1 2 Monday, August 17, 2015 Marine Diver Self-winding movement. Water-resistant to 300m. 18 ct rose gold case. Also available in stainless steel. U LY S S E - N A R D I N. C O M The San Juan Daily Star
2 GOOD MORNING 3 August 17, 2015 The San Juan Daily Star has exclusive New York Times News Service in English in Puerto Rico Island Legislature Soon to Approve Long-Delayed New Civil Code Local Mainland Business Interna onal Viewpoint Travel Entertainment INDEX No cias en Español Legal No ces Sports Games Horoscope Cartoons By EVA LLORENS VELEZ Now that same-sex marriage has been declared legal in the United States, the Puerto Rico Legislature will approve the controversial new Civil Code before Oct. 31 and will also approve its own local version of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), whose federal version was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. The information was provided by Senate President Eduardo Bhatia. After spending over $10 million to write a new Civil Code, the previous New Progressive Party-controlled Legislature repealed the joint commission that for more than 10 years had worked on a new set of civil regulations. Headed by then-senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz, the Legislature opted not to approve the new code because of religious opposition to some of its dispositions such as the legalization of domestic partnerships for same-sex couples. The Civil Code is the body of laws that regulate marriage, divorce, property contracts and inheritance and has been lingering in limbo. Puerto Rican Independence Party Sen. María de Lourdes Santiago and Rep. Luis Vega Ramos recently urged the Legislature to work together on a serious agenda, taking the Civil Code as a starting point. It is a task in which our country has invested at least $5 million, and a full decade of effort by jurists and legislators, Santiago said at the time. It makes no sense to continue delaying the completion of this work and the fundamental concepts that would modernize the law on family relations, inheritance, property and obligations. She noted that a new Civil Code is urgently needed because of gaps in the law related to inheritance and the integration of modern standards of urbanism. Bhatia said he did not foresee problems with the code s approval before Oct. 31. Meanwhile, because the U.S. high court declared the MATS unconstitutional, island lawmakers plan to draft their own version of the mercury emissions bill for the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. Senate President Eduardo Bhatia
3 4 Monday, August 17, 2015 The San Juan Daily Star Debt Repayment, Gov t Reform Top New Legislative Agenda By EVA LLORENS VELEZ Aníbal José Torres The island Legislature starts a new session this week with an agenda centered on discussions about debt repayment, government reform, an overhaul of the commonwealth Treasury Department and more tax system amendments. Senate Majority Leader Aníbal José Torres said in a recent interview that the new session will focus on the economy. La Fortaleza is expected to come up at the end of the month with a draft on fiscal reform that will contain more than 130 strategic initiatives, many of which will become legislation. La Fortaleza Chief of Staff Víctor Suárez said last week that the fiscal team had been working hard to produce a draft on fiscal reform that could be debated more openly when the Legislature reconvenes. Financial expert Daniel Hanson said he believes the draft will be pushed to September. Indeed, early indications are that legislators have not made much progress over the summer on some of the more contentious issues within the plan, including the treatment of pensions and schools, the payment of general obligation (GO) debt, and the focus on real economic growth incentives, Hanson said. As such, finalizing a restructuring plan that is palatable to majorities of the House and the Senate may prove to be a Herculean task; the impossibility of reaching an agreement on time is only amplified by the need to get bipartisan cooperation on the creation of a local control board, since the NPP [minority New Progressive Party] has been systematically shut out of legislative discussions during the García Padilla administration. Hanson said he expects a few themes to dominate the return of the Legislature, but that government reform will be slim. Despite Suárez s assurances in last week s press conference that hundreds of government expenditures are under review, it appears clear to us that the PR leadership believes they have already done the serious work of austerity -- from pension reform to higher taxes to changing professional contracts and so on, Hanson said. The burden of the reform budget, then, is likely to fall heavily on bondholders and only lightly on government affairs, he said. Indeed, we would estimate that about threefourths of all proposed expenditure reductions will be concentrated in re-profiling debt. If, for instance, Puerto Rico contemplates $4 billion of adjustment across the Consolidated Budget for each year on a medium-term horizon, we would expect $3 billion or so of that to be concentrated in debt, at least in the plans presented by the governor. Regarding debt obligations, there are groups within the governing Popular Democratic Party (PDP) warring on the way they should be handled, Hanson said. One group, which is probably the smallest of the three, would be comfortable with a GO debt moratorium, provided bondholders are involved in negotiations and the face value of the bonds is eventually paid out. A second group appears to believe that GO debt renegotiation is expedient and desirable, but this group also seems to believe that the only path to skipping GO payments would require amending the island Constitution, a prospect that seems more than a bit remote considering the political super-majorities required for a constitutional amendment. The final group rejects the notion that the government can repudiate GO debt; this group is largely comprised of older, senior lawmakers who have seen the evolution of island public finances over several decades and are deeply committed to the idea that PR should be proud of its history of repayment. In any event, the votes do not exist in the Legislature, in our estimation, to create a political consensus around impairing GO bondholders, Hanson said. GO bondholders may eventually find that Puerto Rico misses the January 1 bond payment, but any missed payment will be