The northeast region of Trinidad has the potential to become a gas and oil industry similar to Point Galeota and Guayaguayare which can provide a better quality of life for citizens who live below the economic pyramid.
This was the message Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley sent to constituents of Toco/Sangre Grande at the sod turning ceremony of the $196 million Valencia Intersection to Toco Main Road upgrade which will be undertaken by three contractors - LCB Contractors Ltd, Lutchmesingh Transport Ltd and Harrypersad and Sons. The event took place in Valencia on Wednesday.
The upgrade is part of 12.4 kilometres of a road network to the proposed Toco Port which will provide fishing facilities, a two storey administrative building, a marina for 30 pleasure vessels, boat lifts, cargo storage, 300-passenger waiting lounge, customs office and a coast guard facility.
A hotel will also be built to attract tourist.
The 20-month project comprising eight packages will be done in two phases.
Delivering the feature address, Rowley admitted that half of the country had little infrastructure, citing Toco/Sangre Grande as an example.
Since assuming office, Rowley said the Opposition had criticised everything they did.
“It matters not how loud we shout or who blames us until that infrastructure is built you will remain behind God back in T&T.”
Rowley said policies and programmes have to be developed to bring them on board.
He said the Opposition had accused his Government of wasting money when they awarded a $400 contract to Kallco for construction of the Cumuto to Manzanilla Highway, which was taken to court by environmentalist group Fishermen and Friends and the Sea.
“And we had to go to court and pay lawyers millions of dollars to defend the Government’s legal right to proceed,” Rowley said, which they eventually won in the Privy Council.
“But this Government did not give up and this Government will not give up. Surprisingly, as straight forward as that is it will offend some people. Some people will find something to fight about. If not this project, which one? And if not now, when? And if not the PNM who will do it?”
The PM assured the project was no guesswork, as they did an economic analysis on the communities in the region which depressed him after reading that “this part of the country with so much promise” was at the “bottom of the economic pyramid” due to lack of development and infrastructure.
He assured that the port and road network will create possibilities and jobs, increase agriculture production for residents and generate tourism.
“I don’t know who the farmers are but once the access for the land is there the first hurdle is crossed and the farmers will come.”
Rowley said the Government will also be able to tap into our nature reserves and forestry industry.
“It will bring us access, very importantly the oil and gas exploration that is taking place East of Sangre Grande and all the way East of Tobago. Who knows, but may be very soon. If we are successful over there on those oil wells that we can become as involved in the oil and gas industry as Guayaguayare and Galeota are because we are nearest geographically.”
Soon, Rowley said the Government will go out to bid for some of the acreages offshores.
“We have drilling taking place offshores. Toco could easily become a jumping off point to our eastern reserves as we explore and as we are successful going forward. The best part of the ocean is East of us.”
Rowley said the Toco port will be used to service the seabridge to Tobago, which spans 27 miles, using the US $17.4 million Galleons Passage.
Once the port begins operation, Rowley said the Galleons Passage will sail twice daily to the sister Isle, stating this would be the perfect transportation means to improve the seabridge service.
“This will take time to blossom.”
“I stand in closing the gap between Tobago and Toco and between Valencia and Scarborough because that is how you develop a country. I am in no popularity contest with these issues. If there is a fight to be had your champion is the Government of T&T.”
Reporter: Shaliza Hassanali