the consultations be rescheduled for 28 days later, November 22. Government has decided to proceed as scheduled based on the fact that the Coalition has put forth no valid reason for the administration to act contrary to the laws constructed to regulate the industry.
The Coalition’s sole existence is to lobby against oil exploration. They have spent large sums of money on advertisements against oil exploration. One would expect the Coalition to be most excited about public consultations on oil exploration in the Sarstoon Temash National Park. It offers an opportunity for them to express their position in front of actual residents of a potential oil community for free. The question must be asked: why is it that the Coalition is trying to postpone public education for the people of Sunday Wood, Conejo, Barranco, Crique Sarco and Midway Villages and Punta Gorda Town?
There are those who have been accusing the “environmentalists” of the area for years of prospering on the ignorance of their people. They have maintained power by diverting information from their community. Are the environmentalists afraid that people will realize the economic opportunities that exist in their impoverished communities? Are they afraid that officials of Government will speak directly to the indigenous community and not to their leaders? Are they afraid that people may show up at the consultations and learn that oil isn’t the black version of lava?
Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development, Hon. Lisel Alamilla, continues to encourage the NGO community to present their concerns at the consultations. She says that the consultation is “not the end of it” but simply a process whereby people can come in and “present what their concerns are about the EIA, what are their concerns about this development within the Sarstoon Temash National Park and how can we go about it with the least impacts.”
But even as the parameters are drawn, the Coalition is trying to stall the process. In their latest stunt, they pulled out a resolution supposedly signed by members of the communities to be impacted by oil exploration. It's quite a lengthy document with convoluted language and the signatures are attached to it. The problem however, is that when you scan the signatures, most of those who are supposedly in agreement of it, actually sign their name using a 'X' or their fingerprint. Are we to believe that the people who can't even sign their name actually read the document?
This is just proof that once again, those with vested interests are simply using those who don't know better.