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Daily News - Thursday, 10 April 2014

Easter Week Operation 2014 by COE
The incorporation by the Ministry of Public Health of 90 motorized units that will provide first aid services, the decision by the Vice President of the Republic to add 48 bicycles with first aid kits ("bici-ambulances"), as well as the nighttime patrols by agents of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (AMET) in neighborhoods where "colmadones" and other drinking establishments operate, are some of the innovations announced for "Holy Week 2014: Operation Plan for Values and Your Safety." The plan was launched yesterday, 9 April by the Center for Emergency Operations (COE).

During the press conference for the announcement, the director of the COE, General Juan Manuel Mendez reported that 32,182 volunteers, health workers, doctors, paramedics, military personnel, police, and search and rescue specialists will be stationed at 2,512 aid posts located at "critical points" on beaches, swimming spots, roads, highways and avenues of the country.

Likewise, the General stressed that during the peak domestic travel holiday period, there will be 140 ambulances available, 20 tow-truck stations, eight auto repair shops and six mobile hospitals located at strategic points across the country. COE has even brought into service three helicopters to assist with emergency evacuations. These services are being coordinated through the establishment of nine regional command centers.

JCE to invest RD$60 million in new cedula advertising campaign
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) will be spending RD$60 million in an advertising campaign to encourage seven million residents to get their new personal identification and voter registration cards, known as the "cedula." Felix Reyes, the communications director for the JCE, told reporters that three companies had obtained the contracts for the campaigns that will reach out to Dominicans, foreign residents, minors and military and police personnel. Studio Marketing Creativo, Unico Advertising and Betemit Industrial won the government contracts. The awareness program will include radio and television spots, newspaper ads, social media and billboards all over the country, as reported in El Nuevo Diario.

The Taxman cometh and gets his money
The Department of Taxes (DGII) has announced that it reached 97% of the tax collection goal for the first quarter of this year. This sum, RD$74.2 billion, was around RD$6 billion more than collected during the same period last year, a 16.9% increase from last. The DGII said that the tax collection level was higher despite the additional revenues collected in 2013 that were part of the popular amnesty program. Just in March alone, the DGII collected over RD$23 billion, some RD$2.3 billion more than last year.


AMET announces new way to get stalled cars off elevated highways and overpasses
The Metropolitan Transit Authority (AMET) has announced that it will be using tow trucks and tractors to remove stalled vehicles on overpasses and elevated highways. The stalled vehicles on these thoroughfares cause headaches and delays for countless motorists throughout the day, peaking during rush hour.

General Juan Brown Perez, the AMET commander, said that these new vehicle removal methods will be in force during the Holy Week 2014 Operation organized by the Committee for Emergency Operations (COE).

The same equipment will also be used in the city tunnels. Brown said: "We have four brand-new tractors acquired for this purpose and the services of a dozen tow trucks."

Health Minister Hidalgo confirms outbreak of Chikungunya virus
The Minister of Public Health, Freddy Hidalgo, during his visit to the province of San Cristobal stated that the appearance of the Chijungunya virus has turned into an outbreak, and the authorities are trying to stem the spread of the virus in the Dominican Republic. Hidalgo took part in a meeting with provincial authorities and members of the Pan American Health Organization during which they launched the National Plan for the Control of the Chikungunya Virus. The minister told the Listin Diario that they have tried to establish a cordon around the area of Nigua where the first case appeared to prevent the spread of the virus.

Chief Justice admonishes case preparation
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Mariano German Mejia warned that cases that are poorly prepared, that violate the chain of custody for evidence, and where there has been carelessness in the legality of the processes before these cases reach the judges, should not continue if we are to exercise an effective justice system.

German argued that it is easy to simply blame the judiciary for issuing rulings and sentences that are not always satisfactory to the public. "It is our obligation to assure that all levels of the courts involved in our judicial system be effective and responsible institutions."