strictly a function of liquidity and not a function of legal or political will, in our estimation. Whether the Legislature will approve a bill to appropriate money to pay the missed Public Finance Corp. (PFC) payment remains to be seen, Hanson noted. While some members of the PDP have talked about pursuing a bill to rectify the missed August 1 payment, the majority of discussions from party leadership have moved beyond the PFC payment, and having already had a fight about appropriated debts in June, the Legislature s leaders are loath to rekindle the embers of that conflict, he said. This type of political thinking probably holds despite claims from the head of the local cooperativas (credit unions) that the legislative leadership has assured him appropriations would be made soon in the legislative session to sure up the missed PFC payment. Instead, the Legislature may begin considering how the GDB [Government Development Bank] may be restructured, both to reduce liability and to demand more transparency and accountability. The Legislature is ready to consider a series of measures, including House Bill 2469, to increase oversight over Consolidated Budget components and to produce more real-time data on fiscal performance that could be made available to the public. The measures are a welcome sign in PR, where we have long argued that good governance initiatives were essential to fixing the present crisis Hanson said. The House and Senate also have reportedly reached an agreement to restructure the Treasury Department. The new plan would allow for greater audit capabilities and more control over tax administration. In an effort to streamline the restructuring of the island government, the GDB has engaged V2A Strategic Management to help manage the reform of the government. V2A was previously engaged by both Gov. Luis Fortuño and Gov. Pedro Rosselló as part of their bids to rebuild the public sector. The restructuring plan working group will be led by a team consisting of GDB President Melba Acosta, V2A Director Roberto Jiménez, and V2A Manager Joséan Arroyo. According to the contract signed by the GDB and V2A, the consulting arrangement will terminate on Oct. 13, and the consultants will be paid $130,000 per month.
4 The San Juan Daily Star Monday, August 17, Capitol Employees Among 7 Arrested in $2.9 Million Fraud Scheme By EVA LLORENS VELEZ The Puerto Rico Justice Department has filed 73 counts against two private individuals and five Capitol employees for operating a fraudulent scheme that allowed for the disbursement of $2.9 million between 2010 and The defendants accepted the cause to arrest determination to allow for the release of thousands of documents and 80 sworn statements before the preliminary hearing slated for next month, said a source close to the case. Prosecutor Wilda Nin did not dismiss the possibility of future arrests. A judge imposed $100 fines for each count to each defendant. The scheme involved 141 transactions in which documents were falsified and money was stolen. Justice Secretary César Miranda in a statement condemned the scheme and referred to it as a crime against taxpayers. With the introduction of these 73 criminal charges we are dealing a strong blow to blatant acts of corruption, one of the most serious we have seen in recent times, Miranda said. These seven people illegally manipulated nearly $3 million of the money that both workers and companies contribute to the state for public works.while the country is going through an unprecedented fiscal crisis, these people disrupted the internal controls of the Superintendency of the Capitol to deprive the people of Puerto Rico in a competition for the realization of such works. The prosecution established that 141 orders submitted between 2010 and 2012 concentrated on the Superintendency of the Capitol. The formal process required was an auction among bidders on construction work, as required by regulation for contracts over $50,000. However, there was fragmentation in the conceptualization of the work, which resulted in hiring for all renovations being done individually, without auction, all for under $50,000. The private citizens charged were Edil Danois Román and Eliena Cuervo Sierra of the businesses Restaura Contractor Inc. and Fasan Construction Corp. The accused capitol employees were Jamilette Ramírez Sánchez, Gladys Alberti Torres, Álex E. Martínez Morales, Juan Carlos Acosta Ramírez and Endel Rodríguez Cortés. BRINGING the CARIBBEAN CLOSER with GREAT LOW FARES
5 6 Monday, August 17, 2015 The San Juan Daily Star Water Rationing Taking a Toll on Island Industries, Survey Says By MARIA MIRANDA SIERRA Water rationing has not only increased operational costs at government agencies, hospitals and schools but, has also scored a direct hit on the island s industrial sector. A survey by the Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association (PRMA) revealed that businesses in Puerto Rico have paid up to $10,000 a week to counteract the impact of rationing on their operations. At the same time, pharmaceuticals are considering digging wells to reduce their dependency on tap water from the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA), PRMA President Carlos Rivera said late last week. Rivera said in our case we send out survey to our members and about 56 percent of those that answered the poll said Yes, we are feeling the impact of the drought. The water rationing plan is impacting core economic sectors, such as the manufacturing and tourism, the first one being the most affected, representing average spending costs to our members of between $5,000 and $10,000 weekly, Rivera said. To identify the pressing needs of the industrial sector of the country, Rivera has held meetings specifically on business continuity plans to seek viable and proactive alternatives for working days and shifts that keep businesses operating during the drought. And I think it could be worse, but this kind of exercise that PRMA does each year during hurricane season is reviewed so that businesses have fresh continuity plans based on each year s situation, Rivera said. Typically we try to use prevention so that if, for example, we get hit by a hurricane and water service is interrupted, well, by having a continuity plan so that businesses can continue operating, Rivera said. On this occasion because of the drought, those continuity plans are different because many more members have been affected for a prolonged period of time. He explained