Mayor Guerrero and Minister Heredia disapprove of Cayo Rosario development

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

The proposed tourism project on Cayo Rosario, a 6-acre island located off the north-west coast of Ambergris Caye, has not met the approval of Mayor Daniel Guerrero and Area Representative Honourable Manuel Heredia Jr. Both leaders of the local authority voiced their disapproval of the project, adding to the controversial discussion. The project as approved by the National Environmental Appraisal Committee (NEAC), which calls for 54 over-the-water structures, 50 more partially over-the-water and land and the dredging of 55,000 cubic meters of sand for land creation from within the extension of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. The project is not only considered a threat to the delicate marine ecosystem in the area, but to the livelihood of many that make a living in the fly fishing industry.
Island tour guides, operators and the community have strongly voiced their opposition to the project. They call on local authorities to look after the well-being of the island and the livelihood of the residents. President of the San Pedro Tour Guide Association, Philip ‘Billy’ Leslie says that he is not against development, however, all that they ask is for sustainability and environmentally responsible projects.
This view was also shared by Heredia, who is also the Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation. Heredia spoke to The San Pedro Sun, saying that from his point of view, such a project is not going to happen. The Minister stated that after visiting Cayo Rosario with Minister of Environment, Honourable Omar Figueroa, Figueroa was not convinced that the project could be viable. “At the end of the day I have to support my people,” Heredia said. “My position at the moment is that I don’t think I can support such a development.” Heredia indicated that he welcomes development on the island, as long as it is done sustainably and does not affect the surrounding environment. The Minister did not confirm the rumours that there are plans to give investors another island in place of Cayo Rosario but stated that he is working jointly with the Ministry of Environment in addressing the issue.

Proposed Cayo Rosario Development

The need to create awareness about how damaging the project at Cayo Rosario is and to initiate ways to prevent the development from proceeding led to the resurgence of the dormant Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development group. The ACCSD consists of concerned citizens, industry stakeholders, business owners and leaders from the San Pedro Tour Guide Association, San Pedro Tour Operator Association, Hol Chan Marine Reserve and the local chapter of the Belize Tourism Industry Association. The group has been campaigning for the preservation of the marine ecosystem near Ambergris Caye, challenging the local respective authorities to intervene in the approved construction of the project.
The latest interaction with the local authorities was a meeting held on Thursday, September 27th with Mayor Guerrero and ACCSD Board members. In the past, Guerrero had reserved his comments on Cayo Rosario, but always claimed to be on the side of sustainable development for the island. “I am totally against the Cayo Rosario development, and anything that negatively affects the environment on the bay, the inner lagoons and the beachfront,” Guerrero declared at the meeting. Additionally, the ACCSD and Guerrero agreed that even though Cayo Rosario is privately owned, the developers do not have the right to use the surrounding waters and seabed that are part of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. The San Pedro Town Council also acknowledged that the Reserve is one of the island’s most important environmental and economic assets.

Cayo Rosario

The disapproval of the project at Cayo Rosario by both island leaders may be linked to their joint environmental achievement in 2015, when the marine reserve was officially expanded. Both Guerrero and Heredia were part of the efforts that spearheaded such project. The expansion of the reserve added four additional areas, including an area called Bajos, General Use Zone II – Cayo Pajaro Conservation Zone III, followed by Bajos Conservation Zone, and IV known as Cayo Rosario Conservation Zone.
To find out more about what the ACCSD does and about the Cayo Rosario initiative and how you
can help, please visit the website ACCSDbz.org and DefendCayoRosario.com

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