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Daily News - Friday, 27 June 2014

Medina sets out challenges facing the region
During the process of transferring the Pro Tempore presidency of the Central American Integration System (SICA) yesterday, Thursday 26 June 2014, President Danilo Medina listed the challenges facing the region. He was speaking on the eve of the XLIII Ordinary Meeting of Heads of State and Governments being held in Punta Cana, starting today Friday 27 June 2014. Medina said that one of the major challenges was to reduce inequality in the region and improve people's living standards. He said that integration makes no sense unless it benefits the people by reducing the region's unequal wealth distribution. He also mentioned public safety and organized crime as other major challenges.

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Only a joint commission can save Loma Miranda Park
In a bid to find a feasible way out of the stalemate in the National Congress over the legislative proposal that seeks to create a National Park at Loma Miranda, experts and institutions are proposing the formation of a joint commission of senators and deputies to study the bill. They are also calling on the public to support the conservation of this natural resource. Academy of Sciences president Milciades Mejia, environmentalist Luis Carvajal and Justice and Transparency Foundation president Trajano Potentini are all expressing fears that the use of legislative technicalities might cause the proposal to expire in the Congress.

Mejia is proposing that Senate president Reinaldo Pared Perez and Chamber of Deputies president Abel Martinez meet and set up a joint commission with the aim of reaching a consensus within a reasonable timeframe. He said that the decision by the deputies surprised them given the fact that the proposal that was sent by the Senate was practically identical, as only a few articles had been added that did not alter the original proposal. This situation, he says, goes from the technical to the political with the PLD now in charge of handling the issues. "There was no intention of passing this bill in the Chamber of Deputies, as they did not even read it, to the extent that the PRSC and PRD spokesmen came out and said that what the Senate had done was a ruse, without having read the proposal." Environmentalist Luis Carvajal also supports the formation of a joint commission that will present an agreed-upon proposal within a 10-day timeframe and it is approved after being declared to be urgent. "The deputies probably discussed the proposal without reading it. Some of them seemed to be speaking about another law; it is not true that there was a total change," he said. Carvajal believes that unless the Congress members reach a consensus, the bill to declare Loma Miranda a National Park "will not be passed, it will fail."

No permits for parties or noisy events
The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources has announced that from now on it will not issue permits for parties and other events in urban residential areas as a way of preventing harmful and bothersome noise. For this purpose, they say they will work in coordination with the mayors of the country's main cities in order to enforce compliance with laws 64-00 on the Environment and Natural Resources and 287-04 on Prevention, Suppression and Limitation of Damaging and Bothersome Noise that Causes Noise Pollution, among other regulations. A press release states that the measure is being taken in response to a series of formal noise pollution complaints in the state ministry database. Along with the measure, the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources, the municipal governments and the Municipal Police is launching an innovative public education campaign aimed at regulating the noise that is bothersome, damaging to the environment and harmful to health.

Ozama watershed reforestation program
In an attempt to reduce sedimentation and improve the water flow of the Ozama River, the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources is embarking on an ambitious plan to reforest over a thousand hectares in the upper reaches of the river's watershed in Monte Plata province. The RD$50 million project includes planting a million mahogany trees, as well as Caribbean pine, eucalyptus, coffee, cacao, bamboo and other varieties. The three-year project will also include soil conservation measures such as living fences and terraces as well as elimination of the harmful slash-and-burn farming methods that are still prevalent in the area. According to El Caribe, the project also involves a large-scale public educational program to instruct local people in soil conservation techniques and to improve their lives.

Government tender for Ozama ferries
The La Barquita Rehabilitation Commission, headed by Miguel Gonzalez Cuadra, is putting the finishing touches on a government tender to provide ferry services along the Ozama River to serve as feeder lines for the Metro 2 line by connecting the barrios along the riverbank with the new line. Gonzalez Cuadra says that the conditions for a service of this type are not yet in place, as no adequate docks are available for passengers to embark and disembark, as reported in El Nuevo Diario.

DNCD says DEA withdrew assistance
The National Drug Control Agency (DNCD) revealed yesterday, Thursday 26 June 2014 that the United States withdrew part of the technical support for the Dominican authorities in their fight against drug trafficking in September 2013. DNCD commander Julio Cesar Souffront told El Nuevo Diario that, "the withdrawal of this support has made the system a little more vulnerable and that is why we have made a point of acquiring our own technical skills."

DGTT says 30% do not renew licenses
The Ground Transport Department (DGTT) says that an average of 15,000 people a month apply to renew their drivers' licenses, but about 30% of them leave without completing the process because they have unpaid fines for traffic violations. Speaking to Diario Libre reporters, DGTT director Luis Estrella said that the only solution is to open an AMET office in the Ground Transport headquarters so that when drivers pay their outstanding fines at the Banco de Reservas they can go straight to the AMET booth and receive their discharge. AMET told Diario Libre that they had reported 1,363,000 infractions between 2011 and April 2014, but only 10% of the drivers had paid their fines. By far the most common of the 58 types of traffic violations on the books is non-use of seatbelts, followed by violations of red lights. Blocking traffic is in third place. In March, Diario Libre reported that the highest fines are for running red lights, speeding, reckless driving, driving without seatbelts and allowing children under 12 to sit in the front seat. These violations cost RD$1,667. The remaining violations cost RD$1,000.

