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Daily News - 31 March 1999

The DR1 Daily News will not be published again until April 5th, 1999.
This is due to the Easter Break here in the Dominican Republic.

Civil Defense warns PP hotels: free access to beaches
The head of Civil Defense in Puerto Plata province, Hugo González Troche, has warned all the hotels of the PP-Sosúa region that they cannot legally block access to the beaches by their hotels to non-guests. By law access to beaches is free, González Troche declared, since Law 305 specifies that the first 60 meters from the waterline is public property, open to all. He issued the warning after the local media reported that bathers were required by hotel security to pay in order to stay on the beach in front of the Riú Merengue Hotel in Maimón.

The president of the Chamber of Commerce and Production of Santo Domingo (CCPSD) and of the Dominican Federation of Chambers of Commerce (FEDOCAMARAS), José Manuel Armenteros, yesterday added his groups’ voices to those of other business groups rejecting the latest "negative list" proposed by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). "CARICOM...is imposing an excessive defense [of their industry] that has little to do with open markets, leaving the Dominican Republic unable to do business [with them]." He explained that as the latest proposal is formulated, many of the listings are actually broad tariff categories. When one calculates how many individual products are included in such categories, what CARICOM is actually proposing is protection for some 500 products, not 120 as recently claimed. Many of the products in which the DR is most competitive would be left with 40% tariffs. The negative list must be minimized, or else the "fiscal sacrifice" the free trade treaty with CARICOM represents is not worth the trouble, he opined.
The DR and CARICOM signed a framework free trade agreement last summer. The details of market access were to be left to a treaty protocol, which among other things would feature a list of products exempted from the treaty’s market access guarantees ("negative list"). Last November the DR broke off protocol negotiations with CARICOM when the latter presented a draft negative list of 900 products, versus a Dominican proposal for 11. Last week the DR’s Foreign Ministry announced that CARICOM had presented the DR with a "smaller" draft list of 120 products.

A free trade treaty with Cuba?
The Cuban Ambassador to the DR, Miguel Pérez Cruz, announced yesterday that his government is indeed engaged in discussions with Dominican authorities about the possibility of negotiating a free trade treaty between the two nations. Such discussions have been rumored for weeks, but never directly confirmed.

Education Ministry proposes regulating private school fees
Education Minister Ligia Amada Melo said yesterday that on Friday, April 9th, the National Education Board will begin discussing a proposed regulation that would allow the Ministry to cap tuition and fees demanded by private schools. If approved, schools not meeting the set rules would be have their doors shut for the school year starting in September. A similar idea is embodied in a bill now before the Chamber of Deputies, which also seeks to force private schools to use the same textbooks as those used in public schools.

DR ratifies minimum age convention
The Chamber of Deputies yesterday approved ratification of the international Minimum Age for Employment Convention. Since the Senate already approved ratification in February, the measure now merely awaits official transmittal and deposit by the Dominican Government with the Geneva-based International Labor Organization (ILO), which originated the convention and oversees its proper implementation. The Convention, No. 138 in the ILO series, calls on ratifying states to set a minimum age for work no lower than 15 years of age and then progressively raise it. Under certain conditions, including regular reporting/justification to the ILO, a developing nation may adopt a minimum age of 14 years old. The DR has opted for this exclusion. The DR has also decided that the Convention’s provisions will not apply to children working in their family’s businesses. The Convention was originally open for signature in 1973; currently is ratified by 71 countries, including 14 Latin American and Caribbean states [notable for their continued absence: Brazil, Colombia and Mexico]. Ratification and application of the Convention are two steps envisioned in the ILO’s technical assistance program for the DR to eliminate child labor.