Likewise, he revealed that he recently requested that the Attorney General of the Republic, the National Police, and the National Department for Drug Control establish the proper procedures and protocols to prepare and present cases that are well-written and error free. He suggested that the proper administration of justice must respect the principle of the presumption of innocence and with that guarantee in place, the judicial processes is to be carried out in accordance with established ethics and with transparency. As he spoke during a meeting with the reporters that cover the judiciary, he said that this government branch is the last link of the justice process, and although he recognizes that there are weaknesses in the system, he assured the reporters that "we are reviewing with great care the roots or origins of the sentences that provoke questions in society so that we can find out if judges acted in accordance with due process." German Mejia said that in a review of hundreds of cases it was concluded that the majority of the sentences issued by judges were appropriate, and that in the rare cases where anomalies were found further investigations have been ordered.

Another water crisis for Santo Domingo
The Water and Sewer Corporation of Santo Domingo (CAASD) is forecasting that due to the reduction of the levels of the waters in the supply systems of Haina-Manoguayabo, Duey and Isa-Mana, at least 40 sectors in the city will be suffer a reduction in receiving a water supply over the coming days and weeks. The CAASD director, Alejandro Montas, said that "the production of the Valdesia aqueduct has fallen by 10 million gallons a day, but the production is stable at 135 million gallons a day that will allow them to supplement the affected systems and send water to those sectors," he said. In the meantime the Duey water system has shown a slight improvement in volume.

The CAASD director noted that the sectors experiencing the most difficulty with fresh water supplies were Pantoja, Villa Morada, 24 de Abril, Barrio Paraiso, Invi, Obras Publicas, Los Girasoles l and ll, Pueblo Nuevo, Cerros de Arroyo Hondo lll, Ciudad Real ll, Arroyo Hondo ll, Savica, Las Mercedes, La Union, La Esperanza, Barrio Landia, La Guayiga, Pedro Brand, Los Americanos l and ll and Barrio Chavon. In addition these will also be affected: El 30 de Mayo, Solimar, Miramar, Costa Azul, Costa Verde, El Pedregal, Mar Caribe, Engombe, Loyola, El Urena and Brisa del Norte.

Pension superintendent's appointment is expired, says Conep
The National Council of Business (Conep) urged the National Social Security Council (CNSS) to discuss the issues related to the expiration of the period for the appointment of the Superintendent of Pensions. The organization, that brings together the most important business groups in the Dominican Republic, reminded CNSS that the current Superintendent of Pensions was appointed on 27 February 2010, and that his term in office had expired, according to article 109 of the Law 87-01 on the Dominican System of Social Security. The article states that the superintendent will "exercise his functions for a period of four years." Conep stressed that CNSS must decide whether to nominate the current office holder to a new term or to offer a new slate of candidates to the President of the Republic. In addition, the Conep expressed its concerns over the protracted delays of dealing with the issue in the Council, since the delay could cause uncertainty in the Social Security Program.

Bank credits to government up 58%, to the private sector's 13%
The Dominican government continues to be the big consumer of credit in the Dominican Republic. Despite its critics, the government has chosen to resort to foreign and domestic financing rather than reduce its bloated spending. The World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report lists the Dominican Republic as a world leader in wasteful spending. In the past 12 months, government borrowing from banks has displaced private borrowing, with its increase in public debt and issuing of government bonds.

Diario Libre reports that through 31 January 2014, the governmental commercial bank, Banco de Reservas had accounted for 99.7% of lending to the public sector. The government owes a staggering RD$96.6 billion to its creditors. In January, the foreign debt in US$ increased 12%.


DR exports reached US$9.65 billion in 2013
The exports from the Dominican Republic surpassed US$9.5 billion, up from 6.5% over the 2012. The report by the Central Bank noted that if the industrial free zone exports were removed from the calculations, the national exports grew by nearly 12%. The report said that while these are not extraordinarily high numbers, the exports did help reduce the trade deficit. Exports of gold and silver, which grew by over 500% were responsible for much of the reported increase. Exports from the free trade zones also grew at a modest 1.8%, as reported in El Nuevo Diario.



