UN rejects Los Haitises cement plant|
The United Nations multi-sectorial team set up to evaluate the decision to install a cement plant in a buffer zone of the Los Haitises National Park has concluded that the project is neither viable nor pertinent.
Los Haitises is known as one of the world's largest karst reserves, and is a source of reserve water for the country, in addition to its proven cultural heritage as reflected in Taino cave drawings.
United Nations Development Program (UNDP) representative in the country Valerie Julliand described the Los Haitises case as "a historic moment of growth for the national society." She stressed that it showed how civil society, the private sector and the general public could work together to resolve an environmental conflict. "A country will develop when all its actors come together and contribute," she said. "This is a historic moment for the country, for society and for the strengthening of Dominican institutions," she stated.
The announcement, which was made at the UN Office in Santo Domingo on Thursday morning, was received with hugs, loud applause and cheers, with the feeling being that it represented a victory for civic action.
The Presidency called in the UN to deliver an opinion after widespread public rejection of the proposal, as reflected in a Gallup Poll that showed that 85% were opposed to the construction on the site. Ministry of Environment specialists originally rejected the project, but President Leonel Fernandez overruled their decision. The company in question, Consorcio Minero Dominicano, is owned by Grupo Estrella, a major contractor for several major non-tendered public works, including the Duarte Corridor and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism new building, among many others.
The UN team said that overall the authorities followed the legalities in the process of making the concession, but didn't meet the technical and scientific rigors demanded for such a complex project. The UN also based its decision on the fact that there was not enough information for the conclusions of viability reached in the environmental impact study that justified the installation. The granting of permission by the Ministry of Environment did not adhere to certain criteria, such as the precautionary principle and international conservation conventions on cultural heritage as set out in Environmental Law 68-00.
She stressed that the final decision in the case now depends on the government and the judiciary. The case is being heard in court. Earlier, a court reached practically the same conclusion as the UNDP, ordering the suspension of construction works at the cement plant, upholding the precautionary principle of international law and Environment Law 68-00.
Speaking on behalf of the UNDP commission, environmental impact consultant Eduardo Vadillo Sanchez said that their analysis concluded that there was not sufficient information for the environmental impact study to conclude that the construction of the cement plant could go ahead at the chosen site. During the press conference, Julliand said that the announcement clarified that the project would not be viable in any other areas near the karst region of Los Haitises.
The group reached the conclusion that the benefits and opportunities for the area did not justify the risks and high costs to society, and decided on these grounds that the project is not pertinent. Vadillo said their conclusions were backed by scientific facts.
Domingo Abreu, an environmentalist who championed the group of young people who led the campaigns against the project, said that the decision is an endorsement of Dominican environmental specialists who early on had reached the same conclusion. He urged the government to listen to Dominican experts in the future.
Cement plant will be relocated|
The Consorcio Minero Dominicano announced on Thursday that it would relocate the cement plant under construction in Gonzalo, in the province of Monte Plata, in a buffer zone of the Los Haitises National Park.
As reported in El Caribe, a newspaper owned by the Grupo Estrella business group, the company said: "We have consistent disagreements on the report (Un report), clearly biased, but we realize that to continue this discussion is beyond legitimate business activities so we will relocate the project to another site".
More to metro security than to border control|
The Armed Forces Ministry has assigned more funds to patrolling the 14.2km stretch of the Santo Domingo Metro than to the 380kms of the border with Haiti. The government allocated RD$77 million to the Cesfront division of the Army in charge of border surveillance, compared to RD$105.8 million allocated to the Metro.
The Ministry of Armed Forces received RD$12.3 billion, including an increase of RD$1 billion in the 2008 budget. The increase is to cover the financing of the RD$509.7 billion for the loan for the purchase of 9 Super Tucano airplanes for the Dominican air force to combat drug trafficking, purchased in Brazil. Two of these are expected before years end. El Dia reports that the government also allocated RD$9 billion for regional security and RD$30m for port security.
The economy grew|
Central Bank governor Hector Valdez Albizu says that the economy grew 2.1% during the first nine months of the year. He said the DR's growth should be considered satisfactory, especially when compared to the growth of other Caribbean and Central American countries.
He added that the economy grew by 3.4% during the period of June-September 2009, compared to the same period in 2008.
He shed a positive light on the DR's public debt, saying that the DR's public debt has gone from 29.1% to 25.3% of the GDP, since 2004, and that the external debt also saw a decrease since 2004, going from 24.5% to 15.9% of the GDP.
Nevertheless, he said that when the foreign debt of public financing institutions are taken into account, the percentage is 18%
DR lacks budgetary transparency|
Several national and international organizations have pointed to the fact that the DR is lacking in institutional transparency. A new report by the Analysis and Research Center (FUNDAR) on budgetary transparency in government adds another layer to that.
Hoy reports the DR received a score of 44 points, where budgetary transparency is rated as a minimum 60 points. Costa Rica scored first with 69 points in Latin America. Peru has 54, Panama 50, Brazil 49 and Argentina 48. In Latin America, only Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela scored below the DR in budgetary transparency. Guatemala also scored 44 points.
One of the suggestions of FUNDAR is that the DR needs to become more efficient in disclosing information under the freedom of information act. FUNDAR is also suggesting that the DR should become more efficient at publishing public budgets and payrolls, in a comprehensive manner.