further that those most affected are the manufacturing, pharmaceutical, technology, food, medical, tourism and electronic sectors. The PRMA calls on all businesses to use this scarce [resource] with prudence and to create awareness among its workers and contractors, to guarantee business continuity, our economy s sustainability and the quality of life of our people, Rivera added. Also according to the survey, 62 percent of businesses have activated a continuity plan for drought and water rationing. The plans have so far helped lessen the negative impact on operations. Most of the industries are implementing the storage of water in tanks, extraction from wells and hauling water, Rivera noted. The greatest impact has been felt in operations and in the costs of running businesses. In operations, the effects from rationing include reduction of production hours, increases in staff absenteeism, and lower quality of water when services resume. In costs, effects include increases from having to purchase water, as well as increases from extracting and treating (filtering) water. The majority of the members [that answered the survey], 85 percent, indicated they are addressing the situation internally without communicating or depending on any government instrumentality, Rivera noted. On Aug. 28, the PRMA plans to hold a workshop to discuss different issues related to climate change, the drought crisis, and possible solutions, Rivera added. CARPET WE ARE YOUR INDOOR ENVIRONMENTAL CLEANING SOLUTION RESIDENTIAL COMMERCIAL INDUSTRIES We Eliminate Dust Mites is one of ASTHMA sufferers worst enemies!! 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This in turn has generated huge losses, as business owners still have to pay rent, make payroll, and pay for electricity and everything else related to keeping their businesses running. The consequences of the water rationing plan for water customers supplied by Lake Carraízo in Trujillo Alto goes beyond the lack of H2O. The five days without water that clients are facing under a third phase of the rationing plan adopted by the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) could cause some establishments to close. The owner of a dry cleaning business in the El Conquistador sector of Trujillo Alto could face such a scenario. Ramón Domínguez used to have three workers just a few months back. Now he has just one, staffed part-time. Keeping his operation running -- dry cleaners use a lot of water -- has become extremely difficult. We had to adjust the days, so that in the five days that we don t have water we had to move operations up to one day. For example, on Fridays we work on all those clothes and process them before water resumes Saturday, Domínguez said. That is how things are flowing here now. He explained that his business no longer operates seven days a week, but rather 20 to 25 hours a week. The case is the same at a bakery whose owner is contemplating shutting down operations. Heriberto Ríos said his son had to reduce the bakery s business hours. He is spending more than what was coming in, so he had to cut down on the hours the business is open, Ríos said. My son will have to make the necessary adjustments to make sure he sustains operations. The lack of water complicates the operations.
6 The San Juan Daily Star Monday, August 17, Public Meetings Slated on Cleanup Plans for Groundwater Pollution Sites in San Germán, Corozal By The STAR Staff The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a plan for addressing contaminated soil and groundwater at the San Germán Groundwater Contamination Superfund Site, the federal agency announced last week. Sampling at the site showed that public water supply wells, soil and groundwater were contaminated with volatile organic compounds, including PCE, a solvent widely used in industrial processes. Exposure to PCE can have serious health impacts, including liver damage and increased risk of cancer. After discovering the contamination, the Puerto Rico Health Department ordered the wells closed in Area residents are connected to safe sources of drinking water from other municipal water supplies in the area. The EPA will hold a public meeting to explain the proposed plan on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Santa Marta Basketball Court in San Germán. Written comments will also be accepted through Sep. 11. Written comments on the EPA s proposed plan may be mailed or ed to: Adalberto Bosque, Remedial Project Manager, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, City View Plaza II - Suite 7000, 48 RD, 165 Km. 1.2, Guaynabo, PR , or ed to The San Germán Groundwater Contamination Superfund Site includes the Retiro Industrial Park and adjacent areas. More than 44 nearby industrial sites were part of the EPA s investigation. The cleanup of the site has been divided into two phases. The first phase addresses contaminated soil and shallow, highly contaminated groundwater because they act as an ongoing source of contamination for a broader area of groundwater. The second phase deals with contamination of groundwater throughout the site. The proposed plan addresses the areas that are the potential source of PCE contamination in the soil and the groundwater. The EPA is proposing a combination of systems that use pumps and other methods to remove pollutants from the most contaminated areas of soil and groundwater. Prior to installing these systems, the EPA will conduct a study to determine exactly how the system should be designed. The EPA will also determine if the site needs to install caps on portions of the land to limit the ability of rainwater to soak into the ground. Throughout the process, the EPA will monitor the groundwater and soil to ensure the effectiveness of the cleanup plan. In addition, the EPA is investigating whether vapors from the groundwater and soil may have gotten into buildings on and near the site. This investigation is ongoing and the EPA will install ventilation systems in buildings where needed. Meanwhile, EPA has proposed a plan to use natural processes along with the continued use of a system that EPA previously installed to treat contaminated groundwater at the Corozal Well Superfund Site in Corozal. A key step in moving forward is receiving the public s feedback on the plan. Previously, the EPA installed a system that uses carbon to remove pollutants as an initial step to address the risks posed by people drinking contaminated groundwater. Data collected since the EPA installