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Letter to the Editor: Urgent Poly Clinic plea

San Pedro Polyclinic

San Pedro Polyclinic

On Thursday August 26th, 2010 at 1:30pm I attended a meeting at the San Pedro Polyclinic II.  Also present were Ms Melinda Guerra, Regional Manager of the Ministry of Health, Mr Omar Mitchell, Engineer, Mr Baldemar Graniel representing the Lions Club, Dr. Javier Zuniga and Dr. Otto Rodriguez.  The purpose of the meeting was to discuss a report that was submitted by Mr. Mitchell regarding the integrity of the roof of the poly clinic structure.

In a nutshell, the roof structure is leaking and must be cleaned, repaired and sealed soon in order to prevent further damage.  Water damage is not the only threat, if the leaks continue there will be risk of dangerous mould growth which could cause the Poly Clinic to be closed down. The cost of the repairs, which will be a permanent solution (not a stop gap measure) is approximately $40,000.00 BZ.  This figure includes the cost of materials including importation costs and stamp duties, labour, oversight by a qualified and experienced engineer and includes a buffer for unexpected costs.  The job will take 2 weeks.

The figure does not include the cost to ferry the engineer back and forth from the city to the island via plane (due to his other commitments and time constraints), nor does it include the cost of accommodation for the nights that the engineer may be required to spend on the island.

The materials will be purchased at Benny’s home centre and the engineer will apply his 19% discount to assist with material costs. The engineer’s overseeing fee will be $4,000.00. The Ministry of Health via the NHI is able to pledge $8,000.00. Time is of the essence as the roof damage is exposed to the elements. The Poly Clinic desperately requires these repairs but the Health Department can only commit $8,000 to the project which means that the community of San Pedro must raise the additional $32,000.00

An appeal is being made to the San Pedro Business Association members, the San Pedro Town Council and the Belize Tourist Board. Ms Guerra shall be looking into the possibility of tax exemptions for the goods that will be imported.

The next meeting to assess the feasibility of this plan will be September 9th 2010.  Ideally we would like to begin repairs in October as soon as we have raised pledges to cover the costs.  Some of the specialized materials must be imported from Canada which takes approximately 3 weeks. As an aside, the engineer’s inspection has revealed that the concrete structure, columns and beams are unable to withstand any additional weight which means that the poly clinic structure will not be expanded upon in the future.

In good news, the Area Representative Minister Manuel Junior Heredia  has confirmed that the San Pedro Poly Clinic will be receiving 2 additional nurses in September, 2010 which will mean that the clinic can extend its hours and operate 12 hours per day in the future.

Amanda Syme

Crocodile Feedings Continuing?

Crocodile Feeding on Ambergris Caye

Crocodile Feeding on Ambergris Caye

Peter Lawrence | Yesterday we were passing the WASA lake at around 5.30pm, and Jambo (a golden retriever 70lbs) decided to take a quick dip in the lake. Well,I admit, he is not the brightest dog to ever hit this planet. I immediately stopped the golf cart and started screaming for him to get out. He swam around quite unconcerned, and showed no sign of coming back to shore. During all this I had spotted one of the local lads who feed the crocodiles just standing on the jetty watching.

I saw ripples in the water, then two eyes, then the gnarled tree trunk body of a very large unfriendly crocodile heading at great speed towards Jambo. Laurie started to panic,although she had yet to see the danger but of course knew about what lies below the water surface. Fortunately Jambo, not seeing anything, decided that he had had enough of swimming and it was time to jump back on the golf cart. The crocodile was within thirty feet of grabbing him and taking him for a one way ride, and there would have been little we could have done.

It is obvious that the crocodiles are still being fed, and as like yesterday there were no tourists which meant no food for the reptiles, and Jambo was looking a very appetizing alternative. While it is well known that there are crocodiles in the lake, and that they are still being fed. It is without a doubt that this practice should be stopped immediately because if a child is killed or severely maimed whose fault will it be, and what will be the effect on this islands economy or the family whose child was attacked?

Belize’s Reputation Abroad – Letter to the Editor

I have spent the last two years cruising Belize, Honduras and Guatamala, flying the Belize flag. I only have to walk into any bar with cruisers, announce proudly that we live in Belize to be derided about Belize and its corruption.

Today we went to the Sundog Cafe in Fronteras, Guatemala. Announced that we came from Belize to be greeted with shaking heads. We sat next to Sterling, who had a few days earlier decided to go with a friend to Florida to visit a veteran hospital of some kind. They were both getting on in years. They, like every other cruiser in his/her right mind, decided to bypass Belize as they had heard of the corrupt officials and the thievery.

