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Daily News - 21 December 1998

NAFTA parity could pass in year 1999
Dominican ambassador in the United States, Bernardo Vega is optimistic that the devastation Georges and Mitch hurricanes wreaked in the Caribbean and Central America may have had a softening effect on US congressmen that may now be more prone to vote for NAFTA parity that would grant Caribbean and Central American nations similar trade treatment as that granted Mexico as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The granting of parity would enable these nation's free zone industry textile manufacturers to compete with the advantageous quota-free and tax-free conditions the NAFTA agreement has brought to Mexico.
Vega told El Siglo newspaper that for the first time in his two years as ambassador in Washington, D.C. he is optimistic about the approval of legislation on textile parity.
"Key congressmen such as Robert Livingston, who will replace Newt Gingrich as speaker of the House of Representatives and senator Trent Lort, have stated, in recent days, their support to legislation of this kind," he said. He said that the legislation is being included in a bill that would provide assistance to countries affected by the hurricane is sponsored by Senator Bob Graham of Florida. The bill will be introduced 19 January. The legislator was recently in the DR participating in a meeting of congressmen of the Americas. The DR is the fourth most important apparel supplier to the US after China, Hong Kong and Mexico.

8% drop in exports forecast
Dominican exports are expected to drop 8% this year in relation to 1997, as a result of the effects on production caused by Hurricane Georges, the low world market prices of ferronickel that brought about the close of the Falconbridge plant, the decline in sugar exports and an increase in local demand brought about by the growing tourism industry. As of July 1998, export statistics already showed a negative difference of US$90 million decline compared to 1996, Atahualpa Domínguez, director of the Dominican Center for the Promotion of Exports told Listín Diario newspaper. Last year, exports were US$3,269.1 million, up US$556.5 million more than 1996. This broke down in US$946.9 million of non-free zone exports up 13.34%, and free zone exports were U$2,322.2 million up 445.1 million more than 1996, a 24% growth.

Tramway planned for completion in 1999
The modern tramway the government plans to build along the John F. Kennedy Avenue, will be 11 kilometers long and run from Km. 9 of the Autopista Duarte to the bridge over Avenida Padre Castellanos. A cost of US$30-US$55 million is foreseen. President Leonel Fernández is scheduled to travel to France in January of next year to sign the funding of the project with the French Development Agency, the director of Operations of the Metropolitan Authority of Transport (AMET), Mario Bergés explained to El Siglo newspaper. Two French companies, Bceon and Semaly are carrying out the project's feasibility studies.
The tramway will be able to transport 11 to 15,000 persons per hour. With the operation of the tramway, AMET seeks to capture 15% of the population that today uses their cars for intercity transport. The John F. Kennedy is the city avenue with the most traffic. The tramway will travel at an average speed of 24 kilometers, taking into consideration the time the tramway cars will stop to pick up and drop off passengers. The tramway could be installed in a year's time.

US to help fight forest fires
The Department of Forestry will install 10 observation towers in areas where forest fires most frequently occur. These are primarily located in the central and southwestern mountain ranges — Cordillera Central and the Sierra de Bahoruco. The high risk areas covers the national parks José del Carmen Ramírez and Armando Bermúdez and the scientific reserve of Valle Nuevo. Observation towers will be built in Bajo de Pozo Prieto in Jarabacoa; Pico del Oro and Monte Grande in San José de las Matas; Aguita Fría in Valle Nuevo, Constanza; Alto del Valle in Padre Las Casas; Tetero de Mejía in San José de Ocoa; Loma del Toro and Aserradero de la Viuda in Pedernales. Also in Cerro Jiménez and Loma los Guandules of Restauración.
The US government, through the Agency of International Development, will also make available the use of helicopters with specialized personnel. Heliports will be built in San José de las Matas, Jarabacoa, Constanza, Alto de la Rosa of San Juan de la Maguana, Restauración and Sierra de Bahoruco.
Trained observers are expected to be able to detect the fires before they get out of hand. The towers will cost about RD$7 million.

