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Daily News - Thursday, 05 June 2008

Fernandez at World Food Summit
President Leonel Fernandez, spokesman for Latin America at the UN World Food Crisis Summit in Rome, has called for the creation of a global solidarity fund to help poorer countries overcome the present food crisis. Fernandez said that on the local front, the current increase in food prices should be viewed as an opportunity for local producers to compete at an advantage with imports. He called for an end to protectionism by developed countries, and urged for a sense of justice to prevail in the pending Doha Round of international trade talks. He criticized the fact that only US$10 million has been available to assuage the crisis in Haiti. Fernandez told the audience that not only food is at stake, but that this is also a crisis affecting capitalism, finances, paradigms, social, ecological and possibly democratic governance. He said that cooperation and solidarity have been lacking. He said that if the world's privileged sectors continue to accumulate wealth and power, we would face a threat to civilization as it is known today, and a world governance crisis. He suggested an Emergency Action Plan with the backing of funds from a Global Solidarity Fund, coming from the 0.7% of GDP to development cooperation and percentage of surplus funds generated by the oil boom.
"History has taught that great changes that have benefited the peoples of the world have come on the heels of great cataclysms. From darkness has come the light, and at this time we need to convert globalization into an act of solidarity," he concluded.
To listen to the speech, go to www.presidencia.gob.do/app/article.aspx?id=9407

Spotlight on rural communities
The president of the Dominican Agribusiness Council, Jose Ramon Peralta, and Juan Jose Espinal, director of the Center for Agricultural and Forestry Development are calling for efforts to restore the desirability of living in rural areas if the country is to rise to the challenge of increasing its local food production. In an interview with Hoy newspaper, JAD president Jose Ramon Peralta called for increased funding, subsidies on diesel and alternatives for organic fertilizer production, to compensate for increased production costs and eliminate the dependency on imports.
Juan Jose Espinal said that major investments were needed in infrastructure, health and education for rural areas to make them desirable for farmers and their heirs to stay on the farmlands. "We need to find a model that makes living on farms attractive," he said. "The time has come to think of another type of farming, one that is long-term and makes more efficient use of water". He said that small and medium-scale agriculture needed to be made profitable again. They favor new technologies such as hydroponic farming.
During the interview with Hoy, the rector of the Higher Agriculture Institute, engineer Benito Ferreiras warned that in addition to its nine million inhabitants, the DR would also have to find ways of feeding nine million Haitians. Ferreiras said that patches would not work this time around. He said that the implementation of a sustainable action plan is needed in order to make farming sustainable and competitive as well as to guarantee food security.
In his speech at the World Food Summit, President Leonel Fernandez announced that the government would be launching a National Farming Competitiveness Plan, an action plan to stimulate farm production.

Media linked for emergencies
The Dominican Telecommunications Institute (INDOTEL) has announced the creation of an emergency alert system that will allow the Emergency Operations Center (COE) to warn citizens in emergency situations. The system will use radio, television, the press, and phone communications to get information out to the public. The resolution, No. 079-08, requires all these information outlets to adhere to the resolution. This will also allow the COE to use text and voice messaging services to inform the public about developments. The plan for COE is to give INDOTEL a list of key people who can easily help disseminate the necessary information. In case of an emergency the COE will notify INDOTEL and they will then contact the key information people. The types of messages that will be sent to citizens include red, yellow and green alerts as well as flood warnings.

DR, Cuba work towards agreement
The DR and Cuba are working towards signing a Partial Scope Agreement to enhance trade. President Leonel Fernandez held a meeting with the Cuban delegation at the World Food Summit in Rome to discuss strengthening trade between both countries. The First Vice-President of the Cuban Council of State, Ramon Machado Ventura headed the Cuban talks in Rome. The previous week, Eddy Martinez of the Center for Export and Investment (CEI-RD) signed an agreement with the Cuban Chamber of Commerce to promote bilateral trade and advance on the future signing of a Partial Scope Agreement. Martinez was in Cuba for the XV International ExpoCaribe Fair held in Santiago de Cuba.
Martinez says that both countries are looking into potential alliances between businesses as a step ahead prior to signing a trade agreement. Trade between both countries is estimated to reach US$100 million this year. The DR and Cuba reestablished diplomatic relations during Leonel Fernandez's 1996-2000 administration. The DR exports fertilizer, animal feed and furniture to Cuba.