AMET seizes motorcycles
Yesterday, Thursday 26 June 2014, the Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) showed off its new trailers for hauling motorcycles that are taken off the roads due to traffic violations. Many do not have license plates or their drivers are not wearing helmets. On the first day of use, the AMET towed away over 500 motorcycles to the parking lots prepared for the haul. The parking lots are located on Independencia and Monumental avenues. An AMET spokesman said that the new trailers could be towed by small tractors or pickup trucks, which makes it easier to remove the motorbikes. AMET used to use platform-trucks to transport the motorcycles.

Bank credit is not for industry or agriculture
What is the Dominican banking system good for? Mainly for lending money to traders, for buying housing, and for consumption. As of 17 June 2014, these three sectors absorbed 65.1% of the credit channeled by the country's financial institutions. In contrast, the manufacturing industry and agriculture, forestry and fishing only received 10.8% of the loans, according to the reconciled statistics the Central Bank published on the monetary and financial system. The low percentage of bank credits that industry and agriculture receives contrasts notably with its major contribution to the Gross Domestic Product, and with its job creation capacity. This contribution, although it has been falling over the years, was 7.6% for farming, and 25.8% for local manufacturing in 2013. All told, together they represented 33.4% of the GDP. In addition, both sectors contributed 21.2% of the formal jobs and the 23.9% that were generated by the entire Dominican economy in both the formal and informal sectors.

In her statement to the General Senate Commission for DR-CAFTA, Dominican Republic Industrial Association (AIRD) president Ligia Bonetti reported that the industrial sector contributed 35% of the tax income, which represented more than a quarter of the Dominican economy, but that it receives "barely" 7% of the total credit portfolio of the country's banks. "Thanks to our banking regulations, it is a thousand times easier to obtain a loan for a vehicle than to acquire machinery," she stated.

Chikungunya patients continue to overflow clinics
According to the latest reports from private clinics, demand for services related to the Chikungunya virus has increased by between 25% and 30%, mostly from patients who are suffering from fever and fear they may have contracted the virus. The Ministry of Public Health's Mother and Child Health Department director Luz Herrera has called on public and private health centers to properly apply the protocol designed by the ministry for treating pregnant women and newborn babies. Private Clinics and Hospitals Association (Andeclip) president Rafael Mena said that the greatest increase in patients was in emergency rooms and outpatient consultations, but not in hospitalizations. He said "everyone who has a fever thinks it's the Chikungunya virus."

Coast Guard rescues 21 Haitians from tragedy at sea
The US government decision to allow Haitian immigration to the US if they reach US territory has turned into a nightmare for the Dominican Navy and the US Coast Guard. The policy is encouraging more Haitians to risk the dangerous sea route and try to migrate to Puerto Rico. Fewer Dominicans are using this sea route after extensive media coverage of the dangers and a series of high-profile tragedies.

The US Coast Guard announced on Thursday, 26 June 2014 that 21 Haitian immigrants were rescued when their boat capsized in the Mona Passage. Two suspected smugglers were taken into custody after the Coast Guard rescued the migrants.

As reported, on Sunday, 22 June 2014 the US Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter detected a suspected smuggling vessel en route to Puerto Rico, 27 nautical miles west of Mona Island. The Coast Guard Cutter Key Largo was sent to interdict the vessel and a Customs and Border Protection aircraft was launched to assist.

The suspected smugglers noticed they were being followed and, as reported by the Coast Guard service, in a desperate attempt to avoid law enforcement authorities, they allegedly forced migrants overboard from what was described as an already unseaworthy vessel and caused the vessel to capsize.

The crew of the Key Largo recovered 22 people from the water including eight Haitian women, 11 Haitian men, two Dominican Republic nationals and a deceased Haitian man.

"I implore all those thinking about taking to the sea and placing their lives into the hands of ruthless and cowardly smugglers to not put their lives at risk," said Capt. Drew Pearson, Coast Guard Sector San Juan commander. "The smugglers don't care about you and they will leave you to the perils of the sea if it means saving their own skin."

On Tuesday, 24 June 2014 the Coast Guard Cutter Matinicus returned the Haitian migrants to La Romana, Dominican Republic.

The suspected smugglers were delivered to US federal law enforcement agents from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations in Puerto Rico.

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A busy police blotter
In Santiago yesterday, Thursday 26 June 2014, four young men were killed in two separate incidents and another is in serious condition. The Police said that the two incidents were related to fights between drug dealers and police patrols. In Monte Plata, the murder of former PLD city council member Renato Castillo in Monte Plata led to the arrest of 11 people including two women who were with the victim when he was killed by two men on a motorcycle.

Sundays at the ruins with Bonye
Son, bachata, merengue and surprise appearances by leading Dominican musicians and international guest artists can be enjoyed on Sunday evenings as the sun sets over the Ruins of San Francisco in the Colonial City of Santo Domingo. Enjoy traditional live music in an extraordinary setting at this bohemian-style event every Sunday from 5:30pm to 10pm.

Cabo Rojo Challenge
Open water swimmers are heading to the southwestern Dominican Republic this weekend to swim off the beautiful Cabo Rojo beach on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 June. The event brings together long-distance swimmers from all around the Dominican Republic. The swim will take place in the morning of Sunday, 29 June covering distances of 2, 4 and 8 kilometers.

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

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