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Daily News - Friday, 05 September 2014

Medina invites investment in the DR
In his keynote address on the occasion of the opening of the CEI-RD Invest in DR Summit at the JW Marriott Hotel in Santo Domingo yesterday, Thursday 4 September 2014, President Danilo Medina encouraged investors to make the most of the optimum time for investing, stressing the DR's booming economy, geographically strategic position and public-private trust relationship.

Medina stated that the DR is the leader in foreign direct investment in the Caribbean with more than US$5 billion in the past two years. This investment has contributed to the strong 5% GDP growth rate. Medina mentioned that the DR's strategic geographical position is being enhanced with the start of operation of the post-Panamax and super post-Panamax ships with the expansion of the Panama Canal scheduled to be completed in 2015. This will open many new opportunities for transshipment and new maritime routes.

The President announced that the DR is developing its port and maritime infrastructure, export free zones and tourism industry in preparation for these changes. He mentioned the Merchant Marine and Air Connectivity Law that is aimed at turning the DR into "the hub of the Caribbean."

The President said that the DR is a signatory of DR-CAFTA and EPA trade agreements with the US and the European Union, which provide the country with privileged access to 882 million consumers around the world. "Through the trade agreements we have negotiated favorable and flexible rules of origin that grant many advantages to companies doing business in the Dominican Republic," he said.

Medina added that the DR has the second best transport infrastructure in the region. He said that with an area of around 48,000 square kilometers, the DR has a 5,400km highway and roads network. He also mentioned the country's eight international airports, 12 cargo ports, and four cruise ship ports with easy and fast land access from all points of the country.

Describing his initiatives aimed at promoting foreign investment, he mentioned the many incentives for foreign investment included in the Foreign Investment Law that offers the same treatment to foreigners as to residents, including free repatriation of capitals and investment treatment to technological transfers.

He called on investors to consider investing in tourism, recalling that the DR received around five million visitors last year, US$5 billion in revenues, making it the leading destination in the Caribbean. Medina went on to say that there are already around 70,000 hotel rooms in the country and that investors can benefit from tax exemptions of up to 15 years.

Focusing on agribusiness, he said fruit and vegetables can be grown here 365 days a year, and there is a law that grants zero taxation for farming equipment and machinery imports.

He spoke about the export free zones, with 55 parks in operation and around 600 companies installed. "We are proud that large companies and brands have entrusted us to manufacture their products," he said.

Medina highlighted the recent work by the National Footwear Commission to attract new international partners, which is helping the DR to become an attractive cluster for that sector, creating thousands of jobs for the country.

In less traditional areas, he said that Law 57-07 grants tax exemptions to producers and self-generators of alternative energy sources, as the aim is to increase the share of renewable energies in the country's energy matrix.

President Medina also called on investors to look into the movie industry. He said incentives provide for fiscal credits of up to 25% of spending, plus additional incentives on profits and the authorization of temporary import of equipment.

He spoke of call centers that currently generate 35,000 jobs at 112 locations nationwide.

He mentioned incentives for development of industry at the border, and tax incentives for those who retire in the DR on foreign pensions.

In his closing words, the President declared that the trust between the government and productive sectors has generated a "virtuous circle."

"That trust is strengthened every day, because we have proven that we govern the same for all," he said. He also stressed that people can trust that when he gives his word, it will be fulfilled.

He said that his government has focused on transparency to achieve people's trust.

"To have a professional administration without privileges is the best guarantee that business will be able to operate in a context of equality, predictability and clear rules of the game," he said. He added that the government was working to modernize the state, especially in procurement and the creation of 24 oversight commissions at the leading government entities.

He said that these initiatives have resulted in social and political stability.

"We have made decisive steps to build a society of middle classes," he said. "And we are committed to providing, both for our citizens as well as for national and international investors, a favorable climate for the creation and expansion of business," He invited those present to be part of what he described as "the historic times the DR is experiencing" and to invest in the DR.




DR attracts US$2 billion in FDI over past 10 years
Speaking at the Invest DR Summit in Santo Domingo yesterday, Thursday 4 September 2014, Central Bank governor Hector Valdez Albizu said that accumulated Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the Dominican Republic registered a 245.5% increase over a ten-year period, going from US$7.7 billion in 2004 to US$26.55 billion at the close of 2013. Foreign companies invested US$18.87 billion over the period, or US$2 billion a year on average.

He mentioned the advantages of the country's strategic geographical location, a beneficial foreign investment regime, excellent maritime and airport and land transport infrastructure, world class telecom system, and agreements such as the DR-CAFTA with the United States and the European Partnership Act (EPA) with Europe.

He said Central Bank forecasts are for the growth to continue with a year's end GDP growth of 5.5% to 6% forecast, which positively compares to the Latin America and the Caribbean regional average of 1.4%.

