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Daily News - Monday, 09 February 2009

Moving on the 2nd metro line
The government is moving fast on the second line of the metro. According to the Metro Office (OPRET), three companies filed proposals of 20 that had been pre-selected to participate in the tender. The tender was called on 2 December and closed on 30 January, as reported in Diario Libre. As reported, the bidding also would chose the builder and operator of the Santo Domingo-Santiago train. According to press reports, the winner would be selected on 13 February. The first 14.5 km line of the metro went into operation in January, to the acclaim of users. The second line would cross from Los Alcarrizos in the north of the province of Santo Domingo Oeste to San Luis in the far eastern province of Santo Domingo Este.

JCE to correct civil documents
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) has authorized that birth certificates and other civil documents be issued regardless of whether there are minor mistakes in the registry books. The interested parties need now only to bring other documents with the correct information. Until this announcement, those needing a document had to obtain corrections through a lengthy and costly court procedure, costing upwards of RD$20,000 for the correction.
Jose Angel Aquino, Coordinator of the JCE's Commission of Civil Registries said, "because of the irregularities in the books and the lack of coordination between the first and second original registry books a person could be called Denis (spelled Deniss in one book and Denis in the second) and could have spent their whole lives being called Denis." He pointed to an example of a woman whose documents had her name spelled as "Mayra" in one book and "Maira," in a second book. He added that once the correction is accepted the offices will be notified so the incorrect documents are no longer issued. Many of the errors have happened in the process of digitalizing the civil registry information.
Aquino added that all new decisions by the JCE will be placed in a new book and given to the civil registries, so they know what is going on.

Acting in favor of the turtles
The Ministry of Environment has ordered the confiscating of thousands of turtle shell crafts being sold to tourists. There is a ban on the sale of these crafts locally, but the authorities for years have looked the other way. Last week the Ministry of Environment began to confiscate goods at hotel shops, malls and gift shops in Santo Domingo, Juan Dolio and Punta Cana. El Caribe newspaper reported that the stores at the Santo Domingo Hilton, V Centenario Inter-Continental, Embajador, Dominican Fiesta, Renaissance Jaragua and Barcelo Lina were carrying the illegal goods. The authorities visited shops in the Modelo Market and others on Mella Avenue, as well as in the Colonial City (Isabel la Catolica, El Conde and Arzobispo Merino streets), and at the Las Americas International Airport. In El Cortecito, Bavaro, hundreds of crafts in turtle shell were confiscated.
Handbags, bracelets, earrings, boxes, hair accessories, and whole turtles, with prices ranging from RD$300 to RD$18,000 were confiscated.
As reported in Listin Diario, the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (Widecast) congratulated the Ministry of Environment for taking firm steps to enforce existing laws to protect threatened and endangered species.

Estrella to help manage peak
Environment Minister Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal swore in leading Santiago businessman Manuel Estrella as the new director of the Pico Diego de Ocampo natural monument. Shortly after being sworn in, Estrella announced his plan for the management and development of the park. Estrella also announced the construction of a roadway from the monument to the town of Manaclas. Both Fernandez and Eduardo Rodriguez, president of the Cibao Ecological Society (SOECI) called Estrella's appointment the start of a new phase in the conservation of nature. They said that Estrella in his business practices he has always shown his respect for the environment. During his acceptance speech, Estrella also announced a cooperation plan with SOECI to develop a workshop that would create a plan of action for the monument, rehabilitation of the administrative offices for the protected areas and create a plan for ecotourism that would benefit the surrounding 17 communities. Estrella called his appointment "an honor."

