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Daily News - Thursday, 22 November 2007

New health units for border region
President Leonel Fernandez has given the Public Health Ministry 28 mobile clinics, 42 vehicles and 30 drinking water units for use in a preventive health program in communities along the Dominican-Haitian border. The health units were purchased for EUR14.2 million (RD$682.5 million) and are made up of 28 mobile clinics, 14 ambulances and 28 pick-up trucks. Of the 28 mobile clinics 14 will be used for preventive health services, seven will be used for gynecological and obstetric services, four will be used for dental services and the remaining three will be used for ophthalmology and throat and ear problems. The drinking water units can hold 3,000 liters, according to technical information provided by Hoy. The vehicles and drinking water unites were purchased by the Border Development Department through a contract signed with the Spanish company SUCOMEX. Public Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez, who received the units on behalf of the Ministry yesterday, explained that the vehicles would help improve services to smaller communities and help enhance the quality of life in the border area.

Energy saving plan into action
Last night President Leonel Fernandez ordered the implementation of his recently announced National Energy Saving Plan. As part of the plan, 16,000 public transport vehicles were labeled to determine which would be allowed to run on certain days, light bulbs in 300 public buildings were replaced and the fare subsidy for UASD students was initiated. As part of the plan, Fernandez instructed Administrative Minster to the Presidency, Luis Manuel Bonetti, to distribute funds designated for the plan as fast as quickly as possible so that the measures could be fully implemented before the end of the year. The amount of money allocated to the initial part of the plan was not announced. Last night Fernandez met with the commission he appointed to put the energy saving plan in action. During the meeting he said that the stoplight synchronization program should begin as soon as possible and instructed Transit Authority directors speed up traffic flow as a way of saving money, and the installation of new LED stoplights will decrease the amount of time spent in traffic, supposedly reducing the amount of fuel used.

All change to save energy
Industry and Commerce Minister Melanio Paredes says that 90% of lighting systems in schools, hospitals and administrative offices will be changed as part of President Leonel Fernandez's energy saving plan. According to the minister, this will save the government RD$1.6 billion per year. Paredes did not specify when the replacement process would be launched but said that the Commission that will oversee the energy saving plan will begin work in the next few months. Paredes added that changing the culture of energy wastage in the country would be one of its prerogatives. National Energy Commission director Aristides Fernandez Zucco said that 300 of the country's 5,000 public buildings consume 90% of the total Dominican state's demand. Paredes said that the state would save 30% of the total cost on energy in these 300 institutions. Parades estimated that the proposed measures could save the country RD$46 million per month.

Leptospirosis: Slowing but still dangerous
Public Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez said yesterday that no more deaths as a result of leptospirosis have been reported during the last 48 hours and that the frequency with which patients are being hospitalized with the disease has also decreased. The death toll to date is 29 and a total of 308 cases have been reported nationwide. Due to the increased publicity about the disease the Public Health Minister received a delegation of four experts from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to help analyze the situation. Rojas said that local officials would take the international health officials' advice on tackling this recent outbreak.

Dunes are in protected area
The Ministry of the Environment has determined that the 92,000 square meters of dunes that the Bani municipality sold and rented to Ciramar International are within the protected areas of the Monumento Natural Dunas de Las Calderas. Deputy Environment minister Ernesto Reyna said that the definitive report has been released and that there is no doubt that the dunes are within the protected area. Reyna says that it is now up to the courts and the Bani municipal officials to rescind the dunes sale contracts as soon as possible. On 24 October the Ministry of the Environment announced that the contract between the municipality of Bani and the Ciramar International Co. was null and void because the lands involved were located within the Felix Servio Ducoudray Scientific Reserve. According to Environment Minister Omar Ramirez, "in light of the facts we consider the contract to be null and void because it violated the law". Ramirez went on to declare that, "Nobody can sell state-owned land that is in a protected area." As reported, Ciramar paid RD$10 million to the municipality of Bani that authorized the sale.

SISALRIL announces coverage increase
As of 1 January 2008, affiliates to the government's health plan, the SFS, will have increased medical coverage. Fernando Caamano, Health and Work Risks Superintendence (SISALRIL) director, said that the increased coverage would include new procedures and an expansion of the health services network. Hoy writes that a maximum amount of resources available will be used to guarantee the financial stability of the Health Plan Services (PDSS) and that RD$500 million will now be designated for catastrophic disease coverage, up from RD$150 million. Caamano said that the monthly funding for the health program will be RD$900 million Beginning in January dialysis will also be included in the PDSS. Caamano said that employers and affiliates of the SFS will not have to pay one more cent for the increased coverage and that dental care and brain surgery would also be covered.

