DR1 Daily News next update on Monday
Government strives to rescind Samana tolls highway contract
Public Works planned for 2018
Criticizing using education funds to pay pensions
US$300,000 a month in rent for Edesur offices
Ministry of Agriculture works to eradicate African land snail
World Bank sends recommendations for an increase in taxation revenues
Haitian agronomist warns Haiti of danger of hydro dam on Artibonito
Priest says Dominican Army supports Haitian birthing tourism
Mayor’s office proposes solution to Coraasan issue
Teachers form 18 regions protest outside Minerd
PRSC re-introduces Party and election Laws
Cap Cana announces debt restructuring to relaunch development
Judge postpones decision on remand of accused in La Romana drug haul
Time to visit Ocoa
Davis Cup to be played at the Club Naco tennis courts
Funglode Film Festival from 24 January 2018
Stella Manaut comedy at the National Theater

DR1 Daily News next update on Monday
The next DR1 Daily News update will be published on Monday, 22 January 2018. The Monday issue will compile headline news for the previous Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Breaking news can be followed 24/7 in the Forums. See the DR1 Forum at http://www.dr1.com

Government strives to rescind Samana tolls highway contract
The Medina administration is studying the legal ramifications of revoking the contract for toll collection on two Samaná highways in the northeast. The contract contains a clause that establishes that if a pre-set minimum number of vehicles do not use the Samana or the Bulevar Turístico del Atlántico roads and pay the corresponding tolls, the government is obliged to pay a “shadow toll.”

The high tolls that have to be paid to transit on the road that cuts by half the travel distance from Santo Domingo to Samana have discouraged travelers. As a result, the government has paid more than RD$12 billion in shadow tolls over the years.

Public Works Minister Gonzalo Castillo said that talks are ongoing with Argos, the Colombian company that purchased the contract from the original Colombian construction firm. Castillo said the contract as is not in the best interest of the country. Castillo made the observations when interviewed during the Grupo Corripio media luncheon.

The contractors used international bond investment money and also the contract was guaranteed by the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency of the World Bank Group. Castillo explained the Juan Pablo II highway cost around US$500 million, but the contract has clauses that have made the government double in payments what it agreed to pay to cover the investment. Every year the shadow toll has been increased.

Castillo explained that the government pays more than RD$2 billion a year for the subsidy. The company claims that it is collecting around RD$900 million a year in tolls.

The vehicle charges to use the Samana highways are the most expensive in the country. The cost is RD$910 to reach Samana, but the fare increases to RD$1,066 if motorists take the Bulevar Turistico to the northern part of the peninsula, or Las Terrenas. This compares with tolls for RD$300 to get from Santo Domingo to Punta Cana, a comparable distance.


Public Works planned for 2018
Public Works Minister, Gonzalo Castillo, has listed the priorities of the Ministry of Public Works in roads for 2018. He said the government is focusing primarily on the eastern region because that region generates 80% of the tourism revenues and mentioned the continuing works to complete the Santo Domingo bypass that will reduce number of heavy truck traffic on the Las Americas Expressway. Other roads are being built in San Pedro de Macoris, La Romana, La Altagracia, El Seibo and Hato Mayor provinces in the east.

Castillo also announced the government would build underpasses and a bus terminal at the Av. 27 de Febrero with Av. Isabel Aguiar in Santo Domingo. Likewise, 22 returns will be built for the 6 de Noviembre highway (from Santo Domingo to San Cristóbal) on to Baní, Peravia to reduce the number of accidents on that road. He said the government expects to resume the construction of the Baní Bypass. He also said that progress has been made on the Azua Bypass, the Azua-Barahona and Barahona-Enriquillo roads. These projects are expected to be finished this year.

In the north of the country, work continues on the extension of the North Bypass from Santiago to decongestion the western entrance to the city. Other works that will be finished this year are the central park, the botanical gardens in Santiago and the Navarrete-Puerto Plata road expansion from two to four lanes.