Plaza Central to expand parking area
Plaza Central, the busiest and largest shopping mall in the city of Santo Domingo, announced the addition of a roof top parking area with capacity for 400 cars. The expansion will give the mall a total capacity for 1,100 vehicles, largest in the city. The lack of parking affects stores, especially in peak shopping days.
The ramp and new parking area had been programmed for completion in December, but construction was delayed due to Hurricane Georges.
The parking facility is now scheduled for completion by the end of January at a cost RD$16 million. The ramp leading up to the rooftop parking area is 180 meters long. Entrance will be by way of the 27 de Febrero Avenue.

US wheat sales to help Dominican farmers
The US government has donated farming products for US$35 million. The food products will be sold locally and the moneys used to strengthen government and private sector programs that support small and medium size farm producers. The aid is channeled by the Agency for International Development via the Technical Secretary of the Presidency. It contemplates a donation of 1,000,000 metric tons of wheat that will enter the country in a two-year period, starting with 20,000 tons in February 1999.

AOM inaugurates flights to Puerto Plata
AOM, the French airline, is flying directly into Puerto Plata as of 17 December. The airline has initiated its operation with a weekly flight. The airline also makes two flights a week to Punta Cana. Gilles Maynard explained that in 1998 the airline transported 15,000 French passengers to the DR. He said more would have been transported if it had not been for Hurricane Georges, which interrupted the flow of visitors for days. AOM has 20% market share of French travelers to the DR. Air France is the leader.
Minister of Tourism Felix Jiménez said that as of August, some 60,000 French tourists had visited the DR. He said French travel is up seven times compared to 1996. He said that in 1996 there were only 10 French tour operators selling the DR, and now there are 53 French tour operators offering Dominican holidays.

Planting fish in dams and rivers
The Ministry of Agriculture is executing a program where more millions of young fish will be planted in Dominican rivers and dam reservoirs. The fish are expected to become an important source of low cost protein for the population as well as contribute to the well being of the dams and rivers. The Programa Nacional de Mejoramiento de Aguas Interiores expected to bring about levels of production of 2.4 million pounds of fish during the first six months of the program. 60% of the fish that are being planted are expected to survive. The young fish are being released in Chacuey Dam (1 million), López Angostura Dam (3.3 million), Tavera-Bao Dam (10 million), Rincón Dam (6.8 million), Hatillo Dam (43 million), Valdesia Dam (7 million), Higuey-Aguacate Dam (5.4 million), and the rivers Blanco (30,000), Mijo (800,000), Soco (750,000), Ozama (2.5 million), Chavón (250,000), Baquí (150,000). and Boba (310,000).

Sugar producers to meet here in 1999
Santo Domingo was chosen the host of the 25th Assembly General of Exporting Latin American and Caribbean Sugar Exporters Group (GEPLACEA). The commemorative meeting will be held in October 1999.

Construction companies call for regulations
Construction companies that extract crushed stone, gravel and sand from Dominican rivers feel that the regulation of the activity would bring order and permit that the ecology be preserved and construction not be affected. The Listín Diario newspaper has been highlighting in a series of articles on the ecology that the unsupervised extraction of construction materials is killing Dominican rivers.
The Chamber of Mining and Petroleum of the Dominican Republic supports the regulation of the extraction of aggregates. Spokesman, Luis Manuel Pellerano said that the extraction cannot be stopped because it would affect construction. He advocates the implementation of alternate mechanisms of extraction and adequate supervision to preserve both the well being of the construction industry and the ecology. Geologist Rafael Osiris de León suggested alternatives such as the use of limestone and slag produced by Falconbridge as substitute for river bed aggregates. The Consortium for the Channeling of the Nizao River, the Dominican Chamber of Construction and associations that produce reinforced concrete and concrete blocks have requested a meeting with the Ministry of Armed Forces and Ministry of Public Works to this end. The directors of the National Institute of Potable Waters (INAPA) and the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INDRHI) would also participate.
Last week the Armed Forces began an operation to stop the indiscriminate extraction of aggregate from principal rivers and beaches and closed several mines in San Cristobal. Some 40 trucks loaded with construction materials were detained. Shortly after the mines were reopened and the confiscated truck cargoes released.