Social license needed for mining
Energy and Mines Minister Pelegrin Castillo says that mining should not go ahead in Loma Miranda unless high-level, credible studies prove that it is feasible. He said that President Danilo Medina is very clear about this.

Castillo said that for any mining to go ahead, a social license to operate (SCO) is needed. Social license refers to the level of acceptance or approval by local communities and stakeholders of mining companies and their operations. To obtain SLO, mining companies must develop good relationships with all stakeholders.

"The problem with the social license needs to be resolved, not only in the case of Loma Miranda. In any part of the national territory mining has to be carried out with the highest standards and the role of the state is to guarantee to the public that its non-renewable resources will be extracted with a high level of responsibility, balance and respect for the environment," said the minister, as reported in Listin Diario.




Focus now turns to land use plan in Loma Miranda case
Environmentalist and lawyer Yomaira Martino has told Diario Libre that a land use study must be finalized in order to establish whether mining can take place in the Loma Miranda area.

In his letter objecting to the bill granting national park status for Loma Miranda, President Danilo Medina said that during his presidency he would not authorize mining in Loma Miranda or in any other area without the strict fulfillment of environmentally sustainable requirements. At the same time, the President highlighted the importance of maintaining juridical security.

Martino said that the veto opens the possibility for the mining company to apply once again for extraction permits and the environmental license that were denied by the Ministry of Environment after receiving a report from the UNDP that concluded that the environmental impact study submitted by Falcondo was incomplete.

She said that other legal recourses could be submitted, which could be civilian, administrative or based on international agreements.

"Whatever is decided, this serves as a precedent for foreign investment, for mining and environmental protection and is one of the most important in Dominican environmental law.

In this context, she told Diario Libre that "the only way we are going to resolve these land use conflicts, on whether it can be used for mining or not, is with a strategic land use plan that tells the country and any foreign investor if the lands are located in a given area or is suitable for agriculture or conservation."

A land use bill submitted by the Ministry of Economy and Planning has languished in Congress for many years.

In his message to Congress, President Danilo Medina stated:

"I feel obliged to observe the content of the bill and ask the honorable legislators not only to reject this bill, but also to postpone any decision on Loma Miranda, and any other area of the country for mining potential until the legislature passes the Dominican Republic Land Organization Plan as ordered by the Constitution. This is mandated in Art. 194 of the 2010 Constitution."

Deputy Vinicio Selman said yesterday, Thursday 4 September, that Constitutional Court ruling 167-13 had decided against mining in the Loma Miranda before the bill granting national park status to the area was passed. The Constitutional Court had confirmed a decision by the Third Penal Chamber of the Court of First Instance of La Vega that had ordered a halt on work being carried out by Swiss mining company Falcondo in Loma Miranda, on the grounds that it was detrimental to the environment. The recourse was submitted by the Fundacion Padre Rogelio Cruz and Miguel Angel Reynoso Sicard.



2.2 million euros for disaster mitigation
The Minister of the Presidency, Gustavo Montalvo, has announced that the European Union has donated EUR2.2 million for disaster prevention and mitigation. The funds will be used to strengthen, equip and organize disaster prevention and mitigation teams in vulnerable areas.

A memorandum of understanding was signed by Montalvo, the European Development Funds national authorizing officer Antonio Vargas Hernandez and European Union charge d'affaires Antonia Calvo. The support is aimed at ensuring that areas affected by natural disasters are better prepared to recover and return to productive activities.

The funds will be used to support the work of the member institutions of the National Disaster Risk Management System, and for strengthening initiatives such as the School of Risk Management, seismic vulnerability of critical infrastructure and provide training to communities on emergency prevention and management issues.


Health and dental programs, Russian classes in Higuey
Minister of Tourism Francisco Javier Garcia and rector of the state university UASD Ivan Grullon have signed an agreement for UASD doctors to carry out health and dental programs in the country's main tourism areas. The agreement will focus mainly on disease prevention in tourist destinations.

Grullon stated that the agreement would encourage development as it creates linkages between the university and the business community. He said the UASD dental school has the best reputation in the country and said he was sure this would be the first in a series of other agreements.

The Ministry of Tourism will provide RD$400,000 a month for the duration of the yearlong program.

In a separate initiative, the university announced it would be starting to offer Russian language courses at the Higuey Regional Center, the UASD campus in the country's eastern region. The Ministry of Tourism donated 30 computers, two routers, two projectors and air-conditioning for the classes. Higuey University Center director Jorge Guerrero also attended the event.

Higuey is the largest city serving Punta Cana tourism destinations, and where most of the people employed in resorts in the area live.


DNCD says major drug kingpin under arrest
Winston Risik Rodriguez, the alleged leader of a major drug dealing network operating in the country's eastern provinces, turned himself in hours after the authorities at the National Drug Control Agency (DNCD) and the Attorney General's Office called for him to surrender to the authorities to respond to charges against him, including drug trafficking, money laundering and illegal possession of weapons.

