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Saturday 16 December 2017
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‘Welcome to Tobago…stay’

IN JUST one and a half hours, His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was told about conservation efforts at Buccoo Reef, witnessed the re-enactment of a traditional Tobago-styled wedding and interacted with Tobago House of Assembly (THA) officials, British expats and Tobagonians during his State visit yesterday.

Shortly after noon under a blazing midday sun and amid tight security, the Duke was whisked to the scenic Blue Haven Hotel, Bacolet Bay, where he was welcomed by a Scarborough-based mixed choir, the Youth Quake, who dressed in breezy outfits of red and white, sang “Welcome to the West Indies, welcome to Tobago...stay” which drew smiles from the Duke and which set the tone for the visit as he mingled freely with guests and a small assembly of local and British sailors. Six Standard Five students from Buccoo Government Primary School showed Prince Philip a model of the island and the conservation of Buccoo Reef, which according to school principal Ronald Duke, had been constructed by the students over the past few weeks.

The students’ presentation was reinforced when a trio of conservationists from the London- based Coral Cay Conservation spoke to Prince Philip about conservation efforts at the reef. According to chief technical advisor Jan-Willem van Bochove, the Duke surprised them by asking about the effects of over-fishing and the protected reef areas.

“He was very knowledgeable and asked about the scientific survey which is presently being done at Speyside and even surprised us about the type of fish which are on the endangered list due to over-fishing. So he’s very knowledgeable about what is taking place and this was wonderful,” van Bochove said.

After a brief lunch, the Duke was treated to a re-enactment of a traditional Tobago wedding, complete with drummers and dancers performed by the Moriah Heritage Committee.

Prince Philip greeted each member of the wedding party, members of the Tobago community, including president of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association, Carol Ann Birchwood James and local pannist, Gerard Balfour, 21, of Pan Fanatics steel orchestra, who performed various melodies on the tenor pan. Shortly before his departure, the Duke was presented with a small bouquet of fresh garden flowers by Celina Pilstl,14, daughter of Blue Haven owner, Karl Pilstl.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, THA deputy Chief Secretary Hilton Sandy described the Royal visit as rekindling the island’s rich history with the once former colonial power. “The visit just rekindled our history with the British. You know, we were connected to the British, our first Assembly was with the British,” he said, and noted that the displays had all been done together with the THA as part of the climate change agenda which is expected tp dominate the Chogm meeting.

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