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Daily News - Thursday, 09 July 2009

President off for 10 days
A 10-day presidential trip to France, Israel and Egypt was announced yesterday amid speculation that the President would be contacting potential investors and financiers for the second metro line. According to Hoy newspaper, Fernandez has scheduled meetings and working sessions with leading figures in the Israeli and Egyptian governments. The first stop will be in Tel Aviv.
The President traveled to Managua, Nicaragua last week, where he took part in the meetings of the ALBA group of nations, the Central American Integrated System (SICA), and the Rio Group, as they tried to iron out the issues surrounding the ouster of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya. Later in the week, Fernandez attended the inaugural ceremony for the new President of Panama.

JCE extends "cedula" validity
"Cedulas", the national identity and voter registration cards, that were due to be renewed before 31 July, have been granted an extension until 31 December 2009. The period of validity has been extended several times in the past.
This measure frees the Central Electoral Board (JCE) from having to renew hundreds of thousands of these cards during the preparation process for next year's congressional and municipal elections.
The measure was announced during the latest meeting of the full board.
At the end of the session, JCE president Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman
The JCE president said that there is not enough time for the new "cedula" process to be undertaken and he indicated that the expiration date should be extended.
With the biometric data capture program that was launched in November 2008, citizens thought that this was being done to change the "cedula", but this was cleared up later on.

CNS deals with other wage hikes
Although management and government representatives approved a 15% increase in the minimum wage without the approval of labor representatives, there are still 16 special resolutions pending at the Ministry of Labor. The resolutions are for the sectored private sector - including tourism and free zones - and some of these are due for discussion shortly.
The salary increase that was approved was for the non-sectored private sector, retroactive to 1 June, and covers all legal businesses and industries that do not have a special resolution, but does not include hotel, construction or free zone workers. According to the head of the National Salaries Committee (CNS), Gloria Henriquez, if each sector were to apply a different salary rate, it would take over a year to review the situation. This is why there are non-sectored and sectored divisions.
Of the 17 resolutions that the Ministry of Labor has issued, the largest and broadest covers practically all the businesses that are not in a specific sector and is designated the non-sectored private sector.
"Right now we have pending the start of the review process for the construction sector that deals with man-hours, and this includes several sub-sectors, such as iron workers, plumbers, masons and electricians," said Henriquez.
Also pending are the wage increases in the hotel and restaurant sector, and soon these talks will begin since invitations have gone out to all the parties involved.
Likewise, the issue of the industrial free zone workers is pending and will also begin to be discussed. This group has two sub-sectors: Normal free zones and the free zones located in economically depressed areas.
The minimum wage in the free zones is lower than the wages in the non-sectored private sector. In general, the minimum salary to be discussed in the sectored private sector is lower than the minimum wage approved for the non-sectored private sector. On the other hand, the minimum wage in the construction sector is not lower, but the list is quite long.
Wages in the hotel and restaurant sector are slightly lower than the non-sectored private sector.
Wages at NGOs have a special resolution.
The official told Diario Libre reporters that workers who have not yet received wage increases are in sectors covered by special resolutions.
The National Center for Union Solidarity (CNUS) is thinking about filing an appeal against the resolution issued by the National Salaries Committee (CNS) that authorizes a minimum wage increase of 15%.
According to CNUS leader Rafael Abreu, the CNS should be changed to make it more efficient. Another option would be a suggestion from Deputy Angel Acosta (now of the PRD) who has a legislative proposal called the Law of Salary Indexing, which suggests that salaries could be indexed on a yearly basis. The CNUS will not challenge the 15% wage package.

SCJ: phone tax is dead
The full bench of the Supreme Court decided that the 3% tax levied on the phone companies by the municipalities was null and void. The 3% tax was on the gross yearly income from phone calls in each city. The court accepted the position of unconstitutionality brought against article 284 of Law 176-07 that deals with the National District and the municipalities, by the Dominican Association of Telecommunications Enterprises (Adomtel), last 25 September 2008.
The plaintiffs argued that the telecommunications industry has been reserved as a taxpayer for the national authorities, which evidently excludes the municipal authorities, as a lesser political entity, from the power to tax these businesses in their cities. At the same time, they argued that by applying these constitutional limits to the specific case of the telecommunications companies, it is possible to establish that the tax power of the local authorities cannot affect this service, since the special law that regulates them and from the constitutional dispositions, previously examined, it is evident that this is an area reserved exclusively for the national tax agency as the original provider of this service.
The Supreme Court warned that it was evident that the municipal officials' performance, of exercising in and of themselves ways to collect the invoices of the telecommunications companies, pretending to be based on the dispositions of article 284, are totally incompatible with what is set out in article 4 of the law, that is part of a former special law that had not been specifically annulled by the general disposition and later laws. The court said it should be established that the text under question becomes unconstitutional for the specific case of the telecommunications companies, because its application to this sector, as has been put into evidence, violates the Constitution. This is because the municipal authorities have given it a wrong interpretation.