Ministry has been slow to act
The Ministry of Public Health was aware of the marketing of counterfeit anti-tetanus medicines in Dominican pharmacies, a report in El Caribe on Saturday says. The company Farmacuba, Importadora y Exportadora had alerted the Ministry in a letter that counterfeit product with their company name was circulating. El Caribe reports that Andres Montes Perea of Farmacuba notified Maria Villa de Pina, director of Drugs and Pharmacies of the Ministry of Public Health.
It was not until TV journalist Nuria Piera presented TV reports indicating that the forged medicines were behind the death of two persons that could have been saved if they had received the real gamma globulin injection that the Ministry of Public Health has taken action.
The Ministry of Public Health has said it has ordered the closing of the following businesses for selling fake medicines:
Distribuidora Ninoska (Brisal, Santo Domingo Este), Distribuidora Internacional Garcia S.A. (Ensanche Ozama, Calle Masoneria No. 100), Distribuidora DLF (Calle Agustin Lara, Serralles). Distribuidora Suplirami S.A. (Calle Centro Olimpico No 51, El Milon), Farmacia Matilde (San Martin 273), Distribuidora Vendisar S.A. (Av. Padre Castellanos 361, Luperon), Distribuidora C&N Comercial C. por A (Calle Montecristi 25, San Carlos), Farmacia Sanchez (Av. Del Rosario Sanchez 61, Los Guandules), Farmacia Rosa Maria (Calle Maria Montes 7, Villas Agricolas), Farmacia Manuel (Calle Priemra 353, Las Palmas de Herrera), most located in low income neighborhoods.
In an editorial, Hoy newspaper on Saturday urges the government to review its pharmaceutical controls, alerting that trafficking in fake medicines is a lucrative international business that moves millions. The newspaper says that as in the case of drug trafficking, trading in fake pharmaceuticals has obviously had the complicity of those in authority. The newspaper says that it is suspicious that the Dominican authorities have not put an end to this business. Pharmaceutical representatives have complained the government has not put tougher measures in place to stamp out the growing problem of trading in counterfeit medicines.
The Customs Department (DGA) has announced that it will do its part to help control the illegal trafficking of fake pharmaceuticals. Miguel Cocco, director of the DGA, said a recent search resulted in the seizure of a millionaire shipment, which had originated in Panama. Cocco voiced his staunch support for Ministry of Public Health and their efforts to curve the spread of fake pharmaceuticals.

Keep your #
Jose Rafael Vargas, president of the Dominican Telecommunications Institute (INDOTEL), has announced that beginning in the second semester of 2009 customers will be able to take their phone numbers with them, if they decide to change service providers. Vargas said the number portability will foster competition that should bring better service.

The Economist forecasts 0.8% growth
The Economist Intelligence Unit believes economic growth in the Dominican Republic will be well below the 3% expected by the Central Bank. Anna Szterenfeld, Americas editor for the Economist Intelligence Unit, said that in January they had estimated the Gross Domestic Product would grow 1.8%, but now they have revised this downward. Growth for 2010 is expected to slightly recover up to 2.3%. She attributes the decline in part to the effects of the economic situation in the United States that has continued to deteriorate, she told Hoy newspaper.

New terminal for the ferry
Ferries del Caribe has announced it will participate in the construction of its own terminal at the Port of Santo Domingo. The company travels between Mayaguez, Puerto Rico and Santo Domingo, transporting goods and passengers. Nestor Gonzalez, spokesman for Ferries del Caribe, told Hoy newspaper that they would invest US$7 million in the terminal, located at the new facilities of the Santo Domingo Port, at present under millionaire renovations and expansion. He said the company continues to attract passengers by offering 40% less than the airfare, plus no limits on luggage passengers can carry. Gonzalez said that recently the company invested US$2 million in renovations in the ship.

Strengthening UK ties
An increase in British tourist arrivals and direct investment is strengthening relations between the UK and the DR. According to the British Embassy and the British Chamber of Commerce, Great Britain is the fourth leading direct investor in the DR with a total of US$1 billion. Roberto Herrera, president of the British Chamber of Commerce, explains that British investments have been made in pharmaceuticals, energy, telecommunications, construction, tobacco, tourism, spirits, petroleum products and call centers, among others. Among the British companies doing business in the DR are Zeneca, Ashmore Energy International, BT Global Services, Biwater, British American Tobacco, Check-Safety First, Diageo, Glaxo Smith Line, The Edrington Group-Brugal, the Shell Company and Unilever.
During a meeting sponsored by Hoy, Herrera explained that the recent depreciation of the pound could result in less British tourists. He commented that tourists arriving now had already purchased their all-inclusive packages when the pound was strong.
Speaking on the purchase of the Brugal Company by the Edrington Group, British Ambassador to the DR Ian A. Worthington said the buyout means the Dominican-produced rum will reach more consumers internationally.