Criticizing using education funds to pay pensions
The first manager of the National Social Security Council, economist Arismendi Diaz Santana, noted that the government is allocating funds from the 4% of GDP budget assigned for pre-university education to pay teacher pensions. He made the observation in response to comments made by executives of the pension fund managed by the National Institute of Teacher Welfare (Inabima). Inabima officials said that the “general increases do not impact the fund because the payment of the retired persons is charged to the 4% of the GDP allotted to the Ministry of Education.

Diaz Santana said that the government is responsible for making allotments to Inabima to make the pension payments and that any other regular contribution violates the provisions of the Social Security Law 87-01. He said that government funds that are earmarked for education cannot be diverted to other uses, nor should the government bow to pressure to do so.

“It is an underhanded practice that has also been applied to resolve the multimillion peso deficits of the Teacher Medical Insurance (Seguro Medico de los Maestros). Diaz Santana said these practices do not promote efficiency, but rather serve as an incentive for corruption.


US$300,000 a month in rent for Edesur offices
PLD legislator José Laluz denounced at the Chamber of Deputies that the government-owned Edesur power distribution company pays an exorbitant rent of US$300,000 a month for a building located on Av. Gustavo Mejía Ricart. Edesur signed a 17-year contract for the building during the government of former President Hipólito Mejía (2000-2004). The contract is now in its 18th year.

He observed the irony that the amount to be paid in rent is more than half of the loan the government contracted last week for US$100 million for network maintenance works.

He said that any person with a minimum of reasoning can see the waste of resources and lack of efficiency. Laluz observed with the money spent on rent over the years, Edesur could have built and occupied several buildings.

On 11 January 2018, in the last day of the legislature, Laluz called for an investigation into the high cost of the rent. He said that the total annual payment the government making on behalf of Edusur is a whopping RD$175 million.

Hoy newspaper reports that despite the plea, at the end his fellow legislators ignored the case. But the high rent has garnered attention in print and social media.


Ministry of Agriculture works to eradicate African land snail
The president of the National Association of Agropecuarian Professionals (ANPA), Danilo Severino has been calling for President Danilo Medina to declare the eastern region in red alert for the presence of the giant African snail (Lissachatina fulica). The large land snail is regarded as one of the most dangerous invasive species that causes severe damage to agricultural crops and native plants and spreads human disease. It picks up diseases from rats and transmits them to dogs and cats.

Responding to this request, Minister of Agriculture Angel Estevez said that projects have already been underway for a year to control the reproduction of the snail. He said that the ministries of Agriculture, Public Health and Environment have been applying protocols to eliminate the snail. Estevez said that the infestation has been confined to the eastern region, primarily a residential area.

He explained that the Ministry of Agriculture is also coordinating activities with the Ministry of Tourism and local communities to eradicate the snail. He said US scientists have also contributed to the efforts to keep the snail under check.


World Bank sends recommendations for an increase in taxation revenues
The World Bank presented findings on 17 January 2018, of a new report that proposes alternatives to the Tax Agency (DGII) for increasing fiscal efficiency and public revenues, while at the same time not affecting inclusive growth and the competitive business climate.

The proposal includes more effective policies to increase tax revenue, better targeting of fiscal spending to benefit the poorest, and an increase of the tax base to reduce the informal economy, said Alessandro Legrottaglie, World Bank Country Manager upon presenting the report “Gearing up for a More Efficient Tax System in the Dominican Republic.”

The report highlights that losses in tax collection in the Dominican Republic caused by fiscal evasion, fraud, and poor management of the Transfer of Industrialized Goods and Services Tax (ITBIS, in Spanish), are among the largest in Latin America and the Caribbean. In a press release, the World Bank argues that despite the high growth rate experienced by the country tax revenues at 13.4% of GDO are below the 14.3% regional average.

The World Bank experts favor cuts to the exemptions to ITBIS (the country’s VAT), preferential fuel subsidies, real estate deductions and corporate tax incentives. Researchers say that the high rates of labor employed in the informal sector also results in government losses in personal income taxes estimated at close to one third of a GDP percentage point.

The report recommends the tax agency to continue improving management and reducing fraud by strengthening the use of ICT to reinforce tax administration.