Doctors strike - again
Yet again public hospital doctors in the southern provinces of the DR are going on strike. Although the strikes have received little attention from the government, doctors are using the action to exert pressure as part of an ongoing fight to obtain a wage increase and other benefits. The announcement came from Waldo Ariel Suero, president of the Dominican Medical Association (CMD) and CMD VP Eusebio Rivera Almodovar. This strike will be the seventh by the CMD and its members since February. Doctors are demanding, among other things, a salary of RD$58,000 per month, compared to their current wage of around RD$25,000 per month. The Ministry of Public Health acknowledges the need for a wage increase, but wants to peg this to productivity, which has not been acceptable to the CMD leaders.

Ozama for the rich?
The government, through the National Council on Urban Affairs (CONAU), has announced that it will begin to relocate 2,000 families living on the vulnerable banks of the Ozama and Isabela rivers in Santo Domingo.
The project, which was first announced in 1993, aims to rebuild the surrounding areas into a desirable residential area. The dredging of the river for boat traffic would also make it a tourist attraction. The relocation project is expected to costs upwards of RD$500 million for the construction of new apartments for poor families currently living in La Cienaga, Capotillo, Simon Bolivar, La Zurza, Los Guandules and Gualey neighborhoods. The families will be relocated to an area near the San Isidro Air Force Base.
Hoy reports that a Brazilian company has shown an interest in implementing the project with financing through the Brazil Export Bank.
Joaquin Geronimo, director of CONAU, said that he expects the project to begin at some point this year. In related news, Hoy writes that on 31 July 2008 CONAU will be absorbed by the Economy, Planning and Development Ministry (SEPD). All CONAU's functions will be taken on by SEPD, together with its budget.

Edward Osborne Wilson in Punta Cana
Eminent US naturalist Edward Osborne Wilson has urged the DR to increase funding for its protected areas, given that the country still boasts the greatest biodiversity in the Caribbean. He argued that protection makes economic sense because several valuable species inhabit these areas, which are of great interest to the scientific community and medical researchers. The DR has 86 protected areas that cover 12% of the national territory.
Edward Osborne Wilson, one of only two winners of the highest US science award, the National Medal of Science, and the highest literary award, the Pulitzer Prize for literature, the latter won twice, was in Punta Cana on the occasion of Environment Day, as the guest of the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation. Wilson won the Pulitzer Prizes for his groundbreaking books, The Ants and On Human Nature. A professor emeritus at Harvard University, he is considered among the leading thinkers of the 20th century.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Science, which awards the Nobel Prize, also has honored Wilson for his work in ecology with the Crawford Prize, an award covering the areas (general biology, oceanography, mathematics, astronomy) that are not covered by the Nobel Prizes.
This is his second visit to the country. On his first occasion, he was decorated with the Christopher Columbus medal for his work to determine the cause of the plague of ants that in 1518 caused the relocating of the first Spanish settlement from the East to the West bank of the Ozama River. His research uncovered that the ants thrived on an insect that had been imported in plants that the Spanish colonizers had brought from the Canary Islands. During his research in the DR, he identified 20 species of ants.
Wilson collected important amber pieces with insect inclusions that are on exhibit at Harvard University. He says that he found remains of a million years old insect that today only still exists in Australia.
On occasion of his visit, the Puntacana Ecological Foundation presented the 2008 film, "Darwin's Natural Heir," on the life of Wilson on occasion of his visit at the Puntacana Resort & Club, with the attendance of visiting students from Columbia University in NY, villa owners, environmentalists and the press. Wilson is a collaborator in research carried out at the Puntacana Ecological Foundation and its Sustainability Center.

MAP angry about rockash
The Progressive Environmental Movement is angered at the fact that another World Environment Day is here and the government has yet to punish those responsible for dumping the so-called rockash or fly ash in Samana and Manzanillo. Engineer Paino Abreu Collado says that although six years have passed since the case came to light, there is yet to be a definite decision on the matter, and the rockash has not yet been cleaned up.
In 2007 the Dominican government sued the AES Corporation for dumping tons of rockash in the DR. The case was tried in a Virginia court. In March 2007 it was announced by then Environment Minister Max Puig that the money awarded to the DR would pay for the rockash removal. According to Puig, the removal of the substance would end up benefiting the surrounding areas. Puig said that the US$6 million (RD$200 million) compensation that the AES Corporation agreed to pay would be deposited in a US bank and would be used to pay the companies that were contracted to clean up the polluted areas. No word from the government or AES since this announcement was made.

