HAVANA – Cuba and the United States signed on Monday in Havana a new environmental protection agreement for the joint prevention and response to pollution from oil spills and contamination from other toxic substances.
The document was signed Monday in the Cuban capital by Cuban Deputy Transportation Minister Eduardo Rodriguez and US Charge d’Affaires Jeffrey DeLaurentis.
The accord seeks coordination of the two countries to provide immediate, effective response to spills of hydrocarbons and other dangerous substances, in order to minimize the damage they can cause to marine and coastal ecosystems, and to public health and well-being, the document says.
Since diplomatic relations were resumed in July 2015, the environment has been the area where Cuba and the US have made the most progress – several accords have been reached to protect shared marine areas, preserve wildlife and protected land areas, and carry out climate research.
“The signing of this accord constitutes for both countries an act of significant importance in the noble aim of preserving for posterity the maritime and coastal environment,” the Cuban deputy minister said.
Rodriguez noted that exploring and exploiting energy resources, plus the maritime transport used for such activities, “constitute a risk of contamination for the Caribbean region.”
For his part, the US diplomat said the pact is one further step in Cuban and US delegations working together to protect the environment and in particular the shared area in the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Strait.
DeLaurentis said that establishing a mutual framework that embraces the diplomatic, legal and technical aspects to avoid, prepare for and respond to oil spills and protect the marine environment is particularly important for neighbors just 90 miles from each other.
At the same meeting, the two countries agreed to speed up the negotiation of pacts in order to complete them before Donald Trump becomes US president, since he seems opposed to such deals.
Since diplomatic relations were restored between the US and Cuba, there have been more than 20 high-level visits, 15 accords have been signed in areas like civil aviation, the environment and healthcare, and more than 40 technical meetings have been held, along with some 1,200 academic and cultural exchanges.