The Medina administration is behind schedule in completing the fiscal agreement that the National Development Strategy Law ordered be carried out.

Magin Diaz (recently appointed to the DGII) said there was not a need to increase taxes, but rather to be more efficient in collecting taxes already on the books. Increasing tax revenue through improved collection strategies has been successful. For 2017, both the DGII and the Customs Agency (DGA) announced surplus in tax collections and reaching the goals for the year.

Business groups are wary of more taxes on grounds that there are many sectors where there are no checks and controls. Former president of the National Business Council, Celso Marranzini recently complained that highly profitable political parties have skirted accountability despite using public funds, while businesses are subject to intense scrutiny and taxation.


Haitian agronomist warns Haiti of danger of hydro dam on Artibonito
Haitian agronomist John Andre Victor told a radio audience that building a hydroelectric dam on the Artibonito River would affect the quantity and quality of the water in the watershed and would have grave consequences for agriculture, energy production and the social economical life of Haiti. The source of the Artibonito River is in the Dominican Republic from where it flows into Haiti.

The Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste, quotes Andre Victor who appeared on radio station Magik 9. The newspaper ran with the headline “There is a war of water between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.”

The economist says: “This is the case of the Artibonito River, the Massacre, the Pedernales, and the Azuei Lake that now extends into Dominican territory as a result of the flooding. The majority of these international rivers are born in the Dominican Republic and therefore Haiti must be much more sensitive to this issue. The Artibonito River is strategic for Haiti. It represents 40% of the irrigated land, 75% of the rice production, it provides drinking water for 1 million persons and also represents 90% of the hydroelectric energy production.

The statements from Andre Victor comes after the announcement by Senator Adriano Sanchez Roa that the Medina administration has allotted money in the 2018 National Budget for the study and later construction of a dam on the Artibonito to benefit thousands of Dominicans in one of the poorest areas of the country. According to Sanchez Roa, INDRHI is the agency in charge of the project. INDRHI did not confirm the project to Diario Libre reporters.


Priest says Dominican Army supports Haitian birthing tourism
Father Regino Martinez, the Jesuit priest from Dajabón, accuses the Specialized Corps of Frontier Security (CESFRONT) of having ties with the illegal arrival of very pregnant Haitian women who cross the border in order to give birth on Dominican soil .The Jesuit also said that for years he has been calling for the undocumented Haitian who live in the Dominican Republic to receive documentation and normalize their immigration situation. He added that mass deportation just does not work or help in resolving the situation.

According to the El Nacional newspaper, Martinez said that the migration of people from one country to the other goes on with the collaboration of Cesfront troops. He said: “They (the Haitian women) don’t come through the bushes, and they don’t arrive to the hospitals on foot.”

The priest went on to say that the troops who are assigned to the checkpoints along the roads between Dajabon and Santiago and also directly involved. Finally he said: “The government, through the media wants the public to believe the fantasy that Cesfront is working hard to control our borders. The responsibility for the control of the border is in the hands the military. And if unfettered migration exists, it is because the military is treating it as a business, pure and simple.


Mayor’s office proposes solution to Coraasan issue
Municipal authorities have issued a proposal to the Santiago Water and Sewer Corporation (Coraasan) that would permit a normalization of their disrupted relationship. The Mayor’s spokesman, Fernando Ramirez, suggested to the director general of Coraasan, Silvio Duran, that the debts for garbage collection and leases on properties pay for the debts for water consumption by the city. This was the way it had worked before.

Likewise, Ramirez suggested that the water company should compensate the payment of services between the different city governments served by the entity. He went on to suggest an agreement for payment and the withdrawal of the lawsuit filed against the director of Coraasan. As the fourth and last point of the proposal the municipality wants Coraasan to renew its lease for office space in the Municipal Building. Amazingly, all of these proposals were sent via Twitter!


Teachers from 18 regions protest outside Minerd
Hundreds of professors and technicians from the Ministry of Education have established a vigil outside the offices of the Ministry as a protest against the announced public, competitive searches for positions within the Ministry convened by the Minerd for the selection of regional and district directors. The protestors say that such a process is against the law and violates the spirit of established, accepted procedures for job openings.