As they passed Turneffe his jib blew out and it became clear that they would not reach the US in time for the crew to make his critical appointment. So they decided to put into Belize City so the crew could fly up to the US and make the appointment.

This was last Tuesday, 1st June 2010, when Capt Sterling on his boat called “Sterling”, docked at the Radisson Fort St George and went ashore to find Immigration and Customs.
At Immigrations they were castigated for not following International Law and anchoring off under the Q flag to await boarding. While it is true that this is the custom in many countries, it is not the way it is done in Belize, (or Honduras), not in San Pedro, not in Belize City, not in Big Creek, not in Punta Gorda. So they refused to book the crew in so he could catch his flight. After a big argument where Sterling stood his ground, and refused to pay the mordida, they agreed to check them in.

Next morning the Port Authority visited the boat and demanded a $1,000 US fine for crossing the shipping channel without a Belize pilot! So TMM and The Moorings charters all have Belize pilots on board? Sterling, getting on in years, being slightly deaf but having fought on more than one war, stood his ground. Beside, he did not have $1,000. So they decided to impound his boat! Eventually they went through his boat, took all the cash he had, amounting to some $377 BZ, and let him go. (more…)

Dear Belize Telemedia Ltd

Belize Telemedia Limited

Belize Telemedia Limited

Nial Gillet | A Belize-American Internet Security Consultant has written an appeal to the Belize government owned and controlled telecommunication company – Belize Telemedia Limited, better known as B.T.L. on the issue of unrealistic and crippling Internet access costs in Belize. B.T.L. was a a private company that was recently expropriated by the Belize government.

Dear B.T.L

I need more… It has been a while since I have written an article about B.T.L. A while back I was griping about not having any decent internet, as it was taking too long to reach my house here in beautiful Burrell Boom in the historic Belize River Valley. I was pleasantly surprised that coincidentally, that service was practically just about to be unveiled in my neck of the woods, and just like that, after years of no service, it became reality. I was connected! But here I am, months later, and once again I am not happy.

Before I start my new gripe, let me say that for all the time that I have had this DSL service, it has been working practically flawlessly. I am one to check my speeds very often, and I have, for the most part, been getting what I have been paying for, and the system has been up without a glitch for months. It is always good to be able to pay for a basic service and get the basic results expected. But therein lays the rub.

I need more. Yes, just like some Hollywood movie star wife, good enough is never enough. I really expected that by now, there would be more options available to me as a consumer, especially with the massive changes in that company. I want cheaper costs, faster speeds and additional services like an affordable static IP address, among other technical things.

Is that too much to ask for? I certainly do not expect with our current customer base that we can have internet for free, but it is high time we move away from continuing to promote a 128K connection as “High Speed Internet.” Come on man, 128k has not been high speed since the days of dial-up, and the prices for a decent connection (1-2mb) in Belize can pay for a mortgage. Really. (more…)

Playa del Carmen vs. San Pedro

I have just returned from Playa del Carmen and what a difference eight months makes (date of my last visit). The beaches are now enormous and beautifully clean, loud techno music emanated from every beach bar which made relaxing on a sun lounger, without using ear plugs, a little awkward.

We should learn from Mexico that they do not let any mode of transport on the beach, especially from the bridge south as we now have a road, and also that they use people who have committed minor crimes to serve their community by cleaning the beaches.

What I found out by eating and drinking in bars restaurants and staying in hotels that due to the recession everything has gone up by at least 50%. Playa has now become far more expensive than San Pedro. Activities including diving have also gone up but only by 25%. The business owners are all complaining that business is terrible (although 5th avenue was packed every night, but noone appeared to be purchasing anything from the stores as it was very noticeable that hardly anyone had shopping bags), the tourists were all saying everything is too expensive.

Hopefully we (business owners of San Pedro) will learn that it is not always good or indeed sensible to put up prices as people will stop spending their hard earned monies here and go somewhere else which they may perceive as a better deal. My advice would be to advertise that we are now a “better deal than Playa or Cancun”, and that we will keep our prices in check so that you (the tourists/visitors) get the best value for your dollar.

Yours,

Peter Lawrence
Owner of Pedro’s Inn and Hotel

Concerning the Evolution of a Fishing Village

Mike Campbell – In the not to distant past San Pedro was a small fishing village. There were many lobster and plenty of fish of all kinds. Because of the vast amount of fish and lobster San Pedro and the reef were “discovered” and people started to come to San Pedro for the fishing. They stayed here a few nights, went fishing, met the friendly Islanders and returned home to spread the word. This helped San Pedro a lot.

