By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
TOURISM Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar yesterday said the petition against Disney Cruise Lines’ development of a port at Lighthouse Point will have no bearing on the project proceeding.
“The government has already made a decision on this. That project is going forward,” Mr D’Aguilar said as he rejected the petition, which had garnered more than 32,000 signatures up to press time.
The Freetown MP further doubled down on the government’s confidence in Disney’s ability to proceed with the project in the best way possible, insisting the developer was sure to handle the environment with sensitivity.
“I have said before that Disney is a stellar company that is world renowned for its reputation on the environment, on employment matters, on labour issues,” the minister said outside Cabinet.
“They’ve given us a commitment that they’re going to keep it low density (and) they’re very, very, very mindful of the environment.”
Mr D’Aguilar continued: “This is Disney after all. They are not prepared to jeopardise their incredible reputation over a project like this and so we are very confident that if there was one company that could develop this project and do it with the environment in mind and being sensitive to environmental matters, Disney is that company.”
Asked whether there had been consultation with environmentalists, Mr D’Aguilar said: “This would have been dealt with not certainly in my remit as Minister of Tourism, this would have been dealt with at the Investment Authority certainly when the project was being evaluated and brought forward. But government has made a decision on this so we are mindful to proceed and it is going according to planned.
“We need not forget that Disney has donated 200 acres to the Bahamian people for our free and clear use, so we still think that it’s a good deal.”
Of its massive support, the “Stop Disney - Last Chance for Lighthouse Point” campaign has said there is growing global opposition to Disney’s plan for the development of a cruise port at the iconic site located at the southern tip of Eleuthera.
On Monday, campaign organizers called on Disney to find another site for its cruise port. They also urged the conglomerate to work with local groups for a win-win alternative that would protect the unique site and secure sustainable economic opportunities for the communities in South Eleuthera.
A full-page advertisement in The Tribune newspaper on this new petition flagged the campaign’s viral traction, attracting some 20,000 signatures within 12 days of its public launch on July 15. It garnered another 10,000 signatures since the advertisement had been submitted for publication.
Campaign Director Phoebe Shaw underscored “it’s not too late” for Disney to “change course and find a different site” for its port.
“For the first time, Disney has felt compelled to respond publicly to the Bahamian environmental groups,” the campaign’s statement read, “but Disney still does not address the fundamental issues set out in the campaign’s website: StopDisney.com.”