Guyana-EU forest partnership will be worth €21M over next 7 years – outgoing EU Ambassador

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana

By Jarryl Bryan

European Union (EU) Ambassador to Guyana Fernando Ponz Canto will be leaving Guyana this month end, after an almost three-year stint. And according to him, during his time here he has seen Guyana’s economy taking off and setting up the country for a bright economic future.

During an exclusive interview with this publication, the diplomat reflected on his time in Guyana and the progress the country has made. He noted that while in Guyana, he was able to witness the economy taking off.

Outgoing EU Ambassador to Guyana Fernando Ponz Canto

Ponz Canto, who will be heading to EU headquarters in Brussels, the capital of Belgium, after he departs Guyana, was accredited in Georgetown in September of 2019. Oil production started in December 2019, three months later.

“You just heard it, one of the speakers gave some very interesting figures. Trade between Europe and Guyana has doubled, tripled. And many other things have increased a lot. I always say these days that I’m happy and sad.”

“I’m happy because I leave the country at a moment where I think it is taking off. And there is a bright future happening now. Many people still have to be part of it. But I’m happy for that. I’m also sad because I love this country. And part of me would like to stay behind, of course,” he said.

Ponz Canto also spoke about the role he played as the EU Ambassador during the 2020 General and Regional Elections, when democracy was under threat for five months as the election results were being determined. It is a role he played as one of the ABCE diplomats.

Ambassador Ponz Canto was among the group of ABCE Diplomats who walked out of the Ashmins Building after finding that the Region Four tabulation process was not transparent  (Don Singh Photo)

“I’m very happy about the little contribution that we could make during the political crisis in 2020. I think of course, the Guyanese, you and all the Guyanese, really making it happen. The final democratic solution that was reached.”

“But if we could contribute a little bit, I am proud of that. And I’m also proud of my team, who have been supporting me a lot, all the time. And perhaps, I’m also proud and happy and grateful that I was welcomed by the people of Guyana,” Ponz Canto said.

Forests & mangroves

According to the diplomat, even with his exit, the EU will continue its assistance to Guyana on projects that include its climate change mitigation efforts. He expressed happiness in the projects that would be turned over to his successor, particularly a forest partnership with Guyana worth €21 million designed to protect the forests.

“In the past, we have been very focused on the seawall. We have helped, I think, a lot to maintain the seawall defences. But in future, I think we’re going to continue to work on mangroves. We have just approved a €5 million allocation for doing so. And this is part of the sea defence.”

“But it is also part of the other thing that we want to do. Which is to protect the forest. We will have what we call a forest partnership, in the next few years, the next seven years. And the total amount we are dedicating to that partnership is €21 million.”

In March of this year, Guyana and the EU agreed on a detailed roadmap for implementing the Guyana-EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), which aims to improve forest governance and verify the trade in legal timber.

An aide-mémoire was signed by the Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat, and Ponz Cantó, at the Pegasus Hotel after a meeting with various stakeholders. At the time, Bharrat had said that the agreement in no way means that the country is “cutting down” on forest activities, but rather is ensuring that it is done in a sustainable, legal manner.