By Alexis R. Milan
A debt-holder with intimate knowledge of the ownership status of Northern Two Cayes on the Lighthouse Reef Atoll, the location for the proposed Puerto Azul project, made it clear at a press conference on Thursday that the investors have not yet purchased the property or started work on an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
John Mills, a mortgage owner on the Northern Two Cayes, said the proponents of the Puerto Azul project had entered into a contract to purchase the property in March 2013, and the first payment to be made on March 2014 was not made. The second payment to be made in March 2015 was not paid either.
According to Mills, two years after first entering into negotiations to buy the property for the Puerto Azul, investors still haven’t started the process of filing an EIA.
Mills said he was surprised when he read reports that the investors had done an interview saying the project was in an advanced stage, having sold about 300 time-shares of the property and that an inauguration was scheduled around Christmastime, when they don’t even own the islands.
Mills said he had a conversation on Wednesday with Fabio LaRosa, one of the principals of Puerto Azul, and that it was both alarming and encouraging.
According to Mills, the investors have a true belief that they can do a sustainable project, and said while he thinks their intentions are good, it is alarming because there seems to be a disconnect with what is environmentally and economically feasible.
Mills said he believes that islands should be developed but in a conservation-minded way, taking into consideration the sensitivity of the eco-system surrounding the atoll.
LaRosa stated they would work along with relevant conservation groups in order to learn what they need to do and what is feasible. He said they expect to have an EIA report ready by July. Meanwhile, several environmental organizations have become involved in the discussion, including Oceana and the Healthy Reefs Initiative.
After the Lighthouse Reef Resort foreclosed in 2006, Mills purchased the mortgage. He disclosed that for his portion, the Puerto Azul investors owe him well over US$3 million.
Puerto Azul is a proposed development by Italian investors at the Light House Reef Atoll’s Sandbore and Northern Two Cayes. According to the website, the proposed development would be an exclusive private retreat which, described it as a ‘citadel of luxury’ surrounded by the sea, entirely autonomous and equipped with all the necessary facilities to ensure a high-level of comfort.