No Drilling in Sarstoon Temash says SATIIM Print E-mail
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Thursday, 25 July 2013 00:00

Greg ChocThe Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM) filed for an injunction against the Government of Belize to not allow U.S. Capital Energy from doing any work inside the Sarstoon Temash National Park on Monday, July 22nd. The injunction comes on the heels of SATIIM having received a letter in which their co-management agreement was cancelled. The letter, dated July 17th, informed the NGO that the agreement was formally being terminated and that it was no longer authorized to enter the national park. It further advises SATIIM to refrain from conducting negotiations or business associated with the park.

On Tuesday, the NGO chartered a plane and flew 10 members of the Belize City-based media to Punta Gorda where it held a press conference to give an update of the situation. During the press conference, SATIIM’s executive director, Greg Choc expressed his concern over the cancellation of the co-management agreement. He then went on to line up speakers to request that they be given greater benefits from the oil explorations that are scheduled.

Speaking with Niall Gillett, public relations officer for U.S. Capital Energy, he explained that the injunction is not specific to his company; it also includes a number of Government departments including the Ministry of Forestry, Petroleum and Energy and the Attorney General’s Ministry. It is noteworthy that SATIIM is not proposing to drill in any Maya village and that it has consent from the Government of Belize to explore for oil in the Sarstoon-Temash National Park. He stated that the company is currently well poised to begin explorations but weather conditions are not permitting it to do so. Gillett stated, however, that as soon as it improves the work drilling work will commence.

It is noteworthy that Gillett made reference to Government giving permission for oil exploration. Based on information supplied to The Guardian there is no legal framework under which co-management agreements are based. Every one of the agreements take place at the discretion of government meaning that co-managers have no legal grounding to interfere in Government decisions on the use of co-managed areas.  In the letter of termination issued to SATIIM it notes that the NGO had been invited to sign a new co-management agreement in October of last year and that was further extended to the ending of June of this year as the deadline and it was never signed.

Currently, there are consultations taking place to come up with laws to govern co-management agreements but these are a ways off from being completed.