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Daily News - Wednesday, 30 July 2008

New foreign trade center
President Leonel Fernandez opened the new Institute of Foreign Trade and Business Innovation of the Dominican Republic (I-CEi) yesterday, a training center for the development of foreign trade and investment last night. The facility was built at a cost of RD$180 million donated by the Japanese Agency for International Cooperation (JICA). Two Japanese firms, Yamashita Sekkei Inc. and Fujita Corporation, were responsible for the construction.
The Japanese ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Shinomiya Nobutaka, emphasized the ties between the two nations and cooperation among governments over the years.
The center, located on Luperon Avenue adjacent to the Center for Export and Investment, is designed to strengthen foreign trade by training Dominicans in export business practices.
The director general of the Center for Exports and Investments (CEI-RD), Eddy Martinez, said that the new institution is comparable to any regional higher learning center.
Speaking at the inaugural, Martinez said the Institute will contribute to the goal of doubling exports in the next four years. Exports are now at US$6.5 billion.
He explained the I-CEi will train executives from large Dominican corporations with exports of US$300 million or more to convert these to global companies and at the same time prepare executives of small and medium-sized business so their companies can export.

Fernandez to Colombian summit
President Leonel Fernandez will travel to Cartagena, Colombia to attend the Cartagena Summit on Drugs this weekend. Six heads of state will attend. President Fernandez will be joined by El Salvador's Elias Saca, Guatemala's Alvaro Colom, Panama's Martin Torrijos, Mexico's Felipe Calderon and Colombia's Alvaro Uribe. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will be represented by his Minister of the Interior, Ramon Rodriguez Chacin. President Uribe is slated to give the opening speech on Friday.

ITB recommends Sans Souci
The ITB Berlin, the world's leading convention and conference authority, has recommended that the best site for the construction of an exhibition, meetings and convention facility for the city of Santo Domingo is the site of the Dominican Naval Academy on the east bank of Ozama River. The site has been ceded to Inversiones Sans Souci for a major hotel, shopping and residential development. The Sans Souci site is adjacent to the Columbus Lighthouse Memorial, the Santo Domingo Aquarium and the Santo Domingo Park of the East sports facility.
At a presentation last night, David Ruetz, senior project manager for ITB Berlin, urged the DR to go forward with the plans for the site. ITB Berlin was commissioned by the Ministry of Tourism to carry out the feasibility study on occasion of the DR being Partner Country of the 2008 ITB Bourse. Ruetz is in the DR to present the results of the study. "The Ministry now needs to study the study," said Ruetz. Among his recommendations is that the site be an architectural landmark, in the style of the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Center, and most important that it be an integral part of the community so that it be successful, he said. Ruetz also recommended that the groundwork be carried out so "not to make it too big."
Tourism Minister Felix Jimenez at the same presentation at the Embassy of German announced that the study recommends a facility with capacity for 5,000 to 10,000 visitors, and would require the construction of an additional 3,000 hotel rooms in the city, 50% of which would go up in Sans Souci development itself. Speaking optimistically about the positive effects the new convention facility would have on the capital city of the DR, Jimenez said they would work so that in three or four years time a Caribbean version of ITB Berlin could be held in Santo Domingo.

Tourism suspends Samana constructions
The Ministry of Tourism has ordered the halt to all new projects in certain areas of Las Terrenas, on the Samana Peninsula. The Resolution 02/2008, signed by Minister Feliz Jimenez, freezes the approval for new projects "from the east side of the El Catey Airport to the Bahia Principe Portillo Resort. The second paragraph of the Resolution says that the proportion of rooms, according to an earlier Resolution (02/2007) must be maintained at 25 rooms per hectare, and this includes the area from the east side of El Catey Airport to the limits of Coson.
Lastly, the Resolution says that promoters should provide detailed description of their reforestation plans or foresting programs so as to replace trees lost during construction of new developments.

Cardinal wants an end to SS conflicts
Dominican Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez told reporters that he wants to see an end to the conflicts between stakeholders in the Social Security system. At the same time he wants to see an improvement in their weaker areas. He said that the government and the health care providers need to sit down and analyze what are the weak points of the law in order for the public to be benefits. He repeated that he believes in the idea of Social Security, but he warned that the way it is being carried out in the Dominican Republic is not the best way. He was referring to the stream of conflicts between the health care providers and the health insurance agencies.

CESFRONT beefs up patrols
The Specialized Frontier Corps (Cesfront) has reinforced its patrols along the Dominican-Haitian border in response to increasingly violent protests in Haiti. The protests have to do with the rising costs of foodstuffs. Cape Haitian, Fort Liberte and Juana Mendez were affected by riots. The Cesfront posts in Dajabon, Montecristi, Manzanillo and Loma de Cabrera were reinforced by members of the 10th Battalion of the Army stationed in Mao. According to Colonel Atahualpa Valenzuela, the unit commander, no shots had been fired as of 10 o'clock last night. The protests originated due to a decrease in foreign assistance to Haiti, an increase in the cost of food and the ever-increasing price of petroleum products.