Mejia might be candidate for Convergence
Some are betting that the former President Hipolito Mejia will only be a "referee and sponsor" of the Convergence political movement and that an agreement will be reached with his old running mate on the PRD ticket, Luis Abinader, in order to choose the presidential candidate of this political front. But the political situation in this faction of the PRD opposition party is confusing. When asked about the idea that Mejia lead but not be the presidential candidate of the opposition front, Mejia spokesman, Hector Guzman said: "The [current] leaders do not belong. Former President Hipolito Mejia is the only person that could bring together the majority of the factions that are against the PLD and Leonel Fernandez. [Mejia] is seen as a leader and also as a viable option to take power." Guzman said that all indications are that in the next presidential election there will be two former Presidents competing: Mejia and the PLD president Leonel Fernandez.

"In each one of the marches and caravans that we have done, what has come out is the slogan "Llego Papa" (Papa is here), and now they have reinforced that by saying "I'm still with Papa" (Sigo con Papa)," he stressed. He insisted that in the factions that have approached the Convergence have done so because they see in Mejia the person that embodies the leadership to topple the plans of the ruling party to stay in power.

Falcondo warns of possible arbitration
The president of Falconbridge Dominicana (Falcondo), David Soares, said yesterday that if Loma Miranda should be declared a National Park the company will try to use every mechanism allowed under its contract to negotiate with the government before deciding to take the matter to international arbitration.

The company earlier had maintained that it would leave the country if rights to exploitation were not granted.

"Anyone who knows our agreement with the state knows that we have ways within those contracts to engage with the state, and reach an agreement, but I do not believe we will reach that point. We do not want to talk about international arbitration (at this time)," he insisted.

During a luncheon with executive of the media and makers of public opinion, representatives of Falcondo reiterated their opposition to Loma Miranda becoming a National Park. The created of the protected area would impede the company from the exploitation of ferronickel in the area. The company proposes to mine an area of 22,000 "tareas" (1400 hectares) over the next 20 years.

Rafael Caceres, the Falcondo lawyer, said that if the proposed legislation to convert Loma Miranda into a National Park that is now being considered in Congress were to be approved, it would provoke a property rights dispute, since the area of the proposed national park includes the Falcondo property. Moreover, the proposal would violate the principle of free trade by impeding Falcondo business activities that are protected under a contract with the Dominican government. Finally, Caceres stated there is no scientific evidence that supports the idea that the 67,000 "tareas" (4,200 hectares) of the proposed national park meet the environmental criteria for this type of preservation.

Soares has announced he will be speaking at a RD$3,000 per person luncheon organized by the chambers of commerce of Trinidad, Great Britain, India and the Commonwealth in the Dominican Republic. Soares will undoubtedly use the occasion to make his company's case to exploit the mineral reserves in Loma Miranda.

Recently the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources concluded that the social conditions did not exist for the granting of the environmental permissions to conduct mining activity in Loma Miranda. Community, religious leaders and environmentalists point to the poor track record of Falconbridge in Loma Peguera, and other areas exploited by Falconbridge in the country previously and warned that the Loma Miranda operation would be no different.

Former Dominican ambassador in US Flavio Dario Espinal opens his law firm
Former Dominican ambassador in the United States, Flavio Dario Espinal formally inaugurated his law firm, Flavio Dario Espinal & Associates yesterday, inviting leading businessmen and authorities to a cocktail. The law firm is located at Torre Forum at Ave. 27 de Febrero near the corner of Presidente Antonio Guzman Fernandez.

In his keynote words, Espinal highlighted that the firm is born at a time of profound transformation of the Dominican legal system, with a new Constitution and a new Constitutional Court. He explained these have reconfigured the legal requirements for companies, institutions and individuals. FDE Legal specializes in constitutional, administrative, trade and regulatory issues.

"Our goal is to do all within our reach in each moment and every circumstance to offer our clients timely advice and well-grounded legal opinions, to represent our clients in court, assist them at the negotiation table, arbitral forum or for their needs with different government agencies.

