Heredia denies allegations that International Airport for Ambergris Caye has been approved

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

An article published on Thursday, June 14th in the Mexican newspaper Diario de Quintana Roo claims that Luis Gilberto Montero Maldonado, Honorary Consul of Belize in Chetumal, Mexico has confirmed the approval for the construction of the international airport in northern Ambergris Caye. The next stop now, according to the article, is to establish a date when works would commence. However, Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation Honourable Manuel Heredia Jr. is denying such a claim.

The Consulate told the Chetumal-based newspaper that Belizean authorities had signed the corresponding documents authorizing the construction of the airport. It is expected that this new infrastructure will increase the number of flights to the island, and establish a direct route with Quintana Roo and other Mexican states. According to Maldonado, the international airport will be of great benefit for southern part of Quintana Roo with direct flights between the city of Chetumal and San Pedro Town. He indicated that there was an attempt to have flights between Belize City and Chetumal, but because it was based on tourism, it was not successful. He ended by explaining that there cannot be direct flights from San Pedro because the local airport on the island is not international.

The San Pedro Sun caught with Minister Heredia on Friday, June 15th, who weighed in on the allegation. He said that the only development that has occurred was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in December of 2017. Heredia added that the Government of Belize is in support of the idea of an international airport on the island, but he disregarded the idea of a definite agreement. “Until now it is just a Memorandum of Understanding,” said Heredia.

The first mention of an international airport for Ambergris Caye took place during the United Democratic Party’s pre-election rally in February of 2015. The airport was again mentioned in another pre-election rally in October of that same year by Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Honourable Manuel Heredia Jr. It was indicated that at that time the airport would only serve private flights, accommodating celebrities and investors.

Then in December of 2017, the first step to start planning its building took place with the signing of the MOU in the Capital City of Belmopan. The MOU was signed Between the Government of Belize and developer Jorge Abraham Jaen of International Airport Alliance Belize Limited, who is to develop and manage the airport to be called Efrain Guerrero International Airport. However, a few days after the signing of the MOU, Jaen came under much scrutiny following accusations of being a fraudster. A dissemination of documents showed that Jaen’s past accuses him of making false representations to obtain loans and was arrested in 2006 on charges of fraud, with a previous conviction for conspiracy to commit extortion and voter fraud in the United States of America.

The MOU was set for 12 months before any construction started. The project’s cost has been estimated to be over $100 million US dollars, and the 12 months were going to be used by the team to finalize logistics in terms of land, finances and environmental assessments.

Residents believe that the island does not need an international airport at this moment. They would like to see other types of infrastructure like vocational schools for the youth and a much-needed hospital.
The San Pedro Sun will continue following this developing story.

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