The vigil is also calling for the resignation of the minister, Andres Navarro, and was convened by the East Santo Domingo section of the Dominican Teachers Association (ADP). As a result, classes have been suspended is several areas of the country. As a sub-set of this protest, the Association of Technical Professors is also calling for the payment of overdue incentives earned through evaluations.

The teachers also are saying that Navarro wants to destroy their cooperative. Finally the teachers say that while they are in agreement with the goal of finding qualified professionals for these positions within the Ministry, they are concerned that the creation of the shortlists of three candidates may not guarantee that the most qualified candidates are selected for regional and district directors.


PRSC re-introduces Party and election Laws
Legislators for the Social Christian Reformist Party (PRSC) have re-introduced the laws that are supposed to cover everything related to elections and political parties and groups. Maximo Castro Silverio (PRSC-Santiago) the party spokesperson in the Chamber of Deputies and Ramon Rogelio Genao, the secretary general of the party explained to reporters that given the refusal of the Central Electoral Board (JCE) to re-introduce the bill, the PRSC felt that it was their civic duty to do so. They stressed that in 2002 the PRSC was the first party to suggest the changes to the Elections Law and proposed the drafting of a Bill for Political Parties and they have defended these legislative initiatives ever since.

Castro Silverio reiterated the fact that the PRSC proposal includes a meeting with President Danilo Medina and other political leaders together with the JCE and the Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE) as well as leaders of the civil society as a way to get this legislation passed in the next session that begins after 27 February. He told reporters: “Without a new law there should not even be elections in 2020, as suggested by director for Latin America and the Caribbean of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) Daniel Zovatto, since the country and the process will still be suffering from the same electoral process deficiencies as always….”


Cap Cana announces debt restructuring to relaunch development
Following Ministry of Tourism authorization for the construction of up to 22-floor high rises in Cap Cana, the luxury resort developer announced last week completing the restructuring of its international debt for US$364 million.

On 28 September 2017, the law firm Mayer Brown that represented Cap Cana had highlighted the innovativeness of the successful exchange of two series of senior secured notes for a single series of notes issued by a newly created Cayman special-purpose vehicle for US$350 million.

In September, Mayer Brown explained that Cap Cana transferred a number of undeveloped properties to the new issuer, that plans to market and sell the properties to support its payment obligations under the newly issued notes. Cap Cana worked with a steering committee of existing note holders to foreclose on its valuable collateral properties under the existing notes and regain control of those properties (free of liens) at the conclusion of the tender process.

The Mayer Brown team was led by New York-based Banking & Finance partner George Miller and included: Corporate & Securities partner Michael Hermsen and associate Catherine Henderson (both Chicago); and Banking & Finance associates Sean Kulkarni (New York) and Christine Taverner (Charlotte).

Also participating in the deal were Pellerano & Herrera and the international counsel of Greenberg Traurig. With this deal, the company completed the restructuring of its 10% Senior Secured Notes and 10% Senior Secured Recovery Notes, both due 2016. The debt restructuring is part of the wider reorganization and re-launch of Cap Cana.

In follow up actions, Cap Cana reported on Monday, 15 January 2018, that further restructuring efforts were completed to allow for the relaunching of new developments at the project. Greylock Capital served as co-chair of the steering committee for the restructuring of Cap Cana S.A. in the Dominican Republic. Others that participated in the restructuring were AJ Mediratta, iam Localio for Greylock Capital and Fred Sykes, for NWI Management.

Cap Cana executives Fernando Hazoury and Jorge Subero lead the negotiations.


Judge postpones decision on remand of accused in La Romana drug haul
Judge Vicky Chalas has postponed until next week the hearing on whether to remand to custody the persons accused of facilitating the landing of a private aircraft with some 500 kilos of cocaine at the La Romana International Airport.

What makes the case interesting is that most, if not all, of the accused are former high-ranking members of the Dominican Armed Force: Colonel Domingo Cruz Figuereo Heredia of the Air Force; Colonel Roberto Antonio Ramirez Pimentel of the Army; former Lt. Andres Lorenzo Castillo Padilla of the Police, and a former reclute in the Army, Emmanuel Cruz Espinal.

