DR1 Daily News - Monday, 3 June 2019



Medina attends El Salvador inaugural
Public Teachers Association supports gender education policy, Ordinance 33-19 explained
Water treatment plant will help clean up Isabela and Ozama rivers
Major sector of Puerto Plata highway nearly ready
Monetary Board frees up RD$29 billion from legal reserves
DR is guest country at Madrid Book Fair
Anadegas protest unfair competition in Santiago
The cost of your plastic money
Report calls for changes in higher education
New World Bank report calls for urgent action to tackle marine pollution
US company wins tender to supply coal to Punta Catalina
Police investigating death of two US tourists at San Pedro hotel
US tourist tells her story of being beaten at beach resort
Hurricane season is officially here
DR beats USA in Volleyball Nations League

Medina attends El Salvador inaugural
President Danilo Medina was in El Salvador on Saturday, 1 June 2019 to participate in the inaugural of the 38-year old President of El Salvador, Nayib Armando Bukele Ortez. A former mayor of the El Salvador capital city, Bukele was elected with 53% of the votes in February.

Medina traveled to El Salvador with Foreign Relations Minister Miguel Vargas Maldonado, Administrative Minister of the Presidency José Ramón Peralta; Finance Minister Donald Guerrero, and government spokesman Roberto Rodríguez Marchena. Also on the Dominican delegation was José Miguel González, executive director of the La Barquita urban renewal project (URBE), and his special assistants.

In April 2019, when still President-elect Bukele had paid a courtesy visit to President Danilo Medina at the Presidential Palace.

According to a Presidency press release, the Dominican Republic has a trade deficit with El Salvador. Imports from El Salvador in 2018 were US$6.9 million compared to US$721,239.78 in exports.

President Medina was back in the Dominican Republic on Sunday, when he traveled to northwestern Valverde to inaugurate irrigation works.


Public Teachers Association supports gender education policy, Ordinance 33-19 explained
The Dominican Association of Teachers (ADP), the local public school association, went public on Friday, 31 May 2019 to back the Ministry of Education's recently issued Ordinance 33-19 on gender equality. Christian and Catholic church groups have rejected the ordinance saying that it will open doors for the imposing of "gender ideology" in schools nationwide.

On the contrary, the president of the ADP, Xiomara Guante said her organization will be participating in the drafting of the gender equality policy. She said the changes in educational curriculum will make it possible for children to learn the value of gender equality in the classroom.

She said the gap between men and women is "notorious" in the country. "We cannot tolerate that women continue to be discriminated against in terms of jobs and worker pay, despite having achieved the closing of the gap in secondary and university education in favor of women," said the president. Today more females are enrolled in high school and university education than males.

As evidence of the gender disparity, she mentioned that only three women are ministers of around 20 ministries in government and there is not a single woman on the Monetary Board that sets monetary policy in the country. Likewise, she highlighted that of 32 senators, only 3 are women. She pointed out that women average 18% less in pay than men.

"The ADP understands that gender equality is not only a fundamental human right but also it is needed to achieve a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world," said the president of the public school association of teachers.

She urged Education Minister Antonio Peña Mirabal to convene discussions of gender equity policy with the participation of all sectors.
Gender equity means fairness of treatment for women and men, according to their respective needs. Meanwhile, UNICEF says gender equality means that women and men, and girls and boys, enjoy the same rights, resources, opportunities and protections.

Meanwhile, the director of Gender Education at the Ministry of Education, Marina Hilario gave details on Departmental Order 33-2019. "This is the starting point for the drafting of the Ministry's gender policy, which must be drafted as part of a technical and participatory process," she said. She explained the initial phase would last 60 days, starting with the drafting the policy.

She explained the objective is to overcome the inequality that exists between boys and girls that feeds violence. Another objective is to reduce the divide in the mastery of technology, science and mathematics among boys and girls, as revealed in different studies in recent years.

She explained the order complies with articles 39 and 63 of the Constitution and with the National Development Strategy (END).

Hilario said the Ministry of Education seeks to educate in values, respect, honesty, equity and recognition of the rights of children and adolescents. The intention is to improve the quality of education. The bottom line is that the new gender equality policy do justice to the outstanding debt to women in matters of equality and equity, ensuring that women are valued at the same level as men in terms of rights and opportunities.


Water treatment plant will help clean up Isabela and Ozama rivers
The imminent operation of a new water treatment plant is expected to reduce contamination in the Isabela or Ozama river, according to the head of the Santo Domingo Water and Sewer Corporation (CAASD), Alejandro Montas.

The water treatment plant is based in North Santo Domingo, near Villa Mella in La Zurza, and can process some 27,000,000 gallons of sewage per day. Many barrios of the north part of the National District and in North Santo Domingo release untreated wastewater into the two rivers. There are also some 254 companies that are operating in the river area who need to connect to the processing plant.