Money was circulating as it had not in the past. The life of a fisherman is hard and except for the lobster it did not really pay well, but it seemed almost everyone benefited in some way from our visitors. As a community it was agreed that we should focus on tourism as the fishing industry appeared to be declining. This started the development of the Island and accelerated the hotel and tourism industry as a whole. As more and more people came the condo industry was started and bars and restaurants flourished, all of course owned by local folk who really appreciated the chance to make a better life for themselves. After all that is what development is all about. The government seeing this, designated Marine Protected Areas and Hol Chan to protect and enhance the fledgeling tourism industry which was based on the snorkelers and divers who came. This was necessary to protect certain areas from the fishermen who seemed intent on its destruction by overfishing.

In our zeal to prosper and develop we are forgetting why we are now in this position and why so many developers wish to participate. First thing we must admit is that the developers are here only to make money. They believe they can do so based on the amount of people coming here and the potential of much more tourism in the future. They are willing to ask for any environmental concessions we will grant. Of course the community does benefit in a large way from the construction and we all welcome it.

Now we are systematically dredging the coastline of San Pedro all the while admitting that it is prime habitat for baby lobster, sport fish and adult and juvenile marine animals of an incredibly diverse nature. We are doing this in the name of progress and development with part of the justification being we are not a fishing village any more, we are a tourist destination and need to allow this to happen to accommodate construction.

The most important factor in converting this construction activity into sustainable development is to understand why people come here. In a word its the FISH! Just as it always has been. People come to either see the fish, catch the fish and/or eat the fish and others come to make money from those who come to see or catch the fish. We speak of the Reef as if it were holy and it is. It is holy because it is habitat to all the fish and marine animals that attract our visitors. Were there no fish the reef would not be very interesting at all and no one would come. It is clearly the fish that make the difference but without the reef there would be no fish or San Pedro for that matter. (more…)

Formal Complaint about Costa Maya Reef Resort

Our names are Jason Davies and Rosalie Verwey and we are embarrassed to say we are owners at Costa Maya  Reef Resort.  We are writing this letter in regards to a recent incident we had involving  management and staff at Costa  Maya.  We were scheduled to stay at Costa Maya, along with friends from May 22nd to June 4th 2010.  We own a 2 bedroom unit which sleeps 4 people and it was just Jason and myself staying in this unit.  Wally and Sharon had their own 2 bedroom unit.

During our first visit to belize in 2006 we had the pleasure of meeting and becoming very good friends with a local carpenter named Winston Henderson who was working at Costa Maya at that time.  We keep in close contact with Winston and anticipate our visits with him each time we return to Belize.  In March of this year Winston and his long time girlfriend Ievette were married in Crooked Tree, we were invited to their wedding but unfortunately we could not organize our yearly trip to Belize for that time.  We decided that as a wedding present to Winston and Ievette we would invite them to come and stay with us at Costa  Maya during our trip in May.

Upon Winston and Ievette’s arrival at Costa Maya  on Sunday May 23rd 2010 we were stopped at the end of the pier by resort security and informed that our guests were not able to enter the property. We immediately requested to speak to the manager.  Rodrigo Noguera came out of his office and told us that it was resort policy that Belizean locals were not welcome at Costa Maya. We were absolutely disgusted by this and demanded that these were our guests and as owners at the resort any guest of ours should be a welcomed guest of Costa  Maya!  Since we would not take no for an answer Rodrigo finally said that Winston and Ievette could enter our room as long as we registered them as guests with the front desk.  (more…)

Concerning Dredging and the San Pedro Town Board

Mike Campbell, San Pedro – A walk on the beach almost anywhere in San Pedro is very disturbing for most residents. The beach erosion is appalling and has affected our quality of life. This extreme erosion has mostly happened in the last 4 years or so. The causes of this are rather simple actually. The extreme dredging that has been conducted all along the coast of San Pedro has allowed the deep water to get closer to shore, in some cases touching the shore with the resultant loss of the beach due to erosion caused by wave action. In the future big storms will do much more damage than in the past as the natural barrier to the wave action has been removed by dredging. This is irreversible and we will have to live with it.

Both the original master plan and the new proposed master plan condemn the practice of dredging on the east side of the Island and the D.O.E. has cautioned against it as well. Why then are we continuing to dredge the coast? The problem lies with both the San Pedro Town Council and the Government of Belize represented by the D.O.E.