Cemex feels losses
Cemex Dominicana says that sales have dropped 25%. They reduced their workforce by 20% (160 workers) in December. Listin Diario reports that Cemex has closed one of its six lines of production and cut production on a national level. Cemex Dominicana's parent company has announced it would cut back its worldwide operations by 16%.

Youth feel it most
The youth unemployment rate is double the national unemployment rate in the DR. According to International Labor Organization (ILO), 30% of 15 to 24 year olds in the DR are unemployed compared to 15.6% for all age groups. While 45% of Latin America's unemployed are located in the DR, Panama and Central America, the DR alone has one of the highest youth and overall unemployment rates. According to statistics by the Ministry of Labor (SET), high rates of unemployment are not only due to economic problems. Many do not find jobs because they have dropped out of school, lack work experience, technical skills and sometimes do not know where to start to look for jobs.

Another bird falls
Search and rescue officials are combing the waters north of Puerto Rico hoping to find a small plane, its five passengers and pilot, that fell after departing from the Casa de Campo International Airport (LRM) in La Romana. The plane was a Cesna 206 with registration N118ME. According to US Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad, the six people on board were US citizens. Quoted in Hoy, Castrodad says neither the plane nor remains have been found, but they have spotted material that could be the remains from the plane.

IDAC suspends pilot
The Dominican Civil Aviation Institute has suspended pilot Maximo Gomez's aviation license for a period of six months. Gomez is accused of illegally renting out two of his planes to Caribair. According to IDAC, Gomez purchased both planes but never had them registered with any commercial airline. Despite this, he would irregularly operate his own charter flights. Gomez will also be fined RD$200,000

Rains cause deaths
Three people are dead and two missing after strong rains pummeled the Cibao region over the weekend. Carmelo Almonte, Dinelda Katula Cabrera Trejo and her daughter Yanilsa Martinez Trejo were the reported victims while Sara Rodriguez Dominguez and Alcibiades Cespedes are still missing. The Center for Emergency Operations (COE) is reporting that 50 communities are still isolated while the Civil Defense is continuing evacuation operations. It is expected the rains will continue.
Tavera Dam reservoir waters were released as a preventive measure over the weekend. An estimated 10,610 people were evacuated to emergency centers. Preemptive evacuations were carried out as officials feared mudslides and flooding.
Erickson Bobadilla, director of prisons, said that prisoners from the Rafey Jail were being evacuated with the help and coordination of the COE.
The Weather Office expects rains to continue throughout the DR, with most falling in the Cibao region. Meteorologists are forecasting the unusual ly very cool weather and wind gusts that are accompanying the rains will continue for another 48 hours.

Say it ain't so, A-rod
All seemed good for Major League slugger Alex Rodriguez only 72 hours ago. Rodriguez was in the DR, practicing with members of the Dominican team that would play in the World Baseball Classic, his name had slowly become absent from the Page 6 gossip columns and he was still the richest player in baseball, and then came Saturday afternoon when Sports Illustrated dropped the news of all news: A-rod had taken steroids. Sports Illustrated, citing four different sources, reported that Alex Rodriguez was one of 104 Major League players that failed a drugs test in 2003, when he won the home run title and the first of his three league MVPs. "As part of a joint agreement with the MLB Players Association, the testing was conducted to determine if it was necessary to impose mandatory random drug testing across the major leagues in 2004." With all things considered the results were supposed to be kept a secret. But now the news is out and a cloud of suspicion, which hovered over Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire, Miguel Tejada has now threatened to damage the image of one of MLB's greatest talents. A-Rod, who has been taunted with the nicknames A-fraud and A-roid, is suspected of taking methenolone and testosterone. "You'll have to talk to the union, I'm not saying anything," was A-rod's only response to that accusations. If the reports are ultimately determined true baseball could lose its last "clean" superstar of the Steroid Era. Sports news commentators said that the old news could have been leaked now that he said he would play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.
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