A leading indigenous group from southern Belize dispatched a protest, but government has already given the green light to an oil exploration company, U.S. Capital Energy Belize, to conduct seismic testing within the Sarstoon-Temash National Park. Chief Forest Officer Wilber Sabido has confirmed this in a letter to Greg Choq, the Director of the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management, which co-manages the national park.
In his letter to Choq, Sabido explains that the seismic testing will have minimal environmental and aesthetic impact on the park. Sabido invited SATIIM to assist the Forestry Department in monitoring the testing, “as we attempt to balance economic development and the sustainable use of our resources.” It’s an invitation which, it seems, SATIIM will refuse and indications are that the indigenous organization which represents 5 Garifuna and Q’uechi communities will seek legal avenues to block the testing.
In an earlier letter to Sabido, Choq noted that the co-management agreement signed with government in June of last year stresses that all permits to exploit the park’s resources will be issued only with the permission of SATIIM. Now Choq is accusing the government of bad faith in failing to follow its obligations. Choq also noted that there is no provision in the national parks system act which permits oil exploration. Choq told 7News that SATIIM will now escalate efforts to block the testing and the subsequent exploration.
In an earlier release, SATIIM quoted Taghmen Energy, a company with exploration rights covering adjoining blocks in Belize and Guatemala, 85% of the land in Belize. SATIIM says Taghmen estimates reserves of 130 million barrels in the two cross-border blocks. The Sarstun Temash National Park covers 41,000 acres. From: 7News.