Puerto Azul a Billion Dollar Gem Print E-mail
( 3 Votes )
Written by Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 19 June 2014 00:00

sandbore caye.jpg - 81.49 KbThere is no Puerto Azul project at the moment- there is not even a Puerto Azul proposal. All that exist is a Puerto Azul idea and opponents have already turned up their fourth quarter blitz attack. There was once a time when local environmentalists believed in sustainable development – a time when it was okay to develop as long as the environment would not be injured. They would open a dialogue with aspiring investors to ensure that they are mindful of the environmental risks associated with development in a particular area. Unfortunately, it appears environmentalists have developed a habit of opposing every development without even discussing an environmental compliance plan. Puerto Azul is the latest development idea being rejected and it is being rejected even before it has been proposed. The aspiring developers are now making the rounds to share their idea in an attempt to prevent a D.O.A.

Representatives of the local press were invited to the proposed project site, Northern Two Caye, on Saturday, June 14, to see the state of the islands. It is a 25 minute flight from the Belize City Municipal Airport to the island formerly known as Lighthouse Reef Resort. Though it is still surrounded by the most incredible turquoise shaded sea water in the Caribbean, the island is not as beautiful as it once was. The first thing that stands out as the plane approaches are the hundreds of infected coconut trees that have been left untreated. The beach is covered with dead seaweed and garbage that floats in from the Southeast. Garbage that is collected is also torn apart by what is believed to be a very aggressive rodent population. Even in the state it is in now, the obvious potential for greatness is very evident. And with a couple billion dollars at their disposal, the developers will spare no expense to make Northern Two Caye the envy of the world.

However, to be given the nod of approval, the development must satisfy five criteria for investment. To do business in Belize the project must be socially and economically acceptable and legally doable. The second criterion for investment in Belize demands that the project provides meaningful employment that pays well. The third criterion for investment is the project must create an increase in revenue for the Government of Belize. The fourth criterion is that it must bring foreign exchange. The fifth criterion and most important is that it must preserve and possibly enhance the environment. The Puerto Azul project as it is currently known calls for a 350 room resort with a 250 boat marina, a golf course and an airport. One local partner says contracts for the development will be issued exclusively to Belizeans where service is available. When operational there will be a staff of approximately 2,000 people and 85 percent minimum must be Belizeans. These Belizeans will be trained to provide 7-star service at an academy that will be built by the developers to provide free training for all interested Belizeans. 7-star service is the highest in the world. Satisfying the criterion for increased revenue; it is projected that Puerto Azul will result in more than a hundred million dollars per annum in taxes. Accommodation is expected to cost US$20,000 to US$30,000 per night as the resort is catering to the richest people in the world. Foreign exchange will be in the millions annually.

The most important criterion to satisfy is for the project to preserve and possibly enhance the environment. The Lighthouse Reef area is one of the most sensitive environmental systems in the world. According to the developers, that is what is most attractive about the Puerto Azul idea. They hope to show local environmentalists that they “have the same goal to preserve the environment”. The developers are doing this by hiring one of the most recognized international environmental assessment firms to conduct environmental studies for Puerto Azul and the wider area. One local agent of the development says, “These people cannot be bought. Their reputation for environmental protection is as good as it gets and we will stand by whatever they say.” He says, “If their assessment finds that we can’t do certain things then we will have to make necessary changes to the plan but at the end of the day the environment comes first.” The studies by the firm will be forwarded to the Department of the Environment not only for the Puerto Azul project but to also be used as a standard for other developments. The developers have already made commitments to repopulate the fish and conch population around the island and collaborate with the fishing community of the area to guarantee jobs in Puerto Azul.

The free academy is not the only immediate benefit to the general public. A fund will also be established in which 20 percent of profits will be donated to charities financing school construction, scholarships and other developmental projects. The developers of Puerto Azul are also making a commitment to invest funds in conducting studies to maintain the Blue Hole area which is more than eight miles away from Northern Two Caye.
Puerto Azul will be the only place of its kind in the world. The developers ask, “Why not in Belize?”   

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 June 2014 15:45