environment

Ruling chastises ANAM

A tourism development in Bocas del Toro is in limbo after justices disagreed with an ANAM resolution.

paradise in peril: A Supreme Court ruling last month sided with two Bocas del Toro residents and the environmental group who sued ANAM for allegedly violating conservation laws by approving an EIA for Red Frog Beach development going up on the Isla Bastimentos. paradise in peril: A Supreme Court ruling last month sided with two Bocas del Toro residents and the environmental group who sued ANAM for allegedly violating conservation laws by approving an EIA for Red Frog Beach development going up on the Isla Bastimentos.
paradise in peril: A Supreme Court ruling last month sided with two Bocas del Toro residents and the environmental group who sued ANAM for allegedly violating conservation laws by approving an EIA for Red Frog Beach development going up on the Isla Bastimentos.

A recent Supreme Court ruling on a controversial tourism development has environmentalists cheering.

Late last month, magistrates overturned a resolution made by the country’s chief environmental agency, ANAM, which had given the green light to the second phase of the so-called Red Frog Beach project going up in a protected region of Bocas del Toro’s famed Isla Bastimentos.

In its way, the decision represents a landmark case. Primarily, because it is first time ever that the Supreme Court has ruled against an ANAM resolution to approve an environmental impact assessment (EIA). Secondly, the panel of justices went as far as to forbid the developer to start work on the second phase of the project.

Justices Winston Spadafora, Adán Arnulfo Arjona and Víctor accused ANAM of “ignoring” not only the interests of the community where the development is underway, and claimed that Red Frog Beach’s residential and tourism complex threatened to have “monumental” environmental impacts in the short, medium and long-term range.

The case wound up on the Supreme Court docket after the environmental group Center for Environmental Impact filed a lawsuit in protest of ANAM’s resolution in the name of Rutilo Milton and Delfino Hooker, two residents of Isla Bastimentos.

According to the lawsuit, Red Frog Beach’s location within the buffer zone of the Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park constituted a violation of several environmental and wildlife protection laws that took effect within the last decade.

Several activist groups, scientists and surrounding communities had felt that the project’s plans to build a sprawling complex of hotels, residences, villas and a marina in the possibly the most important marine biosphere reserves on the Central American Atlantic was ill-placed at best.

In regard to international standards, the Center for Environmental Impact argued that ANAM had violated four conventions ratified by Panama in which the country pledged to protect its marine ecosystems, biodiversity and work towards halting climate change.

Lina Vega, the center’s legal representative, said there is no doubt that the project exceeded the national park’s visitor capacity, a limit established in 1988.

Harley Mitchell, Supreme Court Chief Justice and director of Legal Services for Anam, said the ruling is a tool that can be used by the institution to improve its environmental management.

According to Mitchell, ANAM’s current administrahas perfected several aspects of its policy related to environmental standards.

“We are analyzing the ruling and are sure that it will be useful for environmental assessments,” he added.

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