Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 5th 2016 Contents A4
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, March 5, 2016
Environmental group Fishermen and Friends of
the Sea (FFOS) has lost its lawsuit challenging the
decision of the Environmental Management Authority
(EMA) to grant Petrotrin permission to conduct seismic
surveys in the Gulf of Paria.
In an oral judgment delivered in the Port-of-Spain
High Court yesterday, Justice Nadia Kangaloo dismissed
the group s judicial review in which it was claiming
that the EMA acted irrationally and illegally.
Kangaloo ruled that the authority had fulfilled it
statutory requirements to ensure the oil exploration
tests had minimal impact on the environment when
it granted the State-owned oil producer a Certificate
of Environmental Clearance (CEC) in December 2013.
In their lawsuit the group and its leader Gary Aboud
were claiming that the tests in Petrotrin s Soldado and
North Marine Fields would adversely affect the livelihood
of fishermen in southwest Trinidad. They also alleged
that by the EMA s not doing an Environmental Impact
Assessment (EIA) in Petrotrin s case they were prevented
from making representations to the EMA in opposition
to the project.
In response, the company s lawyers alleged that an
EIA consultation was not necessary for granting a CEC
for seismic surveying and that the fishermen could not
prove a correlation between the tests and lowered fishing
stocks in T&T territorial waters.
While she noted that the group had failed to present
sufficient evidence proving the negative environmental
impact of the tests, Kangaloo encouraged them and
other groups to continue to advocate and work with
the EMA to protect the environment.
In a brief interview after Kangaloo s judgment, vice-
president of the Claxton Bay Fishing Association,
Bhadose Sooknanan, who was named as a party in the
case, said he and his members were disappointed with
the outcome of the case and would consider appealing
In a press release issued yesterday afternoon, the
EMA said that Kangaloo s judgment vindicated its han-
dling of Petrotrin s case.
President of the T&T
(TTCA) Mikey Joseph
says contractors are
owed between $1.5 and
$1.7 billion by the Gov-
ernment and he has
identified the Housing
tion (HDC) and the Edu-
cation Facilities Compa-
ny Ltd (EFCL) as the two
main companies at fault.
The monies have been outstanding to the contractors
for the past two years.
Joseph described the debt as "extremely worrying
and troubling" since many contractors have not been
able to pay suppliers, creditors and banks and have
found themselves in a financial bind.
"Many are unable to meet their obligations. It has
not been easy," Joseph said.
To date, Joseph said, contractors (members) within
the TTCA were owed in excess of "$1.5 to 1.7 billion."
The TTCA has a financial membership of 95.
Joseph was responding to comments made by Prime
Minister Keith Rowley who, on Thursday at the post-
Cabinet news conference in Tobago, conceded that
Government owed money to contractors, but chal-
lenged the circumstances in which some of that debt
Rowley admitted that there was a problem with
"the government s financial ability to pay some of
the debt" and that the Government will take respon-
HDC, EFCL main companies owing contractors $b debt
sibility for only valid debts.
"I can t tell you what is the value of the
valid debt. I was not a party to the contracts
given out to members of the construction
fraternity by different agencies."
Joseph said the EFCL owed contractors
"in excess of $600 million right now," while
the HDC had an outstanding payment of
"$400 to $500 million" to its members.
He said while the $1.7 billion was valid
"in some cases there were certified debts,
whereby the contractor goes through all the
approval stages and you have a certificate
awaiting payment. All of our members would
not have had that at this time because con-
sultants are advised by clients, sometimes,
not to issue further certificates when they
are not in a position to pay."
In some instances, Joseph said, the con-
tractor would have continued working and
would submit their interim payment claim
and the client would not issue an interim
"Which means the debt is not certified."
Joseph said between 25 and 30 per cent
of the $1.7 billion owed "could not be cer-
tified. As far as I know our members are
generally scrupulous in how they obtain
Since the PNM assumed office last Sep-
tember, Joseph said, the Government paid
some contractors who worked under the
Programme for Upgrading Roads Efficiency
(PURE) in the last two months.
"I can t say what was the figure these
received. I really don t know. So the Prime
Minister is saying that they would pay valid
debts...that is good. But what he needs to
say is when will they start payments? They
should not wait until they have validated
100 per cent of the debt to start paying. By
that time the country might grind to a halt."
He said while the country was in a reces-
sion and the economy was facing some tur-
bulence, the Ministry of Finance should
bring some measure of relief to contractors,
who have been waiting months for their
Judge throws out
seismic survey case
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