By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
NORTH Andros and the Berry Islands MP Carlton Bowleg said it is "high disrespect" for investors to pursue a massive development affecting his constituents without consulting him first.
He was referring to a proposed multi-million development in Morgan's Bluff, Andros that would involve a new port, airport, healthcare research facilities and manufacturing facilities for harvested aragonite.
Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong, a philanthropist billionaire, is heading a group that wants to invest $200m to $250m over the first two phases of the project, which is called the North Andros Green Free Trade Zone. A formal submission has not yet been made to the Minnis administration but a leaked draft proposal requests work permits and promises more than 10,000 new construction, manufacturing and service jobs.
The Progressive Liberal Party came out against the project yesterday, saying it is not environmentally sustainable given the shallow water table in the area.
"The PLP does not support privatising the port at Morgan's Bluff and therefore the shareholders in the Arawak Cay Port Development and the cruise ship port should also not be allowed to add this to their ownership and control," PLP chairman Fred Mitchell said in a statement.
Mr Bowleg, meanwhile, said he should have been contacted before information about the project began to spread.
"If people could go and put something out there like that without the MP knowing, they bold," he said. "It's a high disrespect for someone to put out all these brochures of what they looking to do. And the project they looking at, it's like they want to take the whole North Andros, that is really just crazy. For someone to put out a bold brochure like that and not contact me, definitely I have a problem with that. I live here in Andros. Whatever decision is going to be made as far as North Andros is concerned this member will ensure the people have a voice."
The draft proposal speaks to harvesting aragonite in a water concession area and getting thousands of acres in land concessions.
"Whatever we agree to has to be safe," Mr Bowleg said, "not in a way that is going to be damaging as far as people coming in reaping awards that our children won't benefit from at the end of the day. I am not for it."
Mr Bowleg said he laughed when he saw what is proposed.
"I laughed because I live here and if you see what the project is they're looking to do, they're not asking for two or three miles," he said. "I look at it and I don't know what part of this lifetime, me being the MP, would let something like that actually take place. We would need to check out the EIA (environment impact assessment), make sure our water table is not going to be affected by that and it has to be brought to our people. Our people have to be aware about the pros and cos and yes it could be something sustainable, but it could also be a harm, so we'll have to see."
Mr Bowleg said North Andros residents are not desperate for an economic stimulus.
"I always say, under the PLP, we've been forgotten," he told The Tribune. "This is the first time Andros has gotten the look it's getting right now so we're used to surviving and we will continue to survive. We have a lot. We have our fishing industry and construction going on for a lot of buildings, we can sustain ourselves and that's why we will be wise. Androsians are resilient people but my voice will be heard for my people. For those people out of LA who looking to do such a great job coming here, you can't come half stepping, come through the proper channels. The main thing is we've been going good for ourselves and won't put ourselves in danger as far as them doing that kind of mining here," he said.