Parliament begins legislation of indefinite offshore oil exploration moratorium

Janelle Chanona

Janelle Chanona

Sunday, October 22, 2017. Two months after announcing an indefinite moratorium on offshore oil exploration, the government of Prime Minister Dean Barrow has taken the first step towards legislating the move.

On Friday, October 20, 2017, government introduced a Bill to the House “to impose a moratorium on the exploration for petroleum and other petroleum operations in the maritime zone of Belize to prevent pollution from installation devices, and vessels used in the exploration or exploitation of petroleum resources of the sea bed and sub-soil of the maritime zone.”

The Bill was sent to the Natural Resources and Environment Committee of the House of Representatives for examination, consideration and reporting back to the lower house of parliament.

Following the introduction of the Bill, the Vice-President of OCEANA-Belize Janelle Chanona told reporters outside of the National Assembly building that “this is a big day for Belize.”

Chanona explained that the issue of offshore oil exploration is not merely an environmental or conservation concern, “but a national issue because when you look at the fact that more than half of our population is directly dependent on marine and coastal ecosystems; anything that happens offshore … has implications for tens of thousands of Belizeans.”

The general public will have an opportunity to voice their concerns on the Bill when public hearings are carried out by the House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment.