By Alexis R. Milan
The Office of the Attorney General told the Belize Tourism Industry Association that they have no relevant claim against the Harvest Caye development.
According to BTIA President Herbert Haylock, they received a letter from the Attorney General’s office Tuesday morning, which basically defends the Department of the Environment’s decision.
The letter stated that the DOE exercised prudent judgment when the National Environmental Appraisal Committee (NEAC) approved Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
According to Haylock, Solicitor General Nigel Hawke signed the letter.
Haylock told The Reporter that despite the response, which was issued after BTIA’s initial deadline last Friday, they are not fazed by the reply.
Haylock indicated that the BTIA intends to continue with its course of action by seeking judicial review of NEAC’s approval. He added that the BTIA has no confidence in the response issued by the office of the Attorney General.
Last week during a media tour, NCL Vice-President of Destination Development, Colin Murphy said, “They are entitled to take whatever actions they think is necessary. We don’t agree with them. [BTIA]; We think they are wrong and we will persevere.”
Murphy also quoted the Prime Minister and confidently said to the media, “This is going to happen; Get used to it. We believe that.”
“We take this very seriously and it would be very foolish of us to ignore that,” said Murphy addressing environmental concerns.
He added, “We are going to respect the laws of Belize. We are going to exceed their expectations in terms of the environment and we will always do that no matter where we are.”
Murphy confirmed that the EIA had been approved and said that they are currently in the process of drafting an Environmental Compliance Plan (ECP).
Two weeks ago the BTIA addressed a letter to Martin Alegria, the DOE’s chief environmental officer, and threatened judicial review if the demand for a public hearing was not met.
The BTIA as well as the Peninsula Citizens for Sustainable Development (PCSD) and other southern stakeholders have condemned NCL’s EIA as being inadequate, assertingthat NCL has failed to address key issues.
In January, NCL faced heavy public criticism and clear opposition during public consultations in Independence Village. Following this consultation, the NEAC hearing was postponed indefinitely until NCL amended its EIA.
Many southern stakeholders maintain that the project is in contradiction with the Belize National Sustainable Tourism Master Plan which, was done in 2011 and endorsed by the Belize Tourist Board (BTB) and the Government of Belize.
The Master Plan specifically stated that “Pocket Cruise tourism is the only acceptable form of cruise tourism in South Eastern Coastal Belize.”