Colombia will not allow oil and gas exploration in the Caribbean department of San Andres y Providencia to protect the islands’ environment, society and culture, President Juan Manuel Santos said Saturday.
“I want to give everyone, all the residents of San Andres de Providencia, the news and the assurance that there is not going to be exploration or exploitation,” the president said during his weekly show, which was broadcast from San Andres.
The National Hydrocarbons Agency, or ANH, put 78 oil exploration and production blocks up for bidding in 2010, of which two were located in San Andres and were won by Spain’s Repsol YPF and Colombia’s state-owned Ecopetrol.
The decision was criticized because opponents claimed it endangered the coral reefs around the islands.
The United Nations estimated that an oil spill in San Andres y Providencia could be worse than last year’s Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Santos said he took into account concerns about oil exploration in the islands, which are off the coast of Nicaragua, after taking office and asked the Environment Ministry and Energy and Mines Ministry for an analysis and recommendations.
Experts looked at arguments for and against drilling, and they recommended that oil and gas exploration be banned in the islands.
The companies affected by the decision have been informed and were invited to explore for oil in other areas, Santos said.
“They understand very well that this is a decision that is based on priorities,” Santos said. EFE