By Benjamin Flowers
The Government of Belize (GOB) this week revealed its revised position on offshore oil drilling, by withdrawing its appeal against a Supreme Court ruling that rendered six offshore oil concessions null and void.
Attorneys for GOB, the law firm of Barrow & Company, filed the notice of withdrawal of appeal on Wednesday.
In addition to filing the application for withdrawal, GOB has also agreed to lift the stay of execution, which was obtained to keep the court’s ruling from coming into effect until after the appeal was heard.
Once the stay is lifted, the concessions will then be fully rendered null and void.
The appeal challenged the April 2013 ruling of Justice Oswell Legall in favor of a civil suit filed against GOB by Oceana in Belize. Citizens Organized for Liberty and Action (COLA) and the Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage.
Oceana’s Vice President, Janelle Chanona, commented this week that the appeal withdrawal is a “demonstration of the Dean Barrow administration’s commitment to safeguarding the country’s marine resources.”
Chanona added that Oceana is in the process of proposing language to formalize the moratorium on Production Sharing Agreements for offshore areas which would ensure the protection of Belize’s marine environment.
Earlier this month Prime Minister Barrow went on record to say that the government is not renewing any of the offshore oil concessions that have expired.
Barrow also said that he had spoken with Chanona about getting a document formalized, which would effectively ban offshore drilling unless certain conditions, which he did not state, exist.