PLD to support PRSC in city government agency
Lidio Cadet, secretary general of the Partido de la Liberación Dominicana (PLD), said the ruling party will support the aspirations of the PRSC and instruct their municipal delegates to vote for La Altagracia senator Amable Aristy Castro to the post of secretary general of the Liga Municipal Dominicana. The post is very influential in the use of the 4% of the nation's budget allotted city halls. Cadet said that the PLD has almost 300 delegates so their support will be decisive to Aristy Castro winning the post, despite the PRD winning the most mayor positions in the municipal election held May 1998. The PRD has threatened to not pass through Congress a single bill submitted by the Fernández government if the PLD supports the PRSC candidate. The PRD is majority in Congress, although there is a PRD dissident group in the Chamber of Deputies.
The present secretary general and PRD candidate to the post, Julio Maríñez was elected in 1994 in similar circumstances. In those elections, the PLD supported his candidacy versus that proposed by the PRSC which had then won the majority of the mayor positions.

UNESCO honors Dominican children's orchestra
Federico Mayor, director general of UNESCO awarded the Juvenile and Infantile National Symphony Orchestra sponsored by the Presidential Council of Culture the decoration of "Artists for Peace" during his official visit to the DR in mid December. The orchestra is directed by Susy Acra who also was recognized with the "Artist for Peace." Others that have received the award are Montserrat Caballé, Yehudi Munuhin, the World Young People Orchestra, the World Young People Choir. The Fernández Government through the Presidential Council of Culture sponsors a program of young people orchestras all throughout the country. Music learning is enjoying a boom in Santo Domingo.

Sammy Sosa sought by Hollywood
The Listín Diario newspaper reports that Sammy Sosa, the most popular baseball player of the moment, could soon become a movie actor. The name of the film was not announced. Sosa is a major US and world celebrity in country's where baseball is popular. His historic 66 home runs and 158 runs batted in brought him the recognition of being chosen Most Valuable Player of the National League.

Escogido slugger could break local home run record
Freddy García, the Escogido Lions slugger, has a good chance at breaking the Dominican winter baseball season home run record of 14 runs in a season. From October 24 to December 20, García has hit 11 home runs. The Dominican record belongs to Dick Stuart of the Aguilas who in 177 turns at bat set the record during the 1957-58 season. The record is 40 years old. The Escogido team home run record is 13 in 173 turns at bat, set by Ralph Bryant in the 1986-87 season. In the history of Dominican baseball, only 17 players have hit 10 home runs or more in a season, including George Bell, who hit 10 home runs in the 1983-84 season.

December baseball games
This and next week's Dominican Winter Baseball League games are:
8 pm. Monday, 21 December
Aguilas Cibaeñas vs. Escogido in Santo Domingo
Tigres del Licey vs. Gigantes del Nordeste in San Francisco de Macorís
8 pm. Tuesday, 22 December
Gigantes del Nordeste vs. Tigres del Licey in Santo Domingo
Leones del Escogido vs. Aguilas Cibaeñas in Santiago
4 pm. Saturday, 26 December
Tigres del Licey vs. Leones del Escogido in Santo Domingo
8 pm. Gigantes del Nordeste vs. Aguilas Cibaeñas in Santiago
4 pm. Sunday, 27 December
Gigantes del Nordeste vs. Leones del Escogido in Santo Domingo
Tigres del Licey vs. Aguilas Cibaeñas in Santiago
8 pm. Monday, 28 December
Leones del Escogido vs. Tigres del Licey in Santo Domingo
Aguilas Cibaeñas vs. Gigantes del Nordeste in San Francisco de Macorís
8 pm. Tuesday, 29 December
Aguilas Cibaeñas vs. Escogido Lions in Santo Domingo
Tigres del Licey vs. Gigantes del Nordeste in San Francisco de Macorís
8 pm. Wednesday, 30 December
Gigantes del Nordeste vs. Leones del Escogido in Santo Domingo
Tigres del Licey vs. Aguilas Cibaeñas in Santiago

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