By Alexis R. Milan Staff Reporter
Seven organizations have issued a joint, seven-point statement to demand answers from the Government of Belize regarding the status of the proposed Puerto Azul project.
Oceana, the Belize Audubon Society, the World Wildlife Foundation, MarAlliance, the Belize Tourism Industry Association and the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative demand a more transparent process.
“There has to be a mechanism that Belizeans can participate and be consulted and have it be meaningful with these types of developments, and government policies,” Janelle Chanona, Oceana Belize vice-president, told The Reporter Thursday.
The asked for clarification on whether or not the current administration has or intends to endorse this project, especially in the light of the fact that two government ministers—Investment Promotion Minister Erwin Contreras and Tourism Minister Manuel Heredia Jr—attended the project’s launch Cannes, France.
They also questioned whether that trip was paid for by taxpayers’ money or “were the project’s developers able to purchase the perception of a Governmental green light by hosting the Belize delegation?”
Chanona explained that, in her view, whether or not the Ministers attended in a personal or professional capacity, their attendance says.
To an investor launching a project, the attendance of two top-ranking ministers could most likely be an indication of some overall endorsement, she opined.
The organizations have also requested information on the findings of the feasibility study that was announced in August 2013, and whether a Terms of Reference or an Environmental Impact Assessment had been finalized.
Also questioned was whether a project of this magnitude, which would require the natural landscape to be changed significantly, fits within Belize’s marketing strategy of promoting an authentic experience?
The environmentalists also question what type of impact the development may have on the economy, fishermen, tour guides and tour operators.
“To place what can only be described as a theme park for billionaires in the middle of Lighthouse Reef, perhaps the nation’s most valuable natural asset, is nothing less than a crime committed against our future generations,” the release said.
According to the organizations, they welcome investment and its benefits in Belize but there are other locations, which might be more appropriate for this type of project without risking damage to our sensitive environment.
“We ask these questions not for ourselves but for our children and our grandchildren. Belize and Belizeans must come first,” the release warns.
Puerto Azul is a private mega-resort project being proposed by two Italian investors on the Northern Two and Sandbore cayes in the Lighthouse Reef Atoll.
The proposal for the project includes multiple shopping outlets, spas, 350 rooms, a golf course, a 250 boat marina, an airstrip and helipad and well as a racetrack.