Government releases details of Sandals MoU
Photo (L-R): Adam Stewart, Sandals Resorts Group Deputy Chairman, Minister of Communications and National Security, Stuart Young, and Sandals Chief Executive Officer, Gebhard F. Rainer show a Memorandum of Understanding for Sandals Tobago, which was released to the public on November 28, 2018.
Government has released the details of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Sandals in a gesture of good faith and transparency.
The information was released one day before the matter was subject to judicial review as per an application filed by former president of the Joint Consultative Council for the Construction Industry, Afra Raymond, who requested the information be made public under the Freedom of Information Act.
Minister of Communications and National Security, Stuart Young, Sandals Group Deputy Chairman, Adam Stewart, and Sandals Chief Executive Officer, Gebhard F. Rainer, spoke to media following a meeting held at the Office of the Prime Minister for negotiations for the project.
Sandals Tobago MoU
Young said that throughout the process, both government and Sandals have sought to be transparent and open with the public.
"As the record would reflect, on every single occasion we have informed the people of Trinidad and Tobago. This transaction is not a secret transaction."
"The parties agree that this MoU is not legally binding but it indicates the sincere intent of the parties to reach a legally binding agreement that incorporates these terms."
"We executed a MoU to govern discussions going forward. We are moving to the stage of negotiation of commercial contracts and developmental agreement and other contracts which would flow from that."
"But until the parties have settled, agreed and executed these commercial agreements there is no definitive project," he said.
Young said the details of the MoU would show that there is the usual confidentiality clause to which both parties were bound, saying the revelation of this information is 'unusual' in the business world.
"It would have been very unusual when you have parties negotiating contracts...to issue the MOU to the public because the MOU is governing our conversations going forward. When sophisticated parties are in the thrust of negotiating agreements, it is extremely unusual," he said.
He said while in Opposition, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had conversations with the Sandals group about Tobago, and when he became Prime Minister he invited them for a visit.
They then identified an area which would be a suitable site for a Sandals resort and the government then took action to secure the site for development.
"There was never any intention not to release it, but as I said when you're in the middle of negotiations you can't release it prematurely. Neither party has any problem with releasing the MOU," he said.
He added however as the document was an intention and the specifics are still in negotiation, and none of the terms and conditions have yet been agreed upon.
He said the details of the project have not yet been determined and details such as the number of rooms etc are still unconfirmed.
T&T to own property, Sandals to run it
Young said that Trinidad and Tobago will pay for and own the property, either alone or in conjunction with other investors.
The project will be designed to specifications required by Sandals and in accordance with the Sandals brand and their development teams.
"The people of Trinidad and Tobago will own it, similar to the Hyatt model and Trinidad Hilton model that has worked successfully over the years."
He added that with regards to benefits, it was recommended that any benefits offered to Sandals be likewise extended to other Tobago hoteliers.
Government addressing environmental concerns
Young added that environmental concerns were at the forefront of their negotiations.
"Sandals has utilised best-in-class technology with their other projects in other islands and have actually enhanced reefs, they've brought back reefs that are dead, they've dealt with mangroves in the past."
"The environmental concerns for this project were first and foremost concerns that we discussed. The first consultants that we hired were environmental consultants," he said.
He added that the request for additional information from the Environmental Management Authority was 'nothing unusual' and indicated they would cooperate fully with them.
Young admitted that if the project were to adhere to the proposed plan, the existing mangroves would be 'affected', however he said this would be mitigated by transplanting or replanting of mangroves in other areas.
Sandals: 'Fake sketch' of Tobago Sandals project circulating online
Sandals Group Deputy Chairman, Adam Stewart, said a document circulating claiming to show the proposed Sandals Tobago project was never prepared by Sandals.
"When we first began this project we did a very early conceptual document...it did not take into consideration anything on the ground because we had not yet done the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment), which we are working through currently."
"It was a conceptual document that picked up on the success of how we've done Sandals over the years...how we would do rooms over the water. That document is not to be taken as a factual document because in each of the hotels we've done, we've done an EIA which goes from concept and works down to what's in harmony with nature," he said.
"This document has never been seen by Sandals Resorts. It has never been seen by the government of Trinidad and Tobago, it was recreated by someone," he said.
He said the structure showing a restaurant over the water and overwater structures in No Man's Land was never done by Sandals.
(Photo: Adam Stewart, Sandals Group Deputy Chairman, Minister of Communications and National Security, Stuart Young, and Sandals Chief Executive Officer, Gebhard F. Rainer show a fake drawing for the Tobago Sandals project which they said Sandals never issued.)
(Photo: Adam Stewart, Sandals Group Deputy Chairman, Minister of Communications and National Security, Stuart Young, and Sandals Chief Executive Officer, Gebhard F. Rainer show the correct drawing for the proposed Tobago Sandals project.)
Minister Young also cautioned the public against accepting information from sources apart from the government or Sandals.
No intent to bar public from No Man's Land
Young emphasised that the Sandals Tobago project does not intend to occupy or block access to Sheerbird's Point, also known as No Man's Land.
"No part of this project was designed whatsoever to interfere with No Man's Land," Young said.
He said Sandals intended to enhance the area by adding facilities like bathrooms.
"Contrary what people suggest, No Man's Land has not been properly maintained," he said, referring to garbage which was dumped in the area.
Sandals Group Deputy Chairman, Adam Stewart, said that Sandals intends to give out at advance notice (at least six months) regarding the employment and procurement of produce from local farmers to supply to the resort.
"We create dreams for our customers, but there's a lot of moving parts that have to take place."
He said the project has the ability to bring up to 80,000 visitors to Tobago per year and to bring an economic impact of up to US$80 million per year. He said the resort could also employ up to 2,000 Tobagonians and Trinidadians all year round.
He added that the project will require training for Tobagonian people and the implementation of systems and development in agriculture and manufacturing.
Stewart also addressed the wastewater issue, saying the waste treatment water would be converted to grey water which would be used for crop irrigation.
Stewart added that it was the intention that in 10 years Tobago would become an international luxury vacation destination.
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