Montás added that the facility will be inaugurated in August or September 2019. He also said that most of the major construction work has been completed and workers are now installing the 50hp pumps, the filters and digging the tunnels needed to connect with the sewers.

The CAASD says that a few companies whose waste contains chemicals need to be tackled differently. Furthermore, the CAASD says it is working on cleaning up 17 streams and creeks that also feed into the rivers.


Major sector of Puerto Plata highway nearly ready
Contractors for the Santiago to Puerto Plata highway expansion (via Navarrete) have said that they expect to finish paving the stretch of roadway between Maimón and the city of Puerto Plata by August 2019. The new road stretch connects Amber Cove Cruise Ship Port to the city of Puerto Plata.

Public Works Minister Gonzalo Castillo expects this section of the expansion of the Santiago to Puerto Plata road to be inaugurated by 16 August, marking the start of the last year of the present term of President Danilo Medina. Heavy equipment can be seen along the stretch of road, working hard to ready the area for paving.

The improvement of the Navarrete-Puerto Plata highway, together with the Luperón Tourist Highway, between Santiago and La Gran Parada are two of the most demanded public works by the communities involved. Right now, about 70% of the work has been done on the Navarrete-Puerto Plata road, with difficulties encountered at critical points. Arrears in contractor payments by the government are said to have caused delays.

Work on the Santiago-Gran Parada highway, known as the "Tourist Highway" because of its stunning vistas, is said to be 75% complete. This was the first road between the two cities and dates back to the early 20th century.


Monetary Board frees up RD$29 billion from legal reserves
The Monetary Board has authorized RD$29 billion currently on deposit as part of the commercial bank's legal reserve for use by the banks in loans to "the productive sector." The money will be aimed at exports, manufacturing, farming, housing, commerce and small businesses.

The money would be lent at a 9% interest rate for up to six years for businesses and six years for housing purchases.


DR is guest country at Madrid Book Fair
Culture Minister Eduardo Selman traveled to Spain to be present for the opening of the Madrid Book Fair. The 78th edition of the cultural event is dedicated to the Dominican Republic. The Dominican participation in the fair was organized by Dominican ambassador Olivo Rodríguez Huertas. The country has its own pavilion. The book fair is scheduled for 31 May to 16 June. Around 100 writers, intellectuals and artists make up the Dominican delegation to Madrid for the event.

The Dominican participation will highlight three stellar literary figures: Pedro Henríquez Ureña (1884-1946); writer and former President Juan Bosch (1909-2001); and novelist, storyteller and anthropologist Marcio Veloz Maggiolo, 82.

Historians, academics, anthropologists, sociologists, archaeologists, jurists, journalists, musicologists, literary critics, actors and plastic artists from the Dominican Republic will participate in the activities that will be held in El Retiro Park, Instituto Cervantes, Casa de América and Casa de Vacas.


Anadegas protest unfair competition in Santiago
The National Association of Gasoline Retailers (Anadegas) regional branch in Santiago and Moca held a work stoppage for six hours late last week to call the government's attention to "illegal and unfair competition." The gasoline retailers are calling on the government to put a stop to the "competitive distortions" created by around 2,000 "illegal" fuel vendor points throughout the country. The retailers complained of a considerable reduction in their sales.

The sales boycott affected the provinces of Santiago and Espaillat (Moca). From 6am until noon on Friday, 31 May 2019, more than 200 gasoline stations stopped selling fuel to the public.

Representatives of the association then took part in a protest march that ended on the steps of the governor's office in Santiago, where a list of complaints was given to the provincial governor, Ana Maria Dominguez, who said that she would send the document directly to President Danilo Medina.

According to Arnulfo Rivas, the North Region representative of Anadegas there is the complicity of government officials in the fuel trade. Rivas says that even Refidomsa, the government refinery, has confirmed the reduction in their sales, and this translates into lower tax collections from fuel sales tax.

Rivas said that some stations are offering fuel at RD$10 and RD$15 less per gallon when the government profit margin for a gallon of fuel is set at RD$18.00. He questions how a station can sell fuel with a margin of just RD$3 and warns motorists to be aware that the illegal vendors may be selling adulterated fuel.


The cost of your plastic money
Well-regarded financial advisor Alejandro Fernandez Whipple focuses this week on the cost of credit card borrowing. Credit cards are everywhere, and represent one of the most important revenue streams for Dominican banks.

Fernández looks into the cost of credit card financing. He writes that there are around two million credit cards in use, and they are financing about RD$57 billion in consumer purchases a year. This does not take into account the RD$28 billion in deferred payments associated with these cards.