DGII collections down
The Department of Taxes (DGII) has reported a 2% shortfall in tax revenues for the first half of the year. The missing RD$1.34 billion represents a 2% drop in what was budgeted for the period.
According to El Caribe, the office collected RD$77.98 billion and it had expected to collect RD$79.32 billion.
Hoy newspaper looked at the same news in a slightly more optimistic way as it said that June was the best tax collection month so far this year. Hoy noted that collections "only fell by 4.49% as opposed to the 10.9% decrease in February and the 10.4% decrease in May." The newspaper optimistically says that "this leads one to think that the tax collection agency has reversed the trend of falling collections."
In absolute terms, the decrease in collections was RD$8.12 billion less than during the same period last year. However, the DGII says that the numbers seem to indicate signs of recovery, since June's collections reflect a possible change in the previous month trends.
The data is contained in the Report on Collections June 2009 prepared by the Department of Economic Studies at the DGII. The document highlights the growth in the Income Tax collections that brought in RD$4.25 billion, a RD$363 million increase over the previous year. The report also stressed that the DGII had met 99.6% of its objectives for the month of June.

Limits placed on marlin and sailfish
The Ministry of Environment has placed severe restrictions on the fishing of marlin and sailfish within the area off the southeast shoreline of the DR. According to Hoy newspaper, the measures are aimed at protecting the Blue Marlin, the White Marlin and the Sailfish. The ministry imposed the restriction for strictly sport fishing in the area from the mouth of the Nisibon River out to the 12-mile limit and then across to the imaginary line 90 degrees from Punta Espada.
The resolution was signed by Environment Minister Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal and prohibits taking on board, catching, killing and selling these species. The resolution also bans the capture of Marlin and Sailfish using hooks, clubs or any method that does not use natural baits on a round hook or with artificial baits using a "J" hook (with no barb). The announcement stresses that any fish caught has to be released in the same place in the least possible time, without harming the fish.

SISALRIL proposes transplant coverage
The Superintendent of Health and Labor Risks (Sisalril), Fernando Caamano has reported that he will ask the National Social Security Council today to ask their membership to include organ transplant surgeries as part of the expansion of the Health Service Plan (PDSS) program that he proposed last 5 June. He said he would ask for liver and bone marrow transplants to be covered by the PDSS insurance because of their high cost.
The official said that previous extensions of the PDSS, contained in resolutions 147-07, 149-08 and 155-08 included several transplant procedures. He said that "these included kidney, cornea and heart valves..." Operations of this nature cost in the range of RD$500,000 each, according to Caamano.
Caamano said that suggestions made by the president of the Trustees of the General Hospital at the Plaza de la Salud Julio Amado Castanos Guzman encouraged the submission of the initiative. He said that Castanos Guzman was expressing the opinions of many of the specialists and health providers that these services should be offered in the DR. Caamano told reporters from El Nuevo Diario that he was confident that the National Council for Social Security would approve coverage for these new procedures.

Dominicans keen on their legal status
Information coming from the US State Department places the DR in 6th place on the list of countries that send most legal immigrants to the US, as reported in El Caribe. Only Mexico, China, India, the Philippines and Cuba exceed the 31,879 Dominicans who either visited or moved to the US legally.
In 2008, there were 1,207,126 legal immigrants to the United States, and the year before there were 1,052,415. The total from Mexico was 189,989 migrants; China: 80,271; India 63,352; Philippines 54,030; Cuba 49,500; DR 31,879; Colombia 30,213; Haiti 26,007; El Salvador 19,719 and Guatemala 16,182. The three leading states for relocating migrants are California, New York, Florida and Texas.
Most of these visas were issued at the request of relatives seeking to be reunited with family members. The numbers of legal immigrants includes more than 136,000 people in a very special category: refugees and persons seeking asylum.
This information was presented by lawyer Lilia Velazquez during a workshop on "Public policy and migration" held in San Diego, California, and organized by the Institute for the Americas. While Velazquez focused on legal immigration, she also addressed the issue of the 12,000,000 undocumented people who live in the United States. In her opinion these individuals ought to be legalized and brought into the workforce as taxpayers, to prevent labor exploitation due to their undocumented status.

Used car sales down 60%
The Used Vehicles Importers Association (ASOCIVU) reported yesterday that their sales have fallen by 60% in the first half of the year in comparison with the same period last year. Asocivu president Hector Molina attributed the decline to the economic crisis and to the fact that only vehicles under 5 years old can be imported.
Molina said the United States now has a reduced number of vehicles in circulation, and so the size of the pre-owned vehicle market has also dropped making for fewer vehicles available for resale at a time of increasing domestic demand. He said that the association members had imported 2,205 units so far in 2009 and last year the number was between 2,500 and 2,600 units.
Molina was speaking at a press conference announcing the upcoming Auto Fair Asocivu 2009 as part of this year's Father's Day festivities. The fair will be held from 23 to 27 July at the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center in Santo Domingo. It will be open from 10am until 11pm and 70 used car dealers will be showing more than 5,000 vehicles of many makes and models.