A warning on mixed service stations
The chief of the Santo Domingo Fire Department, Oscar Guillermo Garcia called for the government to invest in improving conditions of Fire Department stations prior to the authorization of mixed fuel service stations, offering gasoline, diesel, propane and natural gas to vehicles.
Chief Garcia said that the firemen "work for miserable salaries." He said there is only one unit and three technicians in the entire country that are tained to handle dangerous materials.
He pointed out that the way in which a propane leak is handled is very different from the way an oil spill is handled. In his opinion, because of this the security surrounding a station selling LPG is different from that at a gasoline station. He reminded reporters that many service stations have areas where food, cigarettes and alcoholic beverages are sold, and where even parties take place. He said this should not happen at a propane facility.

Chevron could buy the tankers
The Chevron-Texaco Company told the mediators at yesterday's meeting that they are willing to purchase the tankers involved in the dispute that has cost the company millions. Chevron had cancelled the contracts on 25 units that hauled petroleum products to the company's gasoline stations around the county. As a result, the tanker owners and drivers syndicates called for a boycott on all deliveries to Texaco stations.
With government mediators led by Vice-President Rafael Alburquerque and with invited mediator Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado present, the Chevron-Texaco representatives said that they would purchase the trucks. The syndicates have argued they had made multimillion investments to service Chevron.
According to Hoy, these trucks would be worth RD$375 million. This proposal came after company representatives flatly rejected a government and tanker owner and driver proposal that would have renewed the contracts for a one-time period of two years.
Attending the meeting for Chevron were Sandra Grullon and Hector Infante. Clemente Morillo represented the tanker drivers syndicate (SACTPA). Morillo, as reported in Hoy, said that the proposal should include a guarantee that Chevron would find jobs for the drivers.
Nelson Crespo, who is the president of the Association of Petroleum Tankers (ATP) and himself the owner of at least 14 of the 25 vehicles involved in the dispute, said he would submit a proposal for the sale of the tankers to Chevron via the Vice President's office. Vice-President Alburquerque said that once he receives the proposal he will convene another meeting of the parties.
Also mediating in the conflict are Reverend Manuel Estrella and former president of the Council of Business (Conep), Celso Marranzini.

Electricity rate increase?
The Dominican Corporation of State Electricity Enterprises (CDEEE) is working with a huge, billion dollar deficit, and according to the press release handed out by the executive vice-president, Radhames Segura, there are only four alternatives available: One is to renegotiate the current terms of the Madrid Accord; the second is to transfer some payments into the 2009 budget; a third is to access funds from the 2008 complementary budget and the fourth is to increase the electricity rates. According to the Nuevo Diario, Segura said that the projected deficit will be US$1.32 billion, and only 49.3% of this sum is covered in the budget. He said that the main problem is the cost of fuel that has increased by 20%. Segura did say that an increase in the electricity rates would be a last alternative to solving the deficit.

No cedulas for Haitians
The much-discussed personal identification card known as the "cedula" will not be issued to Haitians by Dominican authorities, the head of the Central Electoral Board (JCE), magistrate Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman clarified yesterday. According to explanations from the president of the JCE, there is confusion regarding a project of the Organization of the American States (OAS) that seeks to provide Haitian immigrants in the DR, legal or illegal, with Haitian identification cards. According to Castanos Guzman, the OAS project would be similar to the process that the JCE uses to document Dominicans that live in the United States or Europe, regardless of their legal status.
Castanos Guzman explained that the OAS has requested that the JCE, because of its organizational experience in a similar process, assist the Haitian government in its efforts to provide "Haitian cedulas" to its citizens. To that end there will be an office for this purpose at the Haitian consulate in Santo Domingo.

EPA signing postponed again
A third date for the signing ceremony for the full Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union, the Caribbean Community plus the Dominican Republic has been announced for 2 September in Barbados, as reported by the Nation News, Barbados' leading newspaper. The agreement involves 15 Caribbean states and 27 European Union countries.
The Nation News attributes the second postponement to internal differences among labor unions, non-government organizations and parliament in several Caribbean Community countries to the signing of the agreement in its present form.
As reported in the Nation News of Barbados: "Just last Wednesday, Sir Shridath Ramphal, the former chairman of The West Indian Commission and first Chief Negotiator of the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM), argued in an interview with the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that it was 'not too late' for the Caribbean to pull out of the EPA as the European themselves were now examining "flaws in the accord", and that precedents existed for a reasonable pause for serious review."

Mets invest US$8 million in ballplayers
The New York Mets baseball club has invested US$8 million in their new baseball academy near Boca Chica in the south of the Dominican Republic to produce Major League prospects. President Leonel Fernandez threw the opening pitch at the ceremonies. At the event, Omar Minaya, the Mets' general manager and Jeff Wilpon, the Mets' president and COO, handed high school diplomas to two of the first prospects. Education is a strong part of the program. The Mets paid US$6 million for the land and spent an additional US$2 million on the facility that includes two baseball fields. One of fields has an artificial grass infield and the other one is an exact dimensional duplicate of the soon-to-be-completed Citi Field, the new home of the Mets as of next season. Even the outfield fences are the same height.
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