2 more public transport corridors for SD planned
The Public Works Minister told the news daily Listin Diario that the Fernández Government has decided to proceed with the creation of two more public transport corridors in Santo Domingo which will be put under the direction of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (AMET). One, known as the Southern Route, would run from the Port of West Haina to Los Tres Ojos tourist attraction on Las Américas highway east of the city. Another, the "East Route," would run from Las Américas Highway until Guaricano, running along Avenida Charles de Gaulle and part of Avenida Jacobo Majluta. The routes would feature Metropolitan Bus Service (OMSA) buses like those now serving the 27 de Febrero and Maximo Gómez corridors.

DR will sign investment dispute resolution treaties
Yesterday the head of the Office for the Promotion of Foreign Investment in the DR (OPI), Eddy Martínez, announced that the DR will soon sign two important treaties regarding the resolution of investment disputes. One, the 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, requires signatories to enforce international arbitral awards, subject to very limited exceptions. and the Inter-American Convention on the Enforcement of Arbitral Awards. The other is the treaty creating the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), an affiliate of the World Bank that arbitrates government-investor disputes. Martínez said that the measure is yet another taken by this Administration to assure foreign investors that their rights are well-protected in the DR. Signing and ratifying these treaties has long been sought by the American Chamber of Commerce in the DR as a reassuring signal to foreign investors uncertain about the legal protection for their investments in the DR courts.

DR opens consulate in Barcelona
The DR has opened a consulate facility in Barcelona, Spain. The recent opening was presided over by Dominican Ambassador to Spain Pedro Bergés and Dominican consul in Barcelona Néstor Carón. The DR has had a consul in Barcelona for some time, but not a consulate facility, and the local Dominican community has long called for one. The new facility is located at Calle París #211.

Prison drug ring dismantled
National Police (PN) chief Major General Pedro de Jesús Candelier yesterday led a "cleaning operation" contingent of over 100 police agents at La Victoria prison aimed at dismantling a drug ring allegedly operating there. During the dawn raid and cell-to-cell search four people were hurt while trying to block police officers from entering. Police say they seized a large quantity of arms, marihuana, crack cocaine, cocaine powder, cellular phones, and some RD$80,000 in cash supposedly used in drug transactions. Some 60 prisoners allegedly involved in the drug ring were immediately transferred to other prisons in La Romana, Monte Plata and San Pedro de Macorís (SPM).

Public hearings on draft environment law announced
The interagency Natural Resources and Environment Coordinating Commission announced that a series of public hearings will be launched on the draft General Law on Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, beginning Wednesday, April 7th, in Santo Domingo, Barahona, San Pedro de Macorís (SPM), San Francisco de Macorís (SFM) and Santiago. The project, on which the Commission has worked on for two years, involves giving the DR its first comprehensive code on environmental matters. Among other things, it would create a new Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources.

Transport strike lifted
The Federation of United Transport Unions of the North (Fesitrapurno) last night called on all its members in the 14 northern provinces to return to work today. Fesitrapurno had called a strike to paralyze bus transport between Santo Domingo and the cities and towns of the Cibao region in protest to a police action taken Monday. Early Monday morning armed officers of the Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) arrived with tow trucks and forcibly removed dozens of buses from a spot on the Duarte Highway where they had gathered to protest the recent raise in highway tolls. The strike was called off because a meeting between the union and AMET and the Technical Office of Land Transport (OTTT) resulted in an agreement to release buses seized and drivers arrested on Monday, and for the parties to meet next week (after the Holy Week vacation is over) to discuss union grievances. The union was also mollified by President Fernández’s decision to suspend toll collection until next Monday.

Strike called for SPM April 12-13
More than 60 organizations, meeting last night in the city of San Pedro de Macorís (SPM), agreed to call a strike for Monday and Tuesday, April 12th-13th, that will cover the entire SPM province. The strike is being called in support of a laundry list of demands on the Fernández government, such as honoring promises to pay debt to sugarcane workers, reconstructing the SPM docks, improving labor conditions in the SPM free trade zone ("zona franca"), rebuilding schools, finishing the aqueduct and regional hospital projects, and fixing local roads. The strike reputedly has the support of all drivers, teachers and cane workers, as well as several small business groups, neighborhood councils and religious groups.

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