Colombian flew drug plane
The man killed in an airplane crash at sea off Matanzas in Peravia province on 30 June was a Colombian national. He has been identified as Harol Andres Ortegon, 29, a professional pilot, according to the National Forensic Science Institute (INACIF) in Azua, and confirmed by the forensic surgeon in Bani, Walter Lopez, who brought the body in from the ocean.
Dr. Lopez told Listin Diario reporters that Harol Ortegon's remains are now at the Blandino Funeral Home where his relatives are expected.
A woman who identified herself as the pilot's wife reportedly called the INACIF in Azua from Colombia a few days ago and spoke to Dr Ana Sanchez. The caller identified the body by tattoos and other body details. Ortegon's alleged wife, whose name was not released, reportedly said that her husband was a helicopter pilot and had left Colombia supposedly to take flight lessons. She said she received an "anonymous" phone call informing her that her husband had been killed in the Dominican Republic.
Meanwhile, Navy chief of staff Vice Admiral Homero Luis Lajara Sola said that the plane that plunged into the sea was carrying 120 kilograms of cocaine that were found along with the pilot's body.

Water bottlers still open
Water bottling plants that were supposed to have been closed by the Public Health authorities continued operating yesterday, while others that were required to comply with some regulations said they were working hard to fulfill them.
Yosmar Rossi, administrator of the Agua Genuina plant that was closed by Public Health inspectors on Monday, denied that her bottling plant was affected by the measure, saying that "they asked me for some records, they gave me 15 days and I already began the process."
The Ozama water bottling plant is in the same situation. Employees said that officials had visited just to demand compliance with some quality standards and, just like the others, they are in the process of complying with them. "We haven't been closed, we are working and we are going to fulfill the requirements. We were asked to place a curtain and to keep the place clean. We were also asked to file some forms and my brother is already getting them," said a young woman at the Eliany water plant who did not reveal her name.
When consulted, regular clients of these bottling plants like Ms. Josefina Agramonte, who told Diario Libre reporters that they had never become sick despite using the water for a long time, even for cooking purposes. Most of the bottling facilities were "closed" because of their failure to register with the Public Health Ministry. Most of the owners claimed ignorance of the requirement to possess registration certificates and post them in a visible spot on the premises.
In the cases of Agua Aracena on Jacobo Majluta Ave., Agua Brisel, Astral, Rey Mon, Estevez and others, they were warned that large-volume, wholesale distribution is prohibited by a Ministry of Industry and Commerce resolution. Of a total of 11 bottling plants indicated as closed by Public Health, all were operating normally and their owners claim that they were only asked to comply with some requisites, which they are now doing.
Reporters also found that others were ordered to install laboratories, new filters and incubators that were missing, as occurred at Agua Panda, Isis and others. These have now begun to install the new equipment. At the same time, the president of the Dominican Association of Pure Water Distributors (Adeagua), David Toribio, called on Public Health to exercise greater controls on distributors in barrios and small towns, which on the whole operate with few or no controls. Some of the other closed bottling plants are Agua Boca Chica, Rafa, Bendicion, El Arroyo, Andina, Elohim, Bendita, Primavera, Dulce, Alli, De Unidad, Grissan, Relampago, Belen, Alli e Alli, Bethania, Isabel, Toni Ocean, Nazaret, Roanny, Su Agua, Pan de Vida, Delicia, Unidad, Cofresi, 1-A, Clase A, Arroyo Hondo, Karla, Delicius, Renacer, Valentina, Amelia, Tia Tatiana, Meta, Adu, Mari Sanchez, Tayler, Andy, Renacer Comun Biblico, Proyecto Comunitario, Biblica Cristiana and Bendicion.

Luciano gets his plane back
Julio Cesar de la Rosa Tiburcio, coordinator of the Dominican Alliance against Corruption (Adocco) and Trajano Vidal Potentini, president of the Foundation for Justice and Transparency criticized a decision by the First Court of Instruction of Santo Domingo that ordered the return of an airplane that landed last year from Puerto Rico with more than US$500,000 in undeclared money. "The plane is evidence, and thus the sentence is in contradiction," said Trajano Vidal. Judge Miguelina del Carmen Campusano ordered the return of the airplane to Rafael Luciano Corominas, son of Supreme Court of Justice judge Rafael Luciano Pichardo. The airplane landed in the DR last year with US$569,412 on board, in violation of Customs Law. The airplane had been confiscated by the DGA and later donated to the Armed Forces.

Boca Chica sailing winners
Peru, the US and Chile won the first places in the IODA North American Optimist Championship that concluded on Wednesday in Boca Chica. Rodrigo Delgado, Erik Holmbom and Paloma Esteban were the best performers for the local team that placed 9th.

The Graduate at Bellas Artes
An adaptation of the novel by Charles Webb, The Graduate, directed by Ivan Garcia will be presented at the Palace of Fine Arts (Bellas Artes) this weekend. Alexander Pimentel will be Benjamin Braddock, and Fedra Lopez will be Miss Robinson. Tickets for sale at the Bellas Artes box office.
For updates on more upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
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