Ship with toxic cargo ordered out
The Ministry of Environment has ordered the MSC-Trinidad ship to be towed out of Barahona Port because it contains residual oils that have been deemed highly toxic. Victor Garcia, Deputy Minster at the Ministry of Environment, said that the substance is sludge. The Ministry also ordered an internal investigation into the Ministry's Environmental Management Department that allowed the Panamanian-registered ship to dock in Barahona with the toxic substances on board. A full investigation into the ship's origins and intent is underway.
The Dominican Navy is responsible for the immediate removal of the ship from Dominican territorial waters. Listin Diario reports that the ship originally arrived from the Bahamas, after its request to dock there was rejected.

AA cuts start in September
American Airlines has announced another round of flight cuts to the Dominican Republic as of September 3, part of a global effort to reduce costs significantly to compensate for the spike in fuel prices and a weakening economy. American had already announced the suspension of American Eagle flights from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Samana in the northeast, the latest airport that American had begun to serve in the DR.
The airline has 29 daily flights from the DR, including 5 to NY, 10 to Miami, 12 to San Juan, 1 to Boston and 1 to St. Maarten. The airline serves Santo Domingo (SDQ), Punta Cana (PUJ), Puerto Plata (POP), and Santiago (STI) and La Romana (LRM) airports.
Minette Velez, American Airlines Caribbean communications manager, now says that come September the SDQ (Las Americas International) flights to St. Maarten and Fort Lauderdale will be eliminated.
Likewise, after the peak summer months traffic is over, as of 3 September flights to San Juan, Puerto Rico, a very profitable route for AA, will be only served by American Eagle, and the jet service will be eliminated. Frequency will be increased from four to eight operations a day. AA flights from Las Americas International (SDQ) to John F Kennedy International in New York, will be reduced to one, from two. Santiago (STI) and Punta Cana (PUJ) will also only be served by a daily flight from JFK.
Earlier this week, Delta Airlines announced that it would suspend its JFK-SDQ flight as of 9 September, and reroute passengers through the Atlanta flight. The airline also plans to suspend its Santiago flight starting 15 September. US Airways has announced that it will reduce its operations to its Punta Cana route come September. The SDQ flight to Philadelphia could resume in November, the fuel situation permitting.
The director of the Dominican Civil Aviation Institute, Jose Tomas Perez is advocating tax cuts on aviation fuel and other costs passed on to consumers in the fares, to compensate for the record fuel costs. The DR depends on airline transportation, says Perez, who said that traffic is at around nine million passengers a year, including departures and arrivals. He said that tourism and the aviation industry combined make up 32% of the Gross Domestic Product.
These cuts in flights come at a time when several small Dominican-based airlines hope to enter market to fill the void left by the big companies.

Persons Trafficking report
The 2008 Trafficking in Persons Report from the US State Department highlights the DR as a Tier 2 country and urges the country to increase efforts to bring human traffickers to justice. The report also urged the DR to emphasize pursuing "complicit high-ranking government officials" who partake in this illegal activity. "The Dominican Republic is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. A large number of
Dominican women are trafficked into prostitution and sexual exploitation in Western Europe, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Panama, Haiti, and other Caribbean destinations. A significant number of women, boys, and girls are trafficked within the country for sexual exploitation and domestic servitude." The report indicates that the Dominican government has made some attempt to curb the illegal trafficking of people. "The Government of the Dominican Republic does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so."
For more information see: www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2008/

Loft shooter out on bail
Former National Police private Fray Pablo Villaman Toribio is now out on RD$20 million bail. Villaman was imprisoned after a shooting at Santo Domingo's Loft nightclub, which left three people dead. Villaman will be barred from leaving the country and is expected to make periodic appearances in front of magistrates. The shooting incident occurred in the club's parking lot last May, and while details are still not clear, the resulting altercation lead to guns being brandished. In the aftermath, Yasser Nader Rojas, Ignacio Antonio Manon Tapia and Fidel Ernesto Estevez Hernandez were shot and killed.

DR volleyball on a roll
The Dominican Volleyball team is on a roll after beating the Mexican team 25-19, 25-15 and 25-7 in the Pan American Volleyball Cup taking place in Tijuana, Mexico. The Dominican team has only lost once in the tournament, against Argentina, and with the victory against Mexico has secured a spot in the 2009 World Grand Prix that will take place in Japan. Brazil and the DR advanced to the semi-finals of the tournament.
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