BELIZE CITY. Thurs. Oct. 14, 2021– During an interview this week, the Prime Minister, Hon. John Briceño, when asked about the dissonance existing between the principles underpinning the Blue Bonds, which required the commitment of the country to conserve its marine resources, and GoB’s willingness to entertain three separate entities wishing to construct several additional cruise terminals in the country, replied that his administration does not support the construction of the three proposed cruise ports within a small area along the Belize coast, but they have decided to allow the developers to go through the environmental clearance process.
Hon. Briceño, despite the extensive construction already carried out by the Stake Bank developers, whose project has been over a decade in the making, as opposed to the other two projects — the Waterloo project and Port Magical Belize — which were more recently proposed, said that his government has not yet reached the stage at which it will choose which port would be the most beneficial and would thus get the go-ahead from GoB.
As mentioned, the three proposed cruise ports include Waterloo’s proposed construction of a cruise terminal at the Port of Belize, which is currently still undergoing review; Portico’s Port of Magical Belize, which was given an initial green light by the DOE earlier this year, and Stake Bank’s Port Coral— a project that underwent an initial process of public consultation and environmental impact assessment as far back as 2007 and for which construction commenced in 2018.
The Prime Minister commented that despite the granting of permission to the developers of each proposed project to commence the process of planning and proposal review, it is unlikely that three or even two ports within such a short distance of each other would be economically sustainable. He added that the container port at PBL will remain even if the proposed Waterloo development is not approved— something that, by no indications, was being questioned.
Ultimately, he asserted that it is the government which will select which cruise port will be allowed to operate in our waters, and he listed specific considerations which would influence a final decision.
“I don’t think it’s for me to say, well, we want project A or B or C. They have to go through the process, they have to go through the NEAC, they have to make sure they are meeting the environmental standards that are required by the country, and then after that we have to look at their financing: are they serious, do they have the necessary ability or the know-how to be able to do what they do, and then it is only after all those questions have been answered, then I believe that we as a government can decide, well, okay, we believe that this is the best project that we should support. We’re not there yet,” the Prime Minister said.
He also said that the private sector will determine if the proposed ports come to fruition, since the investors providing the financing will consider the impact on their market share if multiple ports are approved.
“Nobody is going to invest their money in something that not going to work. Everybody will tell you that three ports cannot work, nuh even two ports could quite likely not work. We might end up with two ports in the sense that the Port of Belize is already there, and while they also want to do the cruise port, at the very least is that they have a container port and that going to stay. As to having three ports, of course people are not going to invest their money if they know as an investor there is going to be three ports, because wi wa mek money,” the Prime Minister said..
He added, “As a government, of course we are not going to approve three ports, but we have to let them go through the process, and then after that as a Cabinet take a holistic view and decide which is the best that can serve the interest of the country, not only the people and the economy, but also the environment.”