NASSAU, BAHAMAS — A Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government would release the Bahamas Petroleum Company’s (BPC) agreement with the government for oil drilling in The Bahamas, according to PLP Chairman Fred Mitchell.
In a recent interview, Mitchell urged the government to be “straight” with the Bahamian people regarding their position on oil drilling.
He accused the Free National Movement (FNM) of using the issue as propaganda for the next general election.
Mitchell insisted that oil drilling is done successfully in a number of countries, and pointed to miles away from BPC’s exploratory oil well near Andros, where Cuba is extracting oil out of the sea,
“It can be done responsibly,” he said.
“Any government looking at $5 billion to $20 billion of revenue would be foolish and unwise not to consider that as a possibility.”
Mitchell said a PLP government would release the agreement “without question”, insisting that the party has nothing to hide.
“The Progressive Liberal Party granted the license. We don’t step away from that. What we say is that all lawful activity in the country we support.
“I’m not sure why people are saying this as if it’s some big moral issue — it isn’t. The fact is, despite the environmental concerns, both things can coexist.”
He continued: “Given the revenue that they say may potentially be there, a government would be foolish not to consider it and that’s all that happened here.”
BPC was initially awarded five licenses by the PLP Christie administration more than a decade ago in 2006.
PLP Leader Philip Brave Davis has acknowledged his law firm represented BPC for a brief period, but said he severed ties due to what he perceived might be a conflict of interest before the 2007 General Election.
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.
The government has continually said that it is unable to get out of the “airtight” deal.
However, should commercial quantities of oil be found in The Bahamas, the government would seek to renegotiate its royalties with the company.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister said renegotiating the royalties would be in the best interest of the Bahamian people, noting that even though the government’s hands are tied legally, “every government can be persuasive”.
A Supreme Court Justice has granted leave to seek judicial review of the government’s approvals for the oil drilling deal.
The exploratory oil drilling initiative — which began on December 20 — is expected to be completed within 45 to 60 days of commencement and does not involve extracting any oil if found.