Rizik made the announcement of his surrender in a phone call to the "Gobierno de la tarde" radio talk show yesterday, Thursday 4 September 2014. He said he was turning himself in because he feared for his life.

When calling for his surrender, Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito described him as the most dangerous and wanted drug trafficker, and the leader of a major drug cartel. Dominguez pointed out that Rizik has been able to evade justice at all levels, even an extradition order from the United States.

The Attorney General said that several months of intelligence work had produced enough proof to support their accusation against him as one of the most powerful and influential drug cartel bosses.

Rizik Rodriguez (El Gallero) is being held in the DNCD cells and will be brought to justice today, Friday, 5 September 2014. His lawyers are Freddy Castillo and Pedro Duarte Canaan.

The authorities say that war weapons were found in one of his ranches in Monte Plata with bullets that can penetrate bulletproof vests. The weapons included a RM6572 multi-caliber rifle, a M-16 type rifle, caliber 5.56mm, a 12 shotgun brand Franchi Spa 15, a 12 shotgun Mossberg brand, and four chargers for M-16 rifles and two telescopic viewers for rifles. Six packages of cocaine were also confiscated.

DNCD chief, Major General Julio Cesar Souffront, said that Rizik was known as a prosperous businessman who owned ranches, cattle and cockfighting roosters.

In a press conference held after turning himself in, Rizik stated he was innocent of the charges. He said that he was not in hiding and that if he was arrested the authorities should also arrest Pascual Cabrera Ruiz and Julio Cesar Cabrera Ruiz, his archrivals in the eastern region. He claimed that Pascual Cabrera has tried to murder him on several occasions, as reported in El Dia.

The newspaper writes that the authorities are accusing both Rizik and Cabrera of engaging in what they describe as "a war" for the control of drug trafficking networks in the eastern region that were previously under Antonio del Rosario Puente (Tono Lena). Tono Lena was extradited to Puerto Rico where he is in jail, but he could be back within a year. As reported, the drug control wars have caused around 30 deaths in La Romana and Higuey.

El Dia reported that Rizik escaped from a US prison where he was serving time for drug trafficking. In 1995 he was arrested in the DR and remained in jail for five years while the local authorities discussed whether to extradite him to the US, but this never happened because the Supreme Court of Justice ruled that the deadline for extradition had expired.

Rizik told the press that he is not as high up in the drug-dealing world as the authorities are claiming. He said there are others who are much more powerful and that he had decided to turn himself in because he has no reason to evade the authorities.




DR advances to eliminatory round in Fiba 2014
The Dominican Republic will play Slovenia (ranked 13th in the world) during the eliminatory round of the FIBA World Championship 2014 today at 2pm, Dominican time. The game can be seen on Channel 21 (Telecable de Tricom). The DR is ranked 26th by Fiba.

With New Zealand's win over Finland on Thursday, 4 September, the Dominican Republic made it to the next second round of the 24-team FIBA World Championship. This will be the first time a Dominican team has played in a second round. The teams passing to the eliminatory round in Group C are USA (5-0), Turkey (3-2), DR (2-3), and New Zealand (2-3). Ukraine and Finland were eliminated.

The Dominican Republic lost to the USA (106-71), Turkey (77-64), Ukraine (72-62), but defeated New Zealand (76-63) and Finland (74-68) to move to the next level. The DR's archrival, Puerto Rico, did not make it to the next round.

See the list of the qualified teams that will play games in Barcelona and Madrid on Saturday, 5 and Sunday 6 September.

The teams moving on, their Fiba ranking at the start of the tournament, are:

1. USA
2. Spain
3. Argentina
4. Lithuania
5. Greece
7. Turkey
8. France
9. Australia
10. Brazil
11. Serbia
13. Slovenia
16. Croatia
19. New Zealand
24. Mexico
26. Dominican Republic
41. Senegal


Be Crazy and Johnny Ventura at Plaza de Espana
Merengue great Johnny Ventura will be performing with the young music group Be Crazy at Plaza de Espana in Santo Domingo's Colonial City this evening, Friday 5 September 2014. The Verano + Crazy concert, which is free, is set for 7pm.

Aymee Nuviola and Son at Escenario 360
Cuban Aymee Nuviola, known for her melodic renditions of "son" music is performing with entertainer Jochy Santos at the Escenario 360 at the Galerias 360 Mall on JF Kennedy Avenue in Santo Domingo.

The show is called "Al son del chiste." Aymee Nuviola, who has been living in Miami for the past 10 years, has been popular in Cuba ever since she won a TV show, "Everyone sings" in a duet with her sister.

See a video of her singing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2VMhG34yGs

For more on ongoing and upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar

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