COURT RULING MAY COMPROMISE FUTURE WELL-BEING OF ISLAND RESIDENTS
A ruling by the Joint Court of Justice may force government agencies to permit activities that could undermine Bonaire’s valuable publicly held marine assets.
In an appeal heard on August 27th 2015 on Bonaire, the court focused on how permit applications for activity in the marine environment must be assessed. The assessment is mandated in the Maritime Management Act BES, a law designed to protect the natural marine resources of the BES islands to ensure healthy, sustainable economies.
The appeal argued against a lower court interpretation that could allow the permitting agency to minimize its assessment of interests related to permits. Plaintiffs argued that, besides the interests specifically mentioned in the act, other interests regarding the marine park should be weighed by the Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment. Support for this was found in the Explanatory Memorandum to the Act.
Though the Joint Court of Justice emphasized the importance of this case to Bonaire’s future at the conclusion of this hearing, the verdict, made available last week, declined the higher appeal in favor of the Dutch Ministry. The verdict by the Joint Court of Justice agrees with the decision made by the lower court, allowing the Minister to execute a more narrow interpretation of the Maritime Management Act BES.
Plaintiffs Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire (STCB), Stichting Nationale Parken Bonaire (STINAPA) and World Wildlife Fund Netherlands (WWF-NL) expressed disappointment with the verdict.
The organizations assert that “It is extremely important that the BES Maritime Management Act is interpreted according to its purpose: that of protecting the natural resources of the BES islands to ensure healthy, sustainable economies”. All assessments ought to take into account every relevant interest, and apply the precautionary principle, in order to protect the future well-being of the residents of Bonaire.
This verdict of the Joint Court of Justice has not ended the official procedure against Karel’s pier permit as issued by the Minister. The Minister still has to come up with a new decision due to the pervious annulment of the permit by the lower court in 2014. The current verdict does not change this.