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Daily News - Tuesday, 31 January 2006

Natural Monuments Commission created
President Leonel Fernandez issued on Friday, 27 January Decree 12-06 that creates the Commission for the Identification and Valuation of Natural Monuments of the Dominican Republic. He appointed the Culture Minister Jose Rafael Lantigua to preside the new government body.
To explain the reason for the new commission, the President expressed that the present government seeks to habilitate and attach value to natural monuments that have scientific, cultural or tourist interest so that these be conserved in optimum conditions for the use and enjoyment, both of the present and future generations. The decree indicates that the preservation and habilitating of these natural monuments will benefit the country and will contribute to an upgrade and diversification of the Dominican tourism product. The members of the commission are the minister of culture and representatives of the ministries of Environment and Tourism, and a representative of the board of the Cueva de las Maravillas, as well as historians Frank Moya Pons (the country's first minister of environment from 2000-2004), Bernardo Vega, Manuel Garcia Arevalo and Fernando Perez Memen.
The commission is appointed to identify the natural monuments that for their ecological, landscaping or visitor potential may be prepared and opened to intense visitation without affecting their natural conditions.

Parking meters for Santiago
The city government of Santiago has authorized the installation of the country's first parking meters. The company, Blue Parking Service is installing the equipment on Calle Del Sol and other highly trafficked streets. The parking will cost RD$15 to RD$25 the hour. According to a report in El Caribe, the project calls for the installation of 1,200 parking regulators in a first phase.
In April 2004 the city government had rescinded a first parking meter installation contract with Consorcio Parking Tek, of CPS Parking Service. This contract was reportedly rescinded for lack of fulfillment of contractual obligations.

Mella bridge direction change
The Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) announces that the Ramon Matias Mella Bridge (alias Puente de las Bicicletas) will be a one-way bridge from 5 to 8 pm until 24 February, when Duarte Bridge is scheduled to go back into operation. The bridge will operate in west-east direction.

Ambassador in Luxembourg
Guido D'Alessandro, former deputy minister of foreign relations and former ambassador in Italy, presented credentials to the Benelux countries. He presented credentials to Queen Beatrice during a solemn ceremony.

Charcoal-fired plant tender
Three companies are bidding for the government contract to build two charcoal-fired power plants in the Dominican Republic. Companies that have made offers are the Sichouan Machinery Equipment, HN Energy and Emirates Power DR. The 600-megawatt power plants would be installed in Monte Cristi and Azua. They would have a joint cost of about US$1.2 billion, according to a news story in Diario Libre.
The state CDEEE studied the technical and economical offers made by the companies yesterday. As reported in Diario Libre, Sichouan Machinery Equipment proposes to produce power at 0.257 cents per kWh, plus the commitment of CDEEE to supply the fuel, and purchase 100% of their production. Emirates Power DR is offering 0.3 cents per kWh and requires the CDEEE to purchase 30% of the power produced. This power plant would be built in Azua. For the power plant to be built in Monte Cristi, it offers a price of 0.29 cents and requires a commitment from the CDEEE for the purchase of 30% of the power produced. A third company, HN Energy offers to build the two units on the spot modality, or free market, whereby it does not establish a price, nor a minimum purchase percentage.

New national accounts system
Olga Diaz, advisor on national accounts to the Central Bank, announced that as of this first quarter the Central Bank will publish its national accounts statistics referencing them to 1991, and not 1970. The methodology that bases the statistics on 1970 data has resulted in the year's GDP showing an outstanding 9%. She said the first revision of the data will be available in April of this year. She said that at present the Central Bank measures the growth of 14 economic sectors. With the new methodology, 31 sectors will be measured. This will permit more accuracy in the statistics.
She defended the use of the old methodology, saying that over the past years, it has been adapted. She mentioned that both free zone manufacturing sector and the tourism sector, that were not important in 1970, have already been included.

Step backwards
Deputies Pelegrin Castillo and Jose Ricardo Taveras of the Fuerza Nacional Progresista (FNP) requested that President Leonel Fernandez revise the tax regime that now taxes the import of computers. They said to now tax computers and software is to step backwards. The taxes on computers and software had been eliminated in 1990 by way of Law 345, but were reinstated by the government in its fiscal reform implemented starting 1 January 2006.
They also advocated that the country move towards a broadband system, and that this become an objective of high national priority.
They announced they were sending to Congress a bill to promote the use of open code, and the formation of programmers. They feel this could create 100,000 additional jobs in the next ten years.
In an editorial on Sunday, Hoy newspaper commented that while the government of President Leonel Fernandez seeks to be known as an administration that supports the development of informatics and new technologies, the governmental decision to tax computers and software is indeed a set back.
"As individuals and collectively, Dominicans need to have increasingly more access to the computer and the Internet," establishes the editorial writer. "Without these media widely available, there will be no way to stimulate competitiveness in a world that is rapidly changes with technological advances," writes the newspaper. The editorial concludes that "computers should be tax-free." It states that: "No administrative measure, nor unclear application of laws, should work against the purchase at favorable prices of these tools that are essential for progress."

Dominguez Brito to seek senator seat
Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito is seriously considering representing the PLD and may compete for senator for Santiago in the 16 May 2006 congressional election. He would have to temporally leave his post to campaign for that position. Listin Diario reported that Dominguez Brito could be proclaimed on Sunday, 5 February at an event in the Palacio de los Deportes. In the previous congressional and municipal election, Dominguez Brito and the PLD denounced fraud. The JCE acknowledge the irregularities, but did not change the verdict. Dominguez Brito said he would announce his decision next week.