The DR only received a 38% grade in the area of access to public information.
Loans for bonuses|
The Ministry of Hacienda has sent a bill to the Executive Branch, requesting the approval of a BanReservas loan for RD$750 million for city councils that have not made provisions in time. The loan will be used to pay government employees their yearly holiday bonuses. The government announced that as of December 13, Dominican government employees would get their regular salary, plus a second, additional salary.
This injection of additional money into the Dominican economy kicks off the holiday shopping season.
Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa says that so far 187 city councils have already asked for loans to pay the bonuses, and that the Dominican Municipal League has asked for RD$15 million for its own bonuses.
Strange but true|
After disclosing that toxic and illegal pesticides and herbicides are still being imported into the DR, Hoy is reporting that a 20-year old shipment of DDT is still sitting at the Center for Tropical Diseases (CENCET). The DDT is stored in cardboard boxes, plastic bags and other unsafe packaging. DDT is not just carcinogenic and highly toxic, it also doesn't decompose with time. An estimated 20.4 tons of the substance is at CENCET, which is located on Duarte Street in Santo Domingo. It was imported from Indonesia by the Ministry of Public Health in 1989. However, its use was prohibited in 1991, when it was determined that it was toxic.
The authorities reportedly considered a RD$63,000 investment to store the substance safely but the plan never materialized.
Hoy is also reporting that 350 tons of PCBs are also being stored in the DR.
Marcos Rodriguez from the Chemical Institute at the UASD said the substance should be stored at a temperature of 20-25C, with moisture levels of no more than 60%.
Marcos Rodriguez said the country should have got rid of the DDT stocks years ago by taking it to countries where DDT is still being used to fight tropical diseases. He added that while DDT could save 20,000 lives, it could also negatively affect as many as 200,000.
Tapia is released on bail|
Dr. Johan Tapia Bueno, who was being held in temporary police custody, was released on bail from detention at the Palace of Justice yesterday. Earlier this week, Tapia was arrested on medical malpractice charges. Further investigations revealed that he was running an unlicensed medical practice from an apartment in the Evaristo Morales sector of Santo Domingo.
Judge Alejandro Vargas set bail at RD$5 million and placed an exit restriction on Tapia, as well as mandatory appearances before the judge every Monday.
TV personality Hermes Meccarielo accused Tapia of botched surgery. As of yesterday, seven other women have come forth with malpractice accusations against Tapia.
Listin Diario reports that the Tapia case exposes deficiencies in the DR's medical system. The Ministry of Public Health has admitted there is a problem, saying that it does not have the resources to investigate all the medical centers in the city.
Educated women also abused|
A report by the Abused Women's Support Trust (PACAM) published in Clave Digital, has found that contrary to popular belief, 70% of abused women in the DR have higher education levels. PACAM director Soraya Lara de Marmol says that the rate of violence affecting women in this educational bracket has not increased, but that these women are more willing to report domestic violence.
According to statistics from PACAM, 77% of abused women have been abused physically, while 87% have been abused verbally. Also, of PACAM's test group 39% of women surveyed said they had never reported their abuse. The study revealed the average relationship lasted 12.6 years, while the abuse lasted 11.3 years.
Survey results surprising|
According to results from the DR's first study on sexual behavior, 71.03% of Dominican women have admitted to having been sexually harassed at least once in their lives. Of those surveyed, 35.4% are between the ages of 12 to 39, while 35.63% are between the ages of 40 and 65. The survey also indicates that 12.2% admit to being sexually assaulted at least once in their lives and 31% of women say they became sexually active before the age of 18.
HIV rate down|
Increased education, changed patterns of sexual activity, and increased use of condoms are some of the reasons why the HIV rate has decreased in the DR, according to the United Nations Joint Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Infection rates among homosexual males remain high. The report indicates that the HIV/AIDS rate among sex workers is 4.8% while among homosexual males the rate is at 6.1%. Among drug users the HIV/AIDS rate is 8%. Infection rates have been dropping in the DR. In 2002 1% of the sexually active population had HIV/AIDS, but the figure declined to 0.8% in 2007. Among young people between the ages of 15-24 the percentage has gone from 0.6 in 2002 to 0.3 in 2007. On an international level new HIV infections are down by 17%.
Puerto Plata hurting|
Puerto Plata had long been a major tourism center for the DR, registering 20% yearly growth rates during the 1990s, but the last 8 years have seen sharp declines in the number of tourist arrivals. According to the Central Bank, the last time Puerto Plata saw a spike in the number of arrivals was in 2000 when 786,000 tourists visited. Every year since then has seen sharp annual declines, with a total of 540,000 arrivals in 2008. According to the Dominican Tourism Press Association (Adompretur) quoted in El Caribe, the US$194 million spent on renovating Puerto Plata in the last 8 years have not be enough.
The baseball scores|
Escogido fans, watch out, your team is for real. The team no one thought could is playing baseball like never before and it seems as if they are in fact the team to beat this season. A surprising switch from seasons past when Escogido was guaranteed a position at the bottom of the standings, this year the Aguilas, Licey and Gigantes are fighting for respectability. In last night's match-ups the Estrellas Orientales took home a nice win over the Aguilas, 9-4, as the Leones spiked the Toros 5-1. Licey took home a much-needed victory, over the Gigantes, 4-1.
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