Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar last night announced there will be some $20 billion in investments in the energy industry in South Trinidad as she emphasised the need and importance of the Point Fortin highway.
Persad-Bissessar was speaking at the UNC's Monday night forum at Tulsa Trace Hindu School in Penal.
Yesterday, environmentalist and hunger striker Dr Wayne Kublalsingh declared he was prepared to die by not taking any more intravenous fluids unless the Prime Minister appoints an independent committee to review the Debe to Mon Desir section of the highway.
Last night, the PM remained committed to the project, saying: "I again empathise with the Highway Re-Route Movement and Mr Kublasingh and ask him to reconsider his position in the light of the JCC (Joint Consultative Council) and Government meeting."
Persad-Bissessar shared with the audience her Government's vision for a developed south-western peninsula which would see some US$3 billion from BHP Billiton, Mitsubishi and Petrotrin.
The Energy Ministry, she said, recently completed a successful deepwater bid round for the exploration of oil and gas and last Thursday, Cabinet approved these which were won by BHP Billiton.
"The total investment associated with these successful bids is at least US$580 million and at most US$1,024 million or one billion US dollars. That is at least TT$3.7 billion or at most TT$6.4 billion in investment," said Persad-Bissessar.
This investment, she said, will expand the country and create more jobs for young people—including lawyers who will be trained at the UWI faculty of law in Debe.
The Prime Minister announced further that Cabinet also agreed to the award of licences to State-owned Petrotrin in respect of Trinmar and the North Marine acreages.
As a result, she said, there is expected to be heightened activity in Trinmar in 2013 and that activity will redound to the benefit of the people of the south-west peninsula.
Persad-Bissessar said that in 2013 to 2017, Petrotrin expects to spend $7 billion in the Trinmar and North Marine acreages.
"This will see the revitalisation of crude oil production from Trinmar—this is a stated policy objective of my Government. The highway to Point Fortin will enhance and facilitate the efforts by Petrotrin in Trinmar and North Marine," she added.
More lucrative fruit for South will include a $5.4 billion investment by Mitsubishi of Japan in partnership with Neal and Massy for the establishment of a methanol to petrochemicals project.
This project, the PM said, which will be sited in La Brea at Union Estate, is expected to start construction in 2013 and is subject to Mitsubishi obtaining all the regulatory approvals, including Town and Country Planning approval and a Certificate of Environmental Clearance.
"At the peak of its construction it will directly create 4,000 construction jobs and 265 permanent jobs," said Persad-Bissessar as she noted that Union Estate is in close proximity to the new highway.
She added that there are other energy projects for Union Estate that are being processed, including a project to construct a small-scale LNG plant to supply LNG to other Caribbean islands.
Persad-Bissessar further pointed out that in March this year she announced the discovery of a "jubilee field"—the largest by Petrotrin in more than a decade.
Petrotrin, she said, has commenced production from one of the wells in this field and it expects to gradually increase production in the coming months.
"That means revenue for the Government and it means jobs for our citizens and it again means activity in the south-western peninsula.
"The commencement of production from this field is part of a wider strategy for Trinmar and that directly impacts on economic activity in the south-west."
Persad-Bissessar stressed that these major energy initiatives "underscore the need for modern infrastructure in the south-west peninsula and that does not only mean a highway that connects San Fernando to Point Fortin but also connects Debe to Mon Desir".
The Prime Minister also said her Government is not afraid to make available any documents with respect to the Point Fortin highway as she outlined a number of facts about the project which include:
1. Minimal impact on the Oropouche lagoon.
2. Alternative routes were evaluated by Trintoplan and rejected because the cost benefits and the environmental protection required were satisfied by the current proposed route.
3. There is a robust process for reviewing the designs of the contractors and their consultants.
4. Environmental impact assessments were done and a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) was received.
5. Designs were done to reduce flooding.
6. The highway does not go through the archaeological sites.
7. Public consultations took place to obtain a CEC.
8. The current route connects the various towns and villages much more than the proposal by the HRM.
9. The south-west peninsula is a growth pole and the highway will open up tremendous investment opportunities as well as transportation links between Point Fortin and the rest of Trinidad.