NASSAU, BAHAMAS — If the government wanted to get out of the Bahamas Petroleum Company’s (BPC) deal for exploratory oil drilling in The Bahamas, it could, suggested Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis yesterday.
BPC has announced that it commenced the drilling of its exploratory oil well on Sunday with drilling expected to take 45 to 60 days to complete and with “the highest environmental and safety standard”.
During the PLP’s end-of-year press conference at the party’s headquarters, Davis was asked about accusations from the Free National Movement (FNM) that the Christie administration negotiated an oil deal that short-changed the Bahamian people.
“Governance is about priorities and choices,” Davis said.
“We are not the government, they are. This project and their actives are being executed under their administration.
“Whatever they deemed they need to do to respond to whatever they think they need to respond to, they ought to do it and stop pointing fingers.”
Davis said he is of the view that if the government wanted to get out of the deal, it could.
In the Senate on Monday, Attorney General Carl Bethel announced that should commercial quantities of oil be found in The Bahamas, the royalty regime will be renegotiated and the funds will be directed to the Consolidated Fund and the Sovereign Wealth Fund for the benefit of the Bahamian people.
Bethel underscored the move would only take place if the government approves the extraction of any oil found.
According to Bethel, the government consulted the Commonwealth Secretariat in 2019 on the royalty regime with the BPC and was advised it did not meet the standard.
He said the PLP left the amount at 12 percent on a sliding scale up to a maximum of 25 percent on the net selling price should commercial quantities of oil be found.
Bethel noted that the PLP government was advised of the global standard, “yet the rates stayed in 2015”.
Responding to Bethel’s revelation, Davis said the deal agreed by the administration followed protocols.
“The whole regime is governed by statute and if he could point to any provision of the statute that may have not been followed in the negotiations, then he should do so,” Davis said.
“But what was agreed to by the administration then was in conformity to the statue regime in which it stayed.”
Davis added: “If he feels that he can renegotiate it, then he should renegotiate it and get the deal that he and his government would wish to have.
“And if he is not satisfied with the deal he claims that we struck, then he should negotiate the deal that he would wish to strike.”
The Minnis administration has maintained that it is unable to get out of the oil deal.
BPC was initially awarded five licenses by the PLP Christie administration more than a decade ago in 2006.
In April of this year, the government extended the validity of BPC’s licenses to December; then in August it renewed BPC’s licenses to April 2021, and in November it re-extended that validity to June 2021.
Minister of Immigration Elsworth Johnson said when he served in the Office of the Attorney General he “did every contortion” to try to legally get out of the agreement with BPC.
Johnson said the agreement is “draft tight”.
A consortium of more than 80 local and international NGOs has filed a legal action seeking a judicial review of the matter and an injunction against BPC’s plan to drill for a test well.