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Daily News - Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Mohan Munasinghe visits for Ozama River plan
A Nobel Peace Prize winner is behind the plan to rescue Ozama River. Engineer Mohan Munasinghe, a promoter of "sustainomics" and winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, was in Santo Domingo to introduce the River Coalition Project to President Danilo Medina. The project's focus is to promote biodiversity conservation and sustainable development and natural resource management in the Ozama River watershed.

Munasinghe is chairman of the Munasinghe Institute for Development (MIND) based in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Munasinghe met the President at the Presidential Palace yesterday, 21 April.

The proposed project would be carried out over a 10-year period. The level of contamination of the Ozama River is reported to be four times greater than what is considered to be acceptable river water pollutant levels. During the first two years, the project will focus on substantially reducing levels of organic and solid wastes through the implementation of an integrated sewage waste management program.

The River Coalition is a task force headed by Rene del Risco, vice president of communications for Marti Petroleum Group, owner of Tropigas. Under del Risco's leadership, the River Coalition has compiled the results of 15 studies over the past 3 years that described the levels of contamination of the Ozama River and the possible socio-economic impacts of various development plans for the river and the surrounding basin. Armed with these studies, the Coalition has provided leadership to develop proposals to clean-up the river. Other members of the River Coalition Project are Fundacion Tropigas, Sans Souci Holdings, Mancomunidad de Santo Domingo, Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources, and private citizens, Jaime Moreno, Domingo Contreras and William Gutierrez.

Last year, President Medina requested the participation of Munasinghe to address the contamination problems of the Ozama River and restore the river's potential as a popular natural attraction that expresses or encapsulates the rich colonial and pre-colonial history of Santo Domingo while providing a valuable green or natural corridor for the public to enjoy. Del Risco explained that a clean Ozama River would stimulate the economy of the Santo Domingo while improving the quality of life for thousands of low-income families that are directly impacted by the water quality of the Ozama River.




President elect of Costa Rica to visit
The president elect of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solis, will begin a tour today of Central America (except Nicaragua) and the Dominican Republic to personally invite representatives of these nations to his inaugural on 8 May.

His whirlwind tour of the region begins today in Guatemala and El Salvador. On Wednesday Solis will travel to Honduras and Panama. The President-elect will finalize his tour with a visit to the Dominican Republic this Thursday.

Solis left Nicaragua off his travel itinerary, citing that he was troubled by President Daniel Ortega's (Nicaragua) inflammatory comments concerning the sovereignty of Costa Rica, However, Solis said that a formal invitation to Nicaragua to attend the inaugural will be extended through diplomatic channels.


AMET agent returns cash
According to the Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET), a corporal working for traffic enforcement agency has returned to its owner an envelope containing RD$100,000 in cash that was found on the street by the AMET officer.

The director of AMET, Juan Geronimo Brown Perez said that Corporal Jose de los Santos will be recognized for his honesty and upstanding behavior.

The owner of the money is Horacio R. Alvarez, an officer at the Center for Exports and Investment in the Dominican Republic (CEI-RD).

De los Santos found the money on Romulo Betancourt Avenue at the corner with Privada, in Santo Domingo, a short time after Alvarez had left his vehicle to go into another bank branch to pay a credit card bill.

Agent de los Santos refused a reward saying that it was part of his job and his commitment to serving the public.

Alvarez informed the director of AMET of Corporal de los Santos' good, highlighting that there are still honorable people in the country who should be recognized as such and that this type of behavior should not remain anonymous.


Loma Miranda is now a protected area
The Upper Administrative Court (TSA) has declared Loma Miranda to be a protected area having heard an appeal to stop its exploitation as these activities violate the Constitution.

The court was presided over by Judge Federico Fernandez Cruz, and also involved Rafael Ciprian, Mildred Hernandez Grullon and Evelyn Torres, who made the decision following the appeal by Trajano Pontentini of the Foundation for Justice and Transparency, The Dominican Party for Change, Eduardo Estrella and the Green Socialist Party (PASOVE).

The court also rejected the plea of inadmissibility put forward by the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources and Falconbridge Dominicana that sought to dismiss the appeal.


Final death toll is 33
The Center for Emergency Operations (COE) has issued its fourth and final bulletin reporting that 33 people died during Easter Weekend. This is four more than last year when the death toll was 29.

Of the 33 deaths, 29 were due to road traffic accidents. There were reports that four persons drowned.

The director of the COE, General Juan Manuel Mendez said the increase in deaths was due to the large amount of traffic on the roads and highways.