Prior to his term as ambassador in the United States for the Dominican Republic (2004-2009), Espinal was the country's ambassador to the Organization of American States (1996-2000). He is a graduate of in law of the Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM) in Santiago, and later received a master's degree in government from the University of Essex in England and a doctorate from the University of Virginia in the United States.


Shake, rattle and roll
The Dominican territory is crossed by more than dozen faults and yesterday there were at least three small quakes that were felt on the island. According to the Seismological Institute at the UASD, the three events did not cause any material damage, registering 2.8, 3.4 and 4.4 on the Richter scale. The largest tremor was centered just 11 kilometers south of Higuey, but very deep in the earth's crust at 134 kilometers. The other quakes were off Cape Haitian in the Atlantic Ocean and to the south of Gaspar Hernandez on the North Coast.

Dominican film festival in New Delhi
On Sundays 13, 20 and 27, Dominican films will be showing in New Delhi, the Bollywood capital of the world. India is where most films are produced and where most cinema tickets are sold. The films are "La Hija Natural," by Leticia Tonos, "La Montana" by Tabare Blanchard and "Jean Gentil," by Laura Amelia Guzman and Israel Cardenas, reported the cultural counsellor of the Dominican Embassy in Washington, Soraya Franco. The films will be shown at the auditorium of the Instituto Cervantes and admission is free. Franco said that in India, going to the movies is only second to cricket as a national pastime.

The event is a continuation of activities to commemorate the national independence organized by the Dominican Embassy under Ambassador Hans Dannenberg. Other earlier activities included the performance of Latin jazz saxophonist Sandy Gabriel and a culinary demonstration featuring Dominican chef Ines Paez Nin (Tita).

Ambassador Dannenberg says these are efforts to create closer ties between the two countries and cultivate a market of 1 billion people as potential consumers of Dominican rum, cigars and tourism.

Coral gardens mastermind to give talks in Punta Cana
The Puntacana Ecological Foundation is inviting to a workshop on the best practices for the restoration of elkhorn and staghorn coral in Punta Cana. The activity will take place Friday 11 April to Sunday, 13 April at Salon Yauya of the Westin Puntacana Resort & Club. It is being held to create awareness among locals, tourism industry employees, and tourists on the importance of conserving reefs and restoring Acropora coral. Guides will be trained to give coral reef snorkeling tours to tourists to promote coral gardening as a tourist attraction. Austin Bowden-Kerby, pioneer in the world of coral gardening in the Caribbean, and consultant to the Foundation, will be heading the workshop.

The goal of the workshop is to transfer the knowledge accumulated in Punta Cana to other regions in the country. Punta Cana Ecological Foundation has collaborated with nine coral gardening projects nationwide.

We seek to involve and create awareness among groups interested in sustainable management and conservation of coral reefs to improve the livelihoods of fishermen and the tourism sector not only in Punta Cana but all over the country, said Jake Kheel, director of the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation.

The Foundation signed an agreement with the University of Miami and Counterpart International in 2004 to promote the coral gardens concept. And in 2012, the Foundation received funding from the IDB to educate the local population in coral gardening. As a result, the coral gardens of Punta Cana are the largest in the country.

For more information, write to Jake Kheel at [email protected] or see http://www.puntacana.com/sustainable-development.html

DR national basketball team to play USA team at Madison Square Garden
The Dominican national basketball team is scheduled to face team USA on 20 August at Madison Square Garden. The exhibition game is one of many training games leading up to the FIBA 2014 Basketball World Cup in Spain that will be held from 30 August-14 September. The USA team is the champion of the previous World Cup. The USA n Dominican Republic game will be followed by a match between the USA and Puerto Rico, two days later. The Western Hemisphere is represented in the tournament by: the United States, Argentina, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

The Dominican team will play preliminary matches in the 24-team Basketball World Cup in Bilbao against Group C rivals Finland, New Zealand, Turkey, Ukraine and the United States.

For more on upcoming events, see www.dr1.com/calendar

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