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Davis Calls On Govt To Reject Andros Proposals

PLP leader Philip 'Brave' Davis.

PLP leader Philip 'Brave' Davis.

By LEANDRA ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

lrolle@tribunemedia.net

PHILIP “Brave” Davis has called on Bahamians to urge the government to reject two development proposals for North Andros, which aim to harvest aragonite in the island. His comments come after this newspaper last week revealed three separate investment projects targeted for Andros. The most eye-catching is the North Andros Green Free Trade Zone being proposed by Los Angeles-based billionaire philanthropist, Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong. The proposal aims to create 750-plus full-time jobs, and 10,000 construction jobs over the build-out.

Some $200m-$250m would be invested over the first two phases of a development targeted at the Morgan’s Bluff area in North Andros, focused on “value-added” manufacturing involving the creation of finished products from aragonite and other Bahamian natural resources, rather than simply exporting the raw material.

Meanwhile, another group has pitched a proposed aggregate mining and land reclamation project that would generate more than 100 jobs - and a total $125m investment - at full build-out.

Reiterating his party’s position on the proposals yesterday, Mr Davis said while he understands the need for economic growth and employment opportunities on the island, every investment in the country must be “driven by the philosophy of Bahamians first”.

In view of this, Mr Davis said the proposals required “the utmost scrutiny” and “great circumspection”.

“We are cognisant of the need for work, jobs and development in Andros,” the Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador MP said at a press conference held on the island yesterday.

“We start, however, from the unalterable premise that the development of Andros must be driven by the philosophy of ‘Bahamians first’ and the people of Andros must be in the driver’s seat. Every investment must be cognisant of the need to protect the patrimony of our country for the future.”

His comments comes after the Office of the Prime Minister confirmed on Monday that the North Andros Green Free Trade Zone proposal had been submitted to the government for review. However, officials said the proposal had not been analysed as yet.

Saying his party cannot support the terms and conditions of the proposed development in its current form, the opposition leader said it is the “unequivocal” position of the PLP that the Morgan Bluff port remain in the hands of Bahamians.

He said: “We are strongly opposed to the divestment and transfer of this port into private and foreign hands. Furthermore, we are opposed to the ownership participation of shareholders in the Arawak Cay Port Development Project in the future of this port to add to their ownership and control of local port facilities.”

He also raised environment concerns about the projects given the shallow water table in the area.

“On the face of it, these proposed projects raise the urgent question of the environmental sustainability of these or any other proposals, given the sensitive, vulnerable and delicate ecosystems in Andros.”

He continued: “This is the largest reserve of fresh water in the country. This is the largest continuous land mass in the country. For all of these reasons, there should be the utmost scrutiny of any project.

“The PLP is diametrically opposed to any insidious attempt at a national asset grab by FNM insiders. We, therefore, urge all Bahamians of goodwill to insist that this FNM government reject these proposals in their current forms.”

After yesterday’s press conference, The Tribune spoke to several residents on the island, who raised similar concerns about the proposals.

North Andros resident Sean Riley said he was concerned that the projects, if approved by government, would negatively impact residents’ livelihood.

“First and foremost, I’m a fishing guy… so when you talk about mining aragonite here in Morgan’s Bluff, you’re talking about destroying all of that,” he said.

“In North Andros and in Andros itself, the whole industry rolls on bone fishing other than the navy base so when you take away those facts, you basically handicapped Andros so to give 500,000 acres to one persons and Androsians can’t get one acre, it’s basically ludicrous.”

Another resident, Mitchell Johnson added: “The two proposed projects, providing if Androsians are in the driver’s seat, I’m with it. If we’re not going to get anything out of it, no, we don’t need it.

“My reason for saying that is because I’m now at a point in my life where I can’t work so I have to be able to cut road for my children and grandchildren and great grandchildren so if we can’t be a part of it, we don’t need it.”

Meanwhile, Andros native Bernard Evans, president of the National Congress of Trade Unions, said while he “welcomes” the proposed developments, they must be presented in a “sustained way” that benefits the people of Andros and Bahamians at large.

