Monday, June 24, 2024

Amendment approved to include offshore oil exploration referendum

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After the Government of Belize and Oceana Belize agreed on the referendum on the moratorium on offshore oil exploration, a Bill was introduced in the House of Representatives to amend the Referendum Act and make a referendum mandatory. The Bill was debated in the Senate and approved on October 26th, officiating the amendment for a mandatory referendum before any oil exploration in Belizean waters.
With a signature petition, Oceana started the challenge to change the Referendum Act in November 2022. In July 2023, the non-government organization delivered over 22,000 signed petitions to the Governor General, Her Excellency Dame Froyla Tzalam, by Oceana’s Vice President Janelle Chanona and her team. This amounted to 10% of the registered electorate, and the government was required to hold a referendum on the offshore oil and natural gas moratorium passed as law in December 2017.
The government, however, said they could not afford a referendum. Instead, it has now placed it as a law that no offshore oil exploration can occur without consulting the Belizean people. Oceana’s Vice President stated that the legislative amendment fulfills their aim. “Truly, this amendment is a validation that the people of Belize want to have a conversation about offshore oil and anything that would happen in the future. I want to thank everyone who signed the petition. I know men, women, and youth are in that population of people, but also to underscore it was a call, a demand, an urging that this want for involvement is there,” said Chanona. “I am happy that it was heard, the message received, and it has been respected. That is a sign of leadership, and we will do our part to ensure that it is promoted as an example for others to follow and truly setting precedents in an appropriate way.” The government also noted that it has no or never had any intentions of amending or repealing the provisions of the moratorium act.
Oceana said it would continue to stand alongside Belizeans, including organizational allies, patriotic supporters, and dedicated wavemakers, to advocate for protecting Belize’s invaluable marine resources. These efforts to raise awareness and protect Belize’s marine ecosystems have been ongoing since 2009 and, as per Oceana, will continue as long as necessary.

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