Prime Minister Barrow Accepts Award in World Oceans Day Celebration Ceremony
As part of national activities commemorating World Oceans Day 2018, Oceana in Belize and the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage officially recognized the Government and people of Belize for their collective leadership in establishing the world’s first indefinite moratorium against offshore oil. The Ocean Champion award was formally presented to Rt. Hon. Prime Minister Dean Barrow during ceremonies in Belize City on Saturday, June 9, 2018.
In presenting the award, Oceana’s Vice President for Belize, Janelle Chanona, emphasized that the significance of the moratorium cannot be overstated, given the daily dependence of tens of thousands of Belizeans on healthy marine resources. “We are world leaders,” said Chanona. “We are proudly loving and protecting the tens of thousands of Belizeans who depend on our world renowned marine resources. This decision reflects the reality that we may be small but we are strong. And will continue to ensure that this law inspires others to follow the exemplary leadership of the Government and people of Belize.”
In accepting the award, Prime Minister Barrow acknowledged both citizenry and civil society in Belize’s historic decision to safeguard marine assets from the inevitable destruction of offshore oil. “I’m grateful at being honored by Oceana in Belize in recognition of Government’s role in passing the legislation banning offshore oil exploration in our country is extremely important, it is of course, just one step. As the speakers before made clear, ocean conservation is an ongoing exercise necessitating the deployment of constant vigilance and a toolbox updated as required in view of the continuing challenges. I also want to quote Mahtma Gandhi, famously said “If the people lead, leaders will flow”, Right Honorable Prime Minister Dean Barrow.
The closing remarks of the ceremony were delivered by fifteen-year-old Wavemaker Sofia Reyes of E.P. Yorke High School who had this message for Belizeans leaders: “Your legacy had guaranteed that my future can include healthy marine resources. Thanks to you they are safe from the inherent threats of this dirty and dangerous industry. Together our voices are roaring through the corridors of power and will echo through time. From my generation to yours, thank you for safeguarding my right to have nature inspire wonder and awe in me”.
The Petroleum Operations (Offshore Zone Moratorium) law, which indefinitely prohibits offshore oil exploration and drilling everywhere Belize exercises maritime jurisdiction, became law on December 31, 2017. Since it was enacted, Oceana has referred to it as the “The People’s Law” because it has been the unwavering position of the Belizean people that the risks associated with offshore oil is simply too great; any “benefit” is short term and the damage to quality of life, job and food security is irrevocable.
The award presented to Prime Minister Barrow is titled “The Way of the Wave”, and was designed by renowned artist Gilvano Swasey, MBE and sculpted by Anthony Vacaro. It is made from a mahogany spur left by loggers and is representative of the wave of energy demonstrated by the Belizean people and Government that have gotten us to this point.