Hotel on Agua Luz grounds authorized
A report in the Listin Diario today states that the government contract signed with Dawn Properties Limited authorizes the company to build a hotel on the grounds of the Agua y Luz water and lights theater and to operate a casino.
Teodoro Tejada of the Colegio Dominicano de Ingenieros Arquitectos y Agrimensores (Codia) commenting on the contract stated: "All that is but a whim for them to destroy that and build what they feel like. They already took over the area of the Agua y Luz to build the Migration and Passport office and that was an aberration, never should have taken the parking to build that. To build, you do not have to destroy, that is not the area to build a grand hotel. What they want from the government is to buy the property at dirt cheap prices. We at Codia would like to see how this property was assessed," he stated.
He said that the Teatro Agua y Luz is a heritage of Dominicans. He said that in the name of modernizing, you cannot destroy. In his opinion, the Teatro Agua y Luz could be turned into a popular show hall. He also lamented the situation of the Parque Eugenio Maria de Hostos, that has also fallen in abandonment.
The hall was inaugurated on 20 December 1955 as part of the Feria de la Paz y Confraternidad del Mundo Libre World Fair. It was the work of a specialist in water and lights works, architect Carlos Buigas Sans, as reported in the Listin Diario. It Dancers from Lido of Paris performed there in its early years, and the performance of Spanish singer, Rafael de Espana is legendary.
It was restored by the late President Joaquin Balaguer in his latest term, but then leased to cook Mike Mercedes who did not run a successful operation and it again fell into abandonment. In the meanwhile, the past government of President Leonel Fernandez authorized the taking over of its parking area for the Migration Department.

Policeman arrested for shot in the air
The corporal who is accused by the parents and neighbors of having fired the shot in the air that killed one-year old baby Marcos Montero Gomez on 25 January was arrested and sent to La Victoria jail. Jacinto Solano Rijo fired the shot to celebrate the win of the Tigres del Licey in Las Flores de Cristo Rey. The agent was arrested at the request of the state prosecutor. He had already been arrested by his superiors in the Police and sent to ordinary justice to be prosecuted for the crime he is accused of. Solano Rijo admitted his guilt. The chief of the Police, Mayor General Bernardo Santana said they are waiting for the lab results. The parents, 31 year old Lisette Rosanna Gomez and 40-year old Victor Montero are accusing the corporal (raso) Solano Rijo. The mother was carrying her baby when she walked out to the balcony of her third floor apartment to observe the late night celebrations. She had to impotently watch her baby die of the bullet wound. In prosecuting the policeman, she expresses her hope that the case will not meet with impunity as has occurred in the past. Victor Montero, father of the deceased baby, said that in the barrio the corporal was nicknamed "the cowboy" because of the many times he had fired into the air without a real reason.
In its Tuesday, 31 January edition, Diario Libre reports that the police is also investigating a police colonel who was alledgedly "carrying" the corporal when the shot was fired.

Migrant trafficking is big business
The smuggling of Haitians across the border is a traffic that enriches military and businessmen, says Solidaridad Fronteriza, a Catholic Church movement. Priest Jose Rafael Nunez, director of the Servicio Jesuita de Religiosos y Migrantes said that the members of those trafficking rings are who need to be controlled by the government, not the non-governmental organizations or the church. He stated the people smuggling rings are made up of businessmen, military and farmers. He said that thousands are made exploiting the desesperation of Haitians to cross the border to seek work. He said that the strengthening of border controls just raises the price of the cross over, making more lucrative the business.

Free zone industries update
A report from the Association of Dominican Free Zones establishes that internal costs as well as the competition from China are behind the decline of the free zone manufacturing sector in 2004. Last year China apparel exports to the US were up 44.9%, according to a report in El Caribe. According to statistics reported in the Report on the Dominican Economy 2005 of the Central Bank, exports of free zones declined 9.1%. Exports in 2005 were US$4.591 million, compared to US$4.497 million in 2004. The manufacturing zones were known to cut jobs.
Dominican free zones have reacted to the competition with a diversifying of production. According to the National Council of Export Free Zones, in 2005 93 new companies were approved with a RD$4.2 investment and 10,467 jobs to be created. Of these 26% were in services, and 23% apparrel. Other areas were jewelry, medical products, footwear, cardboard boxes, marketing, agroindustry, metalworking, chemical products, among others.

La Vega carnival
Johnny Ventura was the star of the evening for the opening of the La Vega carnival, one weekend before it was originally scheduled. It's carnival time in the Dominican Republic and if you have not been to La Vega, be sure to visit on any Sunday in February. The event continues next Sunday, 5 February at 3 pm. This year there will be a special international parade on Monday, 27 February, Independence Day. While the climax is the last Sunday of the month when all the costumed-demons are out in force, every one of the preparatory runs on the previous Sundays is about just as much fun. The groups run down main streets, dancing, with parades of bladder-blasting pranksters trying to land a wallop on any viewer who may be in their way. Spectators are just as much of the show, as they dodge the diablos cojuelos. This year a devildrome has been habilitated in front of the Las Palmas Park, at Avenida de los Flamboyanes. The area will provide safety from the devils that are loose on La Vega streets.

Aguayo makes it again to Pan Ams
Raul Aguayo won the gold medal in the Panamerican Games in summer 2003 in sailing. At the time, it was said he had the advantage of knowing the site of the Games, Boca Chica, by heart. Actually, he was able to compete only because the Dominican Republic was home to the games, and thus had to present a team in every sport. But Aguayo has proven his worth. The Sailing Federation announces Aguayo qualified to participate in the Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Pan American Games in the Cay Biscayne, Miami round. 90 athletes from 14 countries competed for 8 unassigned spots of 12 in laser standard sailing.
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