Our Town Council has approved all of these dredging activities that provide convenience and profit for a few while the population as a whole is paying the price for the destruction our environment. Any developer thats wants to dredge has only to ask the Town Council. Our Mayor is on record as favoring all developments. This irresponsible attitude is destroying the island as we know it. At very least these decisions are short sighted and show complete lack of understanding of the ecology of the Island and how to protect our home. Even “responsible” local developers seek and are granted permission to dredge even though they are well aware of the environmental problems associated with dredging. They can get a permit so they will. The DOE acts directly on the recommendations of the Town Council and serves no real function except to legitimize the decision.

Belize has a fledgling sport fishing industry that is currently bringing in around $30 million USD annually and employs around 1,800 Belizeans nationwide. The Bahamas have developed their sports fishing industry into a 300 Million annual business. Our fishing is much better than the Bahamas as all know. Bonefish are one of the three major sports fish in Belize. They breed and are hatched off the reef in deep water and then make their way to the shallows where they live in about 1’ of water until mature. Bonefish tend to stay where they grow up. They depend on the grassy sea bed, the mangroves and sandy flats for their existence. Studies have shown that if the environment is dramatically changed they leave and never come back as they loose the memory of that run. The flats of North Ambergris Caye and the Lagoons are critical in the life cycle of all the sport fish. (more…)

Concerning Crime – A Solution Exists

Mike Campbell / AmbergrisCaye.com – The crime situation in Belize and San Pedro has escalated to the point where it has become the major topic in many conversations and personal safety has become a prime concern for many. Crime prevention, detection and successful prosecution require close cooperation between police and the community they serve. The community must trust the police to be honest and fair and the police must trust the community to be supportive and helpful. This cooperation between police and the community is the single most important factor to good policing of the community.

In San Pedro and throughout the Nation there is a distinct disconnect between the community and the police. This is true in spite of the obvious fact that the police are paid by the taxes of the community to provide protection and order necessary in a Civil Society. Police activities or lack of often form the butt of jokes by children and teens who let their disrespect be know at an early age. Indeed respect must be earned and it is difficult for a parent to instill respect for the law when it is sometimes difficult to respect those who are paid to enforce it. This is truly a serious problem and is no longer a laughing matter.

To move forward we must admit that the Belize National Police Force in its present form is not able to deal with the rampant violent crime that is shaking the very foundations of our Nation. Conviction rates are abysmal and escapes from custody are common. The community has lost faith in the police to protect them from the worst elements of our society as they are paid to do. Crime is a community problem and can only be dealt with by the community. The problem is not the police themselves. Nor is it the politicians who truly do want to stop crime and have done their best. The root of this problem lies within the very preconceptions that have formed Police policy and organization for all these years. We have never grown from a colonial police force to a community based police force. The Belize National Police Force is an extension of the colonial system where all power was retained by the Governor and communities were not allowed to police themselves furthering their dependence on the colonial government and making them much easier to control. Our very small population was also a major factor.

This structure and long established policies in the Police Force are primarily responsible for the disconnect between the Police and those they are paid to serve and protect. Without effective cooperation between community and police crime control will never be possible. The long established policy of rotating officers around the country has been our downfall. The preconception was that officers would become corrupted if allowed to stay in one place for too long. Of course this assumes that both the officers and the community they serve are basically dishonest. Our Police are never from the community they are assigned to and are usually forced to live in substandard conditions. Having no real ties to the community they are regarded as outsiders and do not receive the full cooperation of the community they serve. (more…)

San Pedro Business Association Safety Committee Letter

Date: April 16 2010
Dear Members and Supporters of the San Pedro Business Association,

It has been 5 months since we solicited funds for continued support of our 6 BDF and 4 anti gang/drug officers at our San Pablo Barracks. At the beginning of April we exhausted this pool of funds and we are now seeking your continued financial support.

Now into its second year, the project continues to be a success and we are now also providing a base and housing for our resident Coast Guard crew.

Due to the steady increase in unemployment and crime on the island, we need these 10 extra officers more than ever to assist in protecting the island residents and visitors. We have recently lost nearly 1/3 of the San Pedro Police Department’s regular force to leave, ‘incidents’ and training courses so it is critical that we ensure that our project continues through this upcoming slow season. The Police Department has promised us some replacement officers but it could be months before the processing is completed and reinforcements arrive.

Please continue to support this worthwhile project by emailing your pledge to info@sanpedrobusiness.com. Pledges from individuals and businesses in the range of $200 to $1000 carried us through the last 5 months and hopefully we can all do the same again. Payments can be made at the office of Sunrise Realty across from the Town Hall. Please feel free to forward this email to anyone you know who would be willing to contribute.

If anyone has any comments, questions or suggestions please feel free to pass them on to info@sanpedrobusiness.com

Thank you for your continued support!

Sincerely

San Pedro Business Association Safety Committee
Chris Berlin & Amanda Syme

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