The Malta Independent 21 April 2019, Sunday

Gozo Ministry still pursuing White Flag classification for all beaches

Jeremy Micallef Sunday, 10 February 2019, 09:30 Last update: about 3 months ago

The Gozo Ministry continues to pursue White Flag classification for all its beaches “to ensure the best quality and standards”.

Minister for Gozo Justyne Caruana was answering a questioned posed in Parliament by PN MP Jason Azzopardi.

Azzopardi asked which beaches in Gozo are certified as plastic free; who carried out the clean ups; who certified them as plastic free; who paid for the clean-up; how much money was spent by the Ministry; and what were the future plans and timeframes in this regard.

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The four beaches noted by Caruana were Mgarr ix-Xini, Dahlet Qorrot, and Marsalforn bay, all three of which were cleaned up by four divers from White Flag International, and subsequently certified by a White Flag International Inspector.

As for the financing of the clean-ups, the Mgarr beach was financed by the Gozo Ministry, Marsalforn beach by a private company, and Dahlet Qorrot was done for free by the White Flag International Team.

In her answer, Caruana insisted that “the Ministry is working tirelessly to ensure that the beaches in Gozo are of a high level”.

“Gozo enjoys a number of beaches classified as Blue Flag or White Flag. The Ministry has plans to have all bays classified as White Flag to ensure the best quality and standards.”

When queried on why the Ministry is still working with White Flag International and its officials after the controversy that emerged, a spokesperson maintained that “the Government is committed towards plastic free environment agenda. This is also a target for Eco Gozo Directorate”.

No clear explanation for why the partnership is still ongoing was given at the time of writing.

 

White Flag Controversy

White Flag International launched the Rise the Flag for the Ocean campaign in Malta back in October with the aim of increasing awareness of having clean oceans for humans and marine life.

The Shift News recently raised questions regarding the eNGO’s authenticity, highlighting a contrast with the Blue Flag initiative.

Minister for Environment Jose Herrera was also previously questioned on the relationship between his Ministry and the organisation, saying that Compliance and due diligence checks on White Flag International will only be carried out if at any point in time it is decided that the ministry will enter into a contractual agreement with the organisation.

With regards to the €25,000 per flag raised, the minister said that he did not enter into any contractual obligations, and did not pay anything for them. He did note that he is aware that White Flag International might have entered into some agreements with the private sector.

Queried on whether he would continue to support them after these allegations of illegitimacy, the Minister insisted that “at this point these are mere allegations.

“I will do compliance if I am going to enter into a contractual obligation with someone, then I will definitely make due diligence.

“I'm following what's being said but I'm neither here nor there on the issue, and I don't think I should make a compliance since I have no obligations or contract with them.”

A statement from the Ministry said that any allegations should be addressed directly to the White Flag International entity itself.

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