Fernández provides a graph that presents a comparison of the five principal card-issuers (Reservas, Popular, BHD Leon, Progreso and Scotiabank) that shows just how much each entity has reduced the cost of a credit card, and which entity charges the least interest. Between 2006 and 2019 the average cost of credit card interest fell from 79.1% to 56.6%, a reduction of 28% in relative terms.

The financial advisor stresses the fact that starting in 2013, after a historic negotiation between the commercial banks and the Superintendence of Banks (which he calls "the Camilazo"), credit card interest rates were quickly reduced. In spite of concerns about a decline in profitability on behalf of the bankers, the drop in rates resulted in an increase in consumer borrowing. The volume of credit card debt would double over the past five years, going from RD$18.4 billion to RD$33.4 billion in 2019.

Another chart reveals that interest levels have dropped at each credit card level: classic, gold or platinum. For example, a platinum card paid 53.7% interest in 2014 and now there are platinum cards with financing rates of as low as 40% in 2019. Because of the negotiations, the highest interest level on plastic is now an annual 60%.

The big question is now: Which card issuers offer the lowest interest rates? The answer is clear: Scotiabank, APAP and Promerica. These are the three banks that have most reduced their interest rates. Today Scotiabank is said to be the least "onerous" at 48.2%, followed by APAP (Asociacion Popular de Ahorros y Prestamos) and Promerica.


Report calls for changes in higher education
A major report from the Jose Luis Aleman Center for Economic and Social Studies at the Pontifical Catholic University Madre y Maestra analyzes the higher education system in the Dominican Republic and finds several shortcomings. First among these is the continued focus on immediacy and improvisation in the face of a continued decline in educational quality and competitiveness. The report says that there are enough resources to make the right decisions and open new educational pathways.

The study, called "Dominican Higher Education: tendencies and challenges," was produced by Fernando Ferrán, the researcher and director of the Center. Ferrán looks at what he calls "reciprocal promotion between professors, researchers and students." He argues that if the declining quality and competitiveness of our higher education system continues to be ignored, graduates will have been trained for a world that no longer exists.

Ferrán says that Dominican universities are becoming more and more like degree factories instead of graduating skilled professionals. Dominican university population increased from 108,000 in 1990 to 286,000 in 2017. Student access to higher education is well above the regional average of 50%.

The report concludes that there is a need for the planning and gradual implementation of an entirely new approach to teaching and learning to meet the demands of modern day technology and contemporary values.


New World Bank report calls for urgent action to tackle marine pollution
The Dominican Republic needs to step up efforts to reverse marine degradation, restore damaged ecosystems and protect the area's marine resources. A recent report by the World Bank says that so far 14 other Caribbean countries have already acted to ban single-use plastic bags and/or Styrofoam.

The report, "Marine Pollution in the Caribbean: Not a Minute to Waste," calls for governments to ratify international conventions, such as the Cartagena Convention. The report examines how marine pollution in the Caribbean is a threat to the region's resilience to climate change and highlights that marine resources are a vital source of food, livelihoods and jobs to millions of people dependent on tourism, fisheries and the ocean economy.

Tahseen Sayed, World Bank country director for the Caribbean stresses: "Effective management of plastics, solid waste, and wastewater are our top priorities to create a blue legacy for future generations".

The report lays out an action plan to reverse this threat and transition towards a more sustainable "Blue Economy" that can generate growth and build resilience while preserving ocean resources.

The report highlights that marine pollution including plastics, sewage, agriculture runoff, oil and chemicals, poses a severe threat, particularly to tourism that accounts for 15% of the region's GDP and to fisheries which provide income and food security to impoverished communities in the area. Thousands of plastic shards can often be found in Caribbean waters, representing nearly 80% of the total litter.

According to the report, more than 320,000 tons of plastic waste remains uncollected each year in the Caribbean. Coral reef degradation is also strongly linked to marine pollution and represents an estimated annual revenue loss of between US$350 million and US$870 million.


US company wins tender to supply coal to Punta Catalina
Xcoal Energy & Resources of the United States out-bid CMC Coal marketing of Colombia and Trafigura of Mexico and will continue to provide coal for the Punta Catalina Thermoelectric Power Plant (CTPC). The US coal provider had already won the bid for the supply of test coal for unit number 1 in October 2018. The company will now supply 788,000 metric tons of the coal to be used by unit 2 of the CTPC. The units each were built to generate 376 megawatts gross, for a total 752 megawatts gross.

Jaime Aristy Escuder, general administrator of CTPC, said that Xcoal offered US$37.08 per metric ton of Type A coal and Type B coal is also being assigned a value of US$53.88 per metric ton.

A call for public tenders for the regular supply of coal to be used by the two Punta Catalina units when they are operating at full capacity is pending.


