Opec-member president says country was not looking for charity as he axes Amazon oil-patch drilling moratorium
The world “failed” Opec member Ecuador in its quest to ring
fence a portion of the Amazon rainforest from drilling for oil, the country’s
President Rafael Correa has said.
The South American nation is now soon set to allow oil
companies to drill in the Yasuni area of the Amazon basin after a long-held
plan to raise $3.6 billion from international donors in return for keeping a
moratorium in place was axed on Thursday.
Correa first aired the idea of keeping the 3800-square-mile
Yasuni national park free of drilling in 2007, the United Nations having
declared the area a biosphere reserve in 1989. It is estimated to have some 846
million barrels of heavy crude oil worth an estimated $7.2 billion value.
The president was looking for donations of half this value -
$3.6 billion – to stave off drilling operations in an area which boasts one of
the world’s richest ranges of wildlife and is home to two indigenous tribes.
In a televised address on Thursday, however, Correa called
off the moratorium, saying: "I have signed the executive decree for the
liquidation of the Yasuni-ITT trust fund and through it, end the initiative.
Saying it was one of the hardest political decisions he has
had to make, Correa continued: "The world has failed us. It was not
charity that we sought from the international community, but co-responsibility
in the face of climate change."
The plan is said to have only raised $13 million in actual
donations and a further $116 million in pledges, mostly from European
institutions and private donors.
Correa is said to have admitted that part of the reason for
the plan’s failure may have been Ecuador’s insistence that it alone would
decide on how to utilise the donations.
Last month, Correa set up a commission to evaluate the plan's progress which
concluded that "the economic results were not what the state had been
hoping for," according to statement published this week by the vice
Correa, a US-trained economist, has won broad popular support among
Ecuador's low-income majority with heavy spending on welfare, health, education
and infrastructure projects.
He says it is essential for the country to expand its oil reserves in order
to direct more state spending toward the poor.
Ecuador's oil output has stagnated at about 500,000 barrels per day since
2010 when the government asked oil investors to sign less-profitable service
contracts or leave the country.
Since then, oil companies have not invested in exploration.