Parties keep spending
Listin Diario is reporting that political campaigning during 2007 has surpassed RD$100 million for each of the three main political parties. Listin writes that a television spot lasting one minute can cost RD$700,000, although many TV ads are aired as favors for friends. PRSC communications director Carlos Gabriel Garcia says that the TV spots are part of packages and agreements with the TV and radio stations.

A little plan goes a long way
President of the Science Park and Innovation Expert Group (SPICE) Heinz Fildler explained yesterday that a simple government plan, based on investing in education and creating a business environment that supports enterprise could develop a new entrepreneurial spirit in Dominican society. Fildler added that because of political pressures, some countries don't undertake these initiatives because people want to see the results now and not in 20 years. Fildler says that the foundation for long-term sustainable social and economic development is based on investing in education and also creating a spirit of enterprise. He says that it is important to support people who have interesting ideas and provide them with the tools to develop them. He added that the idea isn't to subsidize them, but instead to provide them with the information necessary to succeed. Fildler is in the country as part of the annual Spice Group reunion which brings together entrepreneurs and innovators from all around the world.

Bullen wants commitments fulfilled
Ronald Bullen, the Trade Attache at the US Embassy in Santo Domingo, has called on the Dominican authorities to fulfill their commitments to DR-CAFTA so that the full transparency of the agreement could be reached. Bullen said that to have an efficient international trade system based on international trade laws, additional efforts were needed to strengthen customs administration, protection of property and intellectual rights, trade rights and investment and finance services. Bullen also highlighted the importance of transparency in government purchases, the administration of a quota system and fulfillment of health regulations. Bullen, speaking at the monthly Santo Domingo Chamber of Commerce luncheon yesterday, explained that the successful implementation of DR-CAFTA would depend on strengthening both public and private institutions.

US donates vaccines
The US, through Southern Command, has donated 35,000 units of typhoid fever vaccine. The donation is valued at RD$25 million and will be handled by the Public Health Ministry. Ronald Bullen, director of the trade section at the US Embassy, said that these vaccines would save a lot of lives. Although no cases of typhoid have been reported, officials say that it is important to be prepared in advance. Officials have also gone ahead and started vaccinating against tetanus and other diseases that can break out after flooding.

Qatar donates
Qatar joins the list of countries that have donated funds to the DR in the wake of TS Noel. Qatar has donated US$2 million and a Qatari official will travel to the DR at the beginning of December to formalize the donation. Carlos Morales Troncoso, Foreign Relations Minister, thanked the Qatari public and government for their solidarity with the DR after the disaster. Morales highlighted the strong relationship between Qatar and the DR and said that since 2005 the DR has had political representation in Doha, headed by Ambassador Hugo Giuliani Cury.

COE carries out preventive operations
The Emergency Operations Center (COE) has begun preventive evacuations in Nagua, Rio San Juan and Cabrera due to strong winds and high waves in the area. The COE has also maintained a red alert warning for Samana Bay and Montecristi. COE director Juan Manuel Mendez Garcia said that all ships that operate in Samana Bay and along the Atlantic Coast must remain in harbor until the winds and water subside.

Gasoline close to US$100
The increased weakness of the dollar and continued fears about oil reserves are pushing oil prices to record levels. Yesterday sweet crude reached US$99.29 per barrel on the New York Stock Exchange. At the same time the barrel of North Sea Brent crude reached US$96.53.

Catalonian parliament hosts students
President Ernest Benach of the Spanish autonomous region Catalonian parliament has hosted 40 Dominican students who are studying in Barcelona. The Dominican Association of Professionals in Catalonia said that the event was a welcome ceremony for the students who will be studying in the city for 10 months. Benach encouraged the students to do their best.

Baseball update
Victor Diaz blasted a three-run shot in the top of the seventh inning to lead the Aguilas against the Toros. The win keeps the Aguilas 1.5 games behind Licey who won last night, 2-1, against Estrellas behind a homerun by Erick Aybar. In other baseball news, the Gigantes beat up on cellar dwellers Escogidos 3-1
Current Standings
Team Win Lost Percent Games Behind
Licey 16 9 .640 --
Aguilas 15 11 .576 1.5
Gigantes 14 11 .560 2.0
Estrellas 11 15 .423 5.0
Escogido 11 16 .406 6.0
Azucareros 11 16 .406 6.0
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