(1) Mr. Speaker, you would have been aware of the concerns raised through the various public media and other fora about potential environmental risks to the proposed Chinese investment in the Goat Islands and greater Portland Bight Protected Area. Indeed, the Cabinet and the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing have been giving consideration to these issues and have been engaging stakeholders towards ensuring that any decision to proceed is based on a factual assessment of the associated risks and implementation of any required mitigation and protection mechanisms.
(2) Mr Speaker, it is therefore important that I use this opportunity to steer the discourse away from much of the controversy, wild assertions and baseless speculation that have been taking place in the public sphere.
(3) Upon assuming office in January 2012, this Administration inherited a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Port Authority of Jamaica and the China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), under which CHEC would carry out investigations to determine whether they would enter in to a definitive agreement for the development of Fort Augusta as a trans-shipment port.
(4) You will recall that, in her 2013/2014 Budget Presentation, the Most Honourable Prime Minister informed this Honourable House and the country of the fact that CHEC, having completed its analysis of the Fort Augusta location, came to the conclusion that it did not sufficiently qualify for such a development, partly because the scope and nature of their proposed project had expanded in the ensuing period. Consequently, CHEC sought the GOJ’s agreement to an ADDENDUM to the MOU which would allow extra time for assessing alternative locations.
(5) Having been advised of the changing situation, the Cabinet on April 21, 2013 approved an Addendum to the existing MOU between the Port Authority and CHEC to allow the investors to undertake the necessary feasibility studies/due diligence of the project. This would include consideration of the technical, financial and environmental factors, to facilitate the refinement of a final proposal that would be submitted to the Government of Jamaica. The period of assessment is one year and is expected to be completed by the end of April 2014. At that time a decision will be made as to whether to proceed to a conclusive agreement, providing that all social, developmental and environmental issues have been addressed and the requisite regulatory permits are in place.
(6) Whilst this assessment is being carried out, officials of the GOJ, in particular those from the Port Authority, have remained in constant dialogue with CHEC. It is through this interaction that the GOJ was informed that CHEC’s first choice for the development was Goat Island and lands to the north on the mainland.
(7) I have instructed the Port Authority to continue its assessment and monitoring of the proposed project area to undertake detailed environmental and feasibility studies, and to offer effective guidance to the Chinese investors about the required development processes and approvals which must be followed or attained, before any final proposal is put to the Cabinet for consideration.
(8) In this regard the Port Authority has commissioned an Environmental Management Scoping Project to identify precisely the levels of interest in Portland Bight and the principal bio-physical and socio-cultural characteristics.
(9) Among the objectives of this study are:
•Determining the geographic boundaries of the Portland Bight Protected Area
•Conducting archival research on the historical use of the area
•Identifying applicable international and national environmental policies, legislation, regulations and standards for the area
•Identifying the biologically sensitive features of the marine and terrestrial environment
•Determining the location of rare, threatened and endangered species and their spatial distribution in the Portland Bight and Ridge Area and the Goat Islands
•Identifying the boundaries of fish sanctuaries…Continue reading and download the entire speech