He said that 319 people were attended for excessive consumption of alcohol, 42 of whom were minors. An additional 113 people were treated for food poisoning. Mendez reported that there was a total of 338 road traffic accidents involving 787 people. Of the 29 traffic fatalities, 17 were riding motorcycles while ten fatalities involved vehicle accidents. Two pedestrians lost their lives when they were struck and killed by vehicles.

Of the 338 accidents, 229 involved motorcycles in which 389 were injured.

He went on to say that 207 of the accidents were on highways and 181 in urban streets.

The Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) detained 6.141 vehicles, including 5,444 motorcycles, as their riders were travelling without a protective helmet. In addition 305 heavy trucks were detained for not having the a special Holiday Week permit. During the Easter Week Holiday, AMET issued 78 tickets to 78 truck operators for driving in the left hand lane and 77 motorists were issued citations for speeding on the nation's roads.

Finally, AMET reported that they conducted 305 Breathalyzer tests to estimate the blood alcohol content of motorists during the Holiday Week. Forty seven motorists failed the Breathalyzer tests.


US$15.89 billion foreign debt
As of 31 December 2013, the foreign consolidated debt of the public sector was US$15,892.2 million, or 26.2% of the Gross Domestic Product, according to the just released Central Bank report on the nation's economy in 2013. The government foreign debt increased US$2 billion compared to the previous year. Of the total government foreign debt, US$14,919.3 million (24.6% of GDP) corresponds to the non-financial public sector, while US$972.9 million (1.6% of GDP) corresponds to the foreign debt of the Central Bank.



ONEC says those who pay taxes, pay a lot
The National Organization of Shopping Malls (ONEC) says that the tax burden for those who pay taxes in the Dominican Republic is very high. Ernesto Martinez, spokesman for ONEC, warned there are "serious problems" with the way that the tax burden is calculated, which makes it appear that the taxation burden in the DR is below average compared to other countries in the region. Economist Miguel Collado of the Regional Center for Sustainable Economic Strategies (CREES) said that Dominicans pay more than other DR-CAFTA signatory countries.


Renting is the norm in the Dominican Republic
A recent report by the Inter-American Development Bank lists the Dominican Republic as having one of the highest rates of families renting instead of being homeowners. According to the report, one in every three Dominicans lives in a rented house. The study included 21 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The average for the region is one out of every five households.

The study "Rental Housing Wanted" highlights the key role rentals play in urban areas and their potential for serving the needs of a broad variety of growing population groups. The study also identified a large stock of unoccupied homes that could help ease the regional housing crunch.

According to the study, Colombia is the Latin American country where renting is the most common (38 percent of all households). In the Dominican Republic the ratio is one in three households and in Honduras, Ecuador, Bolivia and Jamaica it is one in four. The five cities with the highest rates of rented homes are Bogota, Santo Domingo, Cali, Medellin and Quito.

As a result of these findings, the IDB is engaging in a dialogue with countries of the region to explore how a policy to promote rental markets could complement their broader housing policies initiatives, establishing incentives both for landlords and renters, updating rental sector regulations and integrating innovative housing policies into broader concepts of sustainable urban planning.

"What this study proposes is to open up new, unexplored territory in housing policy," said Vicente Fretes, chief of the IDB's Fiscal and Municipal Management Division and co-author of the report. "It's not a question of replacing the focus on home ownership but rather of complementing it. It's sound advice, taking into account the advantages for fiscal sustainability and for containing urban sprawl," Fretes said.

The IDB is recommending that policies be relatively simple, such as expediting home repossessions or creating a system of rental guarantees. It highlights that this would help expand the supply of homes available for rent, creating incentives to add to the market at least part of the considerable stock of vacant homes, which in some countries represents as much as 20 percent of all homes.

In the case of the Dominican Republic, current laws favor renters in legal disputes with the property owners. The system effectively allows the renter to violate multiple contractual agreements and these cases are often tied up in litigation for years.


High turnout returning to school
Public schools restarted after the Easter break with a high level of attendance compared to previous years.

Listin Diario checked several schools in Santo Domingo and saw that attendance was over 80% amongst the pupils, and amongst the teachers and administrative staff almost 100%.

The high level of attendance was attributed to the decision by the Ministry of Education to instruct head teachers to hold examinations in Spanish Language and Mathematics yesterday and Social and Natural Science today as a strategy to ensure more pupils attended school after the Easter Weekend.

In the Dominican Republic School, Villa Juana, 837 out of 913 pupils attended school and the head mistress Mildred Feliu said that usually attendance on the return to school after Easter was around 20%.