“Sustainability is the key and we can’t sacrifice for a short-term gain and lose the whole island and so while we welcome developments and what not, it has to be laid out properly and what not in a very sustained way and we have to reserve for not just for this generation but generations to come,” he told reporters.

“.. And so as long as the economic studies are done and most importantly from any economic benefit has to be given to Androsians too and not just jobs but ownership and that is what I would like to see happen.”

Comments

SP 1 week, 2 days ago

This does not pass the smell test. We cannot be stupid enough to fall for yet another land grabbing snake oil developer.

Regardless of how much money Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong is supposedly worth, why would we be stupid enough to give him 500,000 acres without any proof of capability to actually produce anything? Does he have any experience in the aragonite business? Why givehim anything at all? If he has so many billions, why doesn't he simply buy what he wants?

This FNM government like Ingraham and Christie governments will also get swing by the usual crooked Bahamian lawyers and this billionaire. These people will promise heaven and earth to the Bahamas and as soon as the "toothless" heads of agreement are signed their project will drastically change and they too will disappear just like all the rest WITH the people's land!

Firstly, if we are stupid enough to entertain this nonsense, the government must be prudent enough to put clawback and proper escape clauses in the heads of agreement so this man has to produce per the heads of agreement. Secondly, any property should only be granted as needed for phased developments.

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JokeyJack 1 week, 2 days ago

Exactly 100% correct. How did this billionaire become a billionaire? Are there any connections whatsoever between any of his holdings and the Chinese Communist Party directly or indirectly or anything at all to do with China?

We truly and seriously need to stop this nonsense of giving away our land for these pie in the sky offers. Never forget how NOBODY was able to do a head count of workers at The Pointe. All kinda people went down there to "inspect" but came away more clueless than before they went.

The greatest point here also is that Bahamians have been BEGGING since independence to get a piece of our land (that we supposedly now own from the Queen) - and are 90% of the time told "NO". Stupid Bahamian, too bad for you, go the the bank and make mortgage !!!! This has to stop.

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moncurcool 1 week, 2 days ago

I have one question for Davis with his so called interests in Bahamians first deals. Where was you interests for Bahamians first when your government supported the Chinese company to grab BahaMar from a permanent Bahamian resident?

Clearly Davis is on a political talk. To claim the people presenting the proposals are FNM insiders, showed his is not about Bahamians but about politics.

Again, from pillar to post.

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Porcupine 1 week, 1 day ago

Reform the crown land fiasco first. Make sure all Androsians get first priority for land on Andros. If the central government can't get their act together and get this done, then Androsians need to force their hand. Do Androsians have any representation? I would argue an unequivocal "no". Haven't for some time now. So, Mr. Davis, instead of talking, why don't you move to radically and immediately reform this crown land issue that doesn't seem to work for Bahamians? Put all of your talents into making Bahamians first. Your talk doesn't do a damn thing. But, reforming this totally unfair crown land situation by year's end certainly would. Put your money where your mouth is, or sit small.

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tribanon 1 week, 1 day ago

It seems the Communist Chinese want the ability to keep a close eye on what's going on at the US naval base, AUTEC. Looks like we're soon gonna have Communist Chinese deepwater submarines spying on US submarine research activities conducted in The Tongue of the Ocean. And of course our supreme ruler Minnis is likely to approve whatever the Communist Chinese want to do in exchange for hard currency now so desperately needed by our country. We can only hope the US Embassy in The Bahamas is keeping the US State Department abreast of these most sensitive developments.

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JokeyJack 1 week, 1 day ago

I agree. Too many times the U.S. seems to be reactive rather than proactive on so many fronts and concerns. Hopefully they will have the vision to see the long term potential ramifications of this deal. China has been at war with the west for decades. One country seems to finally be taking it seriously - India - https://www.breitbart.com/national-se...">https://www.breitbart.com/national-se...

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tribanon 2 days, 3 hours ago

Repost:

Bahamians had better start realizing now that their choice for a PM in the next national general elections is not a binary one, i.e. it's not either Minnis or Davis. The constituents in the respective constituencies that these two idiots are nominated or otherwise allowed to run in would be crazy to cast their vote for either of them. They both need to be banished by the voters from ever running for elected office again.

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