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Commerce, Science and Technology Minister, Phillip Paulwell has hailed the recently held PetroCaribe Summit, noting that the achievements made over the three days, would assist the region “on the long road toward energy cooperation and integration for socio-economic development”.
“In fact, this is where the real hard work begins, as we move to take advantage of the many developmental opportunities available under this agreement,” Minister Paulwell said, as he addressed the closing ceremony held on September 6 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Montego Bay.
He noted that there was further work to be done “in areas of joint oil exploration and production, transportation, renewables, gas and in refining,” but expressed confidence that the accomplishments so far, would put the region “in good stead to take on the challenge of achieving the unity and integration”, which was vital to its progress and advancement.
Minister Paulwell said the spirit of collaboration, which characterized the negotiations, was commendable, and augured well for future working relations in the quest to implement the agreement. Reporting on the highlights of the Summit, which was held in Montego Bay from September 4-6, he mentioned the establishment of a Ministerial Council, while Caribbean heads arrived at a consensus on the laws governing the institutional arrangements for PetroCaribe.
It was also agreed, that the PetroCaribe Executive Secretariat would undertake strategic studies in each member country for the characterization of energy in the Central American and Caribbean region, in addition to research on ‘Advancing Renewable Energy Technology in the Caribbean Region’.
Additionally, bilateral agreements and letters of intent were signed between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the prime ministers or ministers responsible for the energy portfolio of member countries.
Mr. Paulwell pointed out that while all of the agreements fell within the framework of the PetroCaribe Energy Cooperation Agreement, each included provisions specific to the needs of individual signatory nations.
PetroCaribe is an initiative of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and was launched at a meeting of regional energy ministers in July 2004. Under the agreement, Venezuela will sell oil to participating Caribbean countries under preferential payment conditions as well as facilitate endeavours in exploration, refining and distribution of the raw material while supporting the development of renewable energy sources. The agreement comes at a time when oil prices are at a record high and pose a serious threat to small vulnerable economies.
On August 24 Jamaica signed the first bilateral agreement with Venezuela, which will allow the country to purchase 21,000 barrels of crude oil per day at specific terms and to provide for the upgrading of the Petrojam Refinery.
On September 6, heads of government/heads of delegation of nine Caribbean countries comprising Belize, Dominican Republic, Guyana, St. Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, and Antigua and Barbuda, signed similar bilateral agreements.