The accused were taken into the court under extreme precautionary measures. Lawyers for the defense argued that they needed more time to prepare their case. The Justice Department is trying to have the case declared to be “complex” that would extend the time for investigations. The authorities are also asking for an 18-month ruling for remand to custody for the accused.

The Dominican Attorney General announced the arrest of the four persons after several warrants and searches were carried out in the residences of the accused. The aircraft, coming from Colombia, carried in excess of 500 kilos of cocaine.


Time to visit Ocoa
The municipality of San Jose de Ocoa has organized a “Discover Ocoa” weekend from Friday, 18 January 2018 to Sunday, 21 January. The V Feria Agroturistica y Artesanal "Descubre a Ocoa 2018", coincides with the Fiestas Patronales of the province, celebrating the foundation of Ocoa and its many traditions.

The Ocoa Tourism Cluster and the San Jose de Ocoa Ecotouristic Development Fund (Fondeprosjo), the municipality of Ocoa, BanReservas and the Ministry of Tourism’s (Mitur) domestic tourism department.

This is a time to get a good look at what the mountain and farming Ocoa destination produces and has to offer. There will be arts and crafts for sale, local food and farm products.

Davis Cup to be played at the Club Naco tennis courts
Dominican Davis Cup coach, Rafael Moreno says the Dominican team can battle it out with the Brazilian singles players that will be in Santo Domingo for the Americas Group I games. Moreno says, nevertheless, that the Brazilians are far superior in doubles.

The matches will take place on 2 February (4pm) and 3 February 2018 (2pm) at the hard courts of the Club Deportivo Naco in Santo Domingo.

Playing singles for the Dominican Republic are 37-year old Victor Estrella, ranked 79th, 27-year old José (Bebo) Hernández, ranked 285th, 24-year old Roberto Cid (411st), 21-year old José Olivares, ranked 787th. Others playing for the Dominican Republic are 17-year old Nick Hardt (1334th) and 21-year old Peter Bertran (not ranked yet).

The Brazilian singles players are 23-year old Thiago Monteiro (116th), 33-year old Rogerio Dutra Silva (98th), 29-year old Joao Souza (245th), 25-year old Guilherme Clezar (213rd), and 30-year old Thomaz Bellucci (109th). Brazilian doubles team are Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares, ranked 1 and 10 in the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) world ranking.


Funglode Film Festival from 24 January 2018
The annual Funglode Film Festival, opens on 24 January 2018, with events and films scheduled to be presented at the National Theater, Palacio del Cine Blue Mall, the in the Colonial City and the Real InterContinental Hotel on Av. Winston Churchill. The competition will run through 1 February, but afterwards the most popular films will continue to be shown until 9 February.

The festival is directed by Omar de la Cruz and is accredited by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPF) in the category of Competitive Specialized Feature Film Festivals.

More than 60 films and 25 educational events (panels, master classes and workshops) are programmed. Also part of the 18th FCGD is the 4th Dominicana Film Lab and the 4th Co-Production Market Puerto Rico-Cuba-Dominican Republic. Parallel to the films showing, the 3rd Gastronomy Film Showing and the 6th Fashion Movies Showing will be held.


Stella Manaut comedy at the National Theater
“Tu en tu casa, yo en la mía” is the comedy to be presented in February at the Sala Ravelo of the National Theater.

TV host Luz García (Noche de Luz) has a starring role, together with José Roberto Díaz. Niurka Mota is the play director, working with journalists Jose Antonio Aybar and Miguelina Terreno.

The play, written by award-winning Spanish playwright Stella Manaut, looks into a marriage in crisis and how the couple works around it. It tells the story of a mother who leaves home, forcing her husband to take charge for their children.

The play will be presented on 1, 2, 3 and 4 February, then 8, 9, 10 and 11 February 2018. Performances are at 6:30pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays and at 6:30pm on Sundays. Tickets are RD$800. There will be an additional performance on 7 February, a benefit for the St. Judge Foundation.