Letters — 17 April 2015
Trying to ignore voices  of the people

Dear Editor,

The Department of Environment scheduled an “Oil Pollution, Preparedness, Response and Cooperation Sensitization Workshop” for Wednesday, April 15. They claim the workshop’s objective “is to sensitize NGOs and the Media on oil pollution, oil spill preparedness, response and cooperation”. They plan this to be part of an “on-going revision and updating of the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan presently being conducted by the DOE.”

The Belize Institute of Environmental Law & Policy (BELPO) has had an ongoing interest and involvement in the area of oil exploration/exploitation in Belize for many years. We started holding workshops on the Petroleum Act in 2003. Godsman Ellis was President of BELPO at the time. We invited the Department of Environment to that 2003 workshop and others that we held, as well as inviting the Geology and Petroleum Department.

Yet, when we registered for the workshop, DOE sent us a letter denying BELPO’s participation, stating that we were not included because the “focus of the invitees was on NGOs related to the marine environment and the media corps” despite the fact we are involved in all aspects of the Belize environment, marine and terrestrial, on the Board of Directors of the Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage as well as being a partner organization with Healthy Reefs.

How exclusive is the list of invitees? Or is the DOE simply discriminating against BELPO?

 This effort to sensitize NGOs and strengthen Belize’s capacity to respond to an “oil spill incident” and to be part of the revising and updating of the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan does not have room for all NGOs that are actively involved and interested in this planning?

  There are international presenters on the schedule but they do not have room for an NGO that is dedicated to working for the enforcement, effectiveness and improvement of our environmental laws?   There is even a part of the agenda on “International co-operation & legal frameworks” but they don’t think our participation would be of value?

It sounds like very poor planning or planning with the goal of simply saying DOE met with stakeholders and the media so they can check that off their list despite the fact that they only met with a very limited number of stakeholders.

Dr. Candy Gonzalez, President

The Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy (BELPO)

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