“The current oil/fuel spill off the coast of Tobago threatens not just the island’s cherished marine ecosystems and the livelihood of many of its small businesses, but also highlights gaping holes in our border security.”
This is the view of Oropouche West MP and Opposition Shadow Minister for Finance, Dave Tancoo, as he voiced a critical alarm on the dire consequences of this disaster. Tancoo emphasized the immediate need for a comprehensive response strategy to protect not only the fragile marine ecosystems and the economic well-being of the many small businesses on the island, but also to address the evident shortcomings in our country’s border security.
Tancoo points out that small business owners in Tobago traditionally experience a significant surge in business activity during the present Carnival season; a critical period that is now under severe economic threat for them due to the spill. He emphasizes that the timing of this environmental disaster could not have been worse, stripping away a vital opportunity for economic upliftment for many in the community just when it is most needed.
“Small business owners who sell food, provide transport, beach equipment rentals, marine tour operators and tour guides, and many others will now face considerable losses due to this crisis. At a time when these small businesses typically experience windfalls in business activity and revenue generation during the peak of Carnival, this opportunity is cruelly snatched away from them,” Tancoo highlights.
The Oropouche West MP expresses disappointment in the authorities’ handling of the situation, highlighting the government’s conspicuous silence on the unfolding crisis. He expressed concern that information about the spill is more readily available through social media channels than official government communications. While the officials from the THA have been aggressively addressing the crisis, they are obviously underequipped to deal with the magnitude and coverage of the spill. He asserts that the PNM government by comparison seems to have wilfully abandoned Tobago to treat with the resultant challenges.
“I am hearing more about this devastating event through social media than from our government, which has yet to make it a priority. Their silence speaks volumes about their priorities; Tobago has been left to fend for itself”, Tancoo remarks.
The Opposition MP has demanded that a full investigation into this fiasco be immediately undertaken, as this incident highlights the gaping holes in our border protection which already facilitates illegal arms trade, human and drug trafficking.
Given that this vessel did not steer itself into Trinidad & Tobago waters, Tancoo asks, “Where are the crew? Who is the owner of the vehicle? What was it doing in our waters? And why is it that, more than a day after the vessel overturned, the authorities are still unable to ascertain of the vessel’s details concerning its cargo and crew? Why is it that our authorities appear clueless to provide details, given that any vessel entering our waters is required to provide detailed information about cargo, registration, destination, point of origin and facilitate tracking & monitoring.”
Tancoo says that, “the government’s silence on this matter underscores their failure to properly patrol our territorial waters or to maintain and use the functional security systems they inherited. Lord alone knows what other vessels are operating in our waters without being effectively monitored and what cargo and people are on board! This is the kind of shameful negligence by the PNM government that has facilitated the interests of international criminals in Trinidad and Tobago”.
“This is also the kind of bad-minded deliberate negligence by the State which has sabotaged the small and medium sized businesses in Trinidad and Tobago; this is a major crisis, and the continued silence by the Government is completely unacceptable”, remarked MP Tancoo.