Police investigating the death of two US tourists at San Pedro hotel
The National Police says that the autopsy of two US tourists who died on Thursday, 30 May 2019 in San Pedro de Macorís indicates they died from respiratory failure and pulmonary edema. The National Institute of Forensic Sciences (Inacif) still needs to turn in results of toxicological and histopathological studies on the deceased.

The Maryland couple, 63-year old Edward Nathaniel Holmes and 49-year old Cynthia Ann Day, was found dead in their room at a Bahía Principe hotel in Playa Nueva Romana in southeastern San Pedro de Macoris. They had been staying there since 25 May and were scheduled to leave the hotel on the same day they died.

The case is under investigation by the scientific investigations unit of the Police. As reported, Holmes had consulted a hotel medic by telephone but was not seen personally by a doctor following the call. The Police says there were no signs of violence. In the room, several pharmaceuticals were found -- Galanpertin 400 MG, Oxicodona 5MG, Loxofen 50 MG, as reported in Diario Libre.


US tourist tells her story of being beaten at beach resort
51-year old US tourist, Tammy Lawrence-Daley used her Facebook page to tell her story of being brutally attacked when she went out alone at around 10pm to get a snack at the Majestic Elegance resort in northern Punta Cana in January 2019. She was hospitalized for five days for her injuries, as reported. Lawrence was staying at the resort with her husband Christopher and friends.

In the Dominican Republic, nothing had appeared publicly on the attack until Lawrence posted her case four months later on her Facebook page. The story went viral all over the world.

Lawrence suspects an employee of the hotel is responsible because she says her attacker was attired in the hotel uniform. After being beaten by her attacker, she says her assailant dragged her into a dark crawl space. She says she tells her story so that others can be forewarned to the dangers of walking alone at night.

At the time, she did not file a Police complaint. The case is under investigation by Cestur, the tourism police division. Frank Duran of the Police said the information they have does not coincide with the victim's more recent statements. But he said the investigation is ongoing.

As reported, a US consul agent was present when she made her statements to the Police. The US Embassy issued a report saying they are following the story closely and are working with the local authorities. "The welfare and safety of US citizens abroad are top priorities of the US State Department," said the US Embassy statement. Nevertheless, the embassy says that "out of respect for the privacy of Mrs. Lawrence-Daley and her family, we have nothing more to say at this time."

As reported by AP, the Facebook post was published after the failed attempt by the victim to secure an agreement with the insurance company of the hotel out of the courts. Lawrence reportedly acted after the insurance company sent notified her that Majestic Elegance did not have any responsibility in the case because the aggressor could not be identified as an employee of the hotel.

The hotel has yet to issue a public statement on the case.


Hurricane season is officially here
The 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which lasts until November, began on 1 June 2019. There has already been one named storm even before the season had begun. The first storm, Andrea, only lasted a day, up north of the Bahamas.

Miguel Campusano, the assistant director of National Meteorological Office (Onamet), noted the presence of the El Niño in the eastern Pacific, and added that not a lot has been studied regarding this weak El Niño and its effect on tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Basin.


DR beats USA in Volleyball Nations League
The Dominican women's volleyball team traveled to Bangkok, Thailand to continue its participation in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League. The team arrived in Thailand having defeated Team USA.

The sweet victory over team USA took place on 30 May 2019 in Conegliano, Italy. The US and the DR had met in 18 world level championships, and the USA had won 16 and the DR only two before this historic match. In the previous VNL in 2018, the USA defeated the DR in straight sets.

As reported, with a massive 17-3 run and a 7-0 block advantage, the Dominican team took the first set of that game with ease. The US would win the second set but then dropped the third to head to a must-win fourth set. Team USA would win the fourth set to force a tiebreaker. But it would be team Dominican Republic that claimed the victory, 3-2 (25-10, 16-25, 25-19, 19-25, 15-11). The USA had been undefeated in the tournament until playing the Dominican Republic.

The Dominican women's volleyball team (FIVB ranked 10th) now will play Turkey (12th), Thailand (14th) and Bulgaria (16th) from 4-6 June 2019 in the third preliminary round of the 16-team FIVB Volleyball Nations League championship in Bangkok, Thailand.

Turkey enters into the game with 6 wins and five defeats. In the FIVB VNL, the DR has 3 wins and 3 losses. But the Dominican team has behind its wins to the USA (ranked 3rd), Russia (ranked 5th) and Brazil (ranked 4th). In previous rounds, the Dominican team lost to top-ranked China (2nd), Italy (8th), Serbia (1st) in games that ended 3-1.

The win against USA has pushed the DR up from 11th to 9th place. China and the top five teams from the preliminary round of 16 teams will reach the finals to be held in China from 3-7 July with the winner receiving US$1 million.

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