Today is World Oceans Day…one day in the year when even more than normal our oceans are recognized for their contributions to life and awareness of the very vitality of maintaining our marine areas is highlighted. This morning we spoke to former Minister of Natural Resources and Leader of the Opposition John Briceno who during the previous administration played a major role in the recognition and conservation of Belizes waters and marine ecosystems. He sent out a message on the occasion of World Oceans Day.

johnHon. John Briceno Leader of the Opposition

“I want to congratulate all the people that have been working in trying to get Oceans Day in bringing it to the minds and attention of Belizeans and the citizens across the planet and also asking Belizeans here at home to recognize the importance of our waters, the importance of the Caribbean Sea and to recognise the importance it plays not only in our economy because of the tourism and the fishing but also the role that it plays in us living in a healthy environment.”

And the timing couldnt be better. As we celebrate World Oceans Day, reports have surfaced verifying that the referendum goal of 17,000 signatures has been reached. For the past months several organizations insistent that residents have a say in offshore drilling and drilling in protected areas have been collecting signatures of support.

Hon. John Briceno Leader of the Opposition

“The People’s United Party has always felt that it is always important, at every step of the way, to protect our Natural Resources, to protect our environment that is what makes us unique not only in the region but in the world and we know that there has been this serious concern about the issue of offshore drilling in particular offshore drilling, especially after we saw the accident that happened in the gulf of México in the U.S., where several millions of dollars of oil was just spilled into the gulf of México and still we are not sure what are going to be the long term effects in that region. Well, in a way fortunately for them they don’t have a barrier reef as the one that we have and the barrier reef is the world heritage site, we believe we have a not only a legal but a moral responsibility not only to Belizeans but to the citizens of this planet to be able to protect it for future generations. So when the whole issue started to happen that people started to raise the concerns about offshore and also onshore drilling, we as party felt that I think it was important for the people to make that decision what is it that they want. We also recognize that Oceana did not have the wear it all, the necessary infrastructure to be able to get the seventeen thousand signatures, so we as a party then we pass a resolution at the National Executive and also at the National Party Council that we need to participate and to help to spearhead the quest to get the seventeen thousand signatures. I am happy to report and prompt to report that as a party collected the most signatures than any other body and because of our effort we manage to get the seventeen thousand signatures.”

So whats next? Well Briceno pulled no punches as he called on Prime Minister Dean Barrow to do the right thing.

Hon. John Briceno Leader of the Opposition

“First thing we need to do is to call on the Prime Minister who said that once you could get the 17,000 signatures he would call for a referendum so I am calling out the Prime Minister and the Minister of Environment and the entire government that they need to do the right thing. They have been failing in many instances but this is an easy one I mean the people have demonstrated that they want the right to decide whether we should have offshore drilling and in protected areas. We as a party we have entrusted our Deputy Party Leader Carolyn Trench Sandiford to start the consultation process within our party for us to get a true feeling as to what is it that we want because they are in my mind there are two questions. One the Offshore drilling and second is drilling in the protected areas on land. So we are starting the process and I believe that in the next few weeks our party will be able to come up with a definitive position.”

In a press conference this afternoon, the Prime Minister, with no apology, made it clear that as far as he is concerned the referendum can go to hell. We can only assume that his sentiment encompasses the more than 17,000 Belizeans who affixed their signatures in support.

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