It was a similar situation in other schools in the area, reports the newspaper.


Technical career graduates are in greatest demand
Dominican universities are turning out architects, lawyers and marketing specialists, but studies suggest that the job markets want more sales people, electricians, skilled maids, chauffeurs, gardeners and bartenders. The jobs in demand are included in the Electronic Job Bourse (BEE) of the General Employment Department (DGE) of the Ministry of Labor that seeks to help Dominicans find jobs.


Man and Woman 2013 finalists
The jury has selected the ten finalists for the awards of "Man and Woman of the Year 2013" that is sponsored by Diario Libre.

The five female finalists are communicator Gianni Paulino, president of the Manos Arrugadas Foundation; Reyna Celeste Garcia, from Bonao for her work with children with special needs; Francina Hungria, for her work in favor of the blind; Yadira Lama president of the "La Casita de Alexia" Foundation in Puerto Plata; and the communicator Yanira Fondeur de Hernandez, for her work against domestic violence.

The male finalists are the Reverend Father Gregorio Alegria for his work in La Barquita neighborhood; Leopoldo Diaz, founder of "Hogar Crea Dominicano"; architect Miguel Fiallo, rector of the Pedro Henriquez Urena National University; Jaime Rodriguez and his "Jovenes del Porvenir" Foundation and Doctor Ramon Lopez with his Foundation "Sol Naciente".


Telexfree charged in the US
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of the United States announced that on Tuesday it has filed charges against the Massachusetts-based operators of a large pyramid scheme that mainly targeted Dominican and Brazilian immigrants in the United States. In the Dominican Republic, an estimated 150,000 persons fell for the pyramid scheme that is said to have cost them US$100 million.

The SEC alleges that TelexFree, Inc. and TelexFree, LLC claim to run a multilevel marketing company that sells telephone service based on "voice over Internet" (VoIP) technology but actually are operating an elaborate pyramid scheme





Leonel Fernandez knows who is responsible in the Narcisazo case
Speaking on the program El Despertador on Channel 7, lawyer Tomas Castro has confirmed that ex-President, Leonel Fernandez, has information concerning those responsible for the disappearance of university Professor Narciso Gonzalez (Narcisazo).

Castro recounted that he went to the office of the then President to hand over a report with the results of the original investigation, and that the President took the envelope and handed it to Abel Rodriguez Del Orbe, who was Attorney General at that time. But Castro said that Orbe told Fernandez "President this is yours, I have mine."

Castro said that he then realized that there were two reports; one for the Attorney General and one for President Fernandez. And that Fernandez would decide what he wanted to do about the case.

He said, based on the report in the President's possession, Fernandez may know who killed the Professor. He commented that Fernandez has kept quiet about it, probably for political reasons.

Castro went on to say that when Hipolito Mejia became President, he asked him about the report and Mejia said that Leonel had left nothing in the office, nothing about the case of Narcisazo.

Later Castro spoke to Leonel Fernandez about the report, asking if he had read it and the reply was that the report did indeed contain sufficient information to prosecute certain people.

Castro said that the logical presumption was that Fernandez was talking about his report and not that of the Attorney General.

Castro said that he hoped that Danilo Medina's administration would take action and confirmed that he had confidence in Yeni Berenice Reynoso, the current prosecutor.


212 packets of drugs confiscated at Caucedo
The National Drug Control Agency (DNCD) has confiscated 212 packets of what is thought to be cocaine or heroin found in containers at the Caucedo Multimodal Port and inside two suitcases at the Las Americas airport.

The containers on the vessel ship Dublin Express which originated in the Port of Callao in Peru had 178 packets, and the other 24 packets were found in suitcases on an Insel Air flight from Saint Martin.

The DNCD said that the drugs have been sent to the National Institute of Forensic Science (INACIF) to determine the type and weight of the drugs. They are currently investigating who was responsible for the drugs.


Enrique Chao comedy at the National Theather
"The Case of the Suspicious Bow Tie" ("El caso del corbatin sospechoso"), an Enrique Chao production, will open on Thursday, 22 May at the Sala Ravelo of the National Theater. Luis Jose German, Jose Roberto Diaz, Karla Hatton are performing the leading roles. This play follows the humorous adventures of Miguel and Tony, owners of an engineering and architect firm that wins a contract for a major project. The comedy will be on staged from 22-25 May and then again 29 May to 1 June. The starting time for the performance is at 8:30pm, except on Sundays, when the shows start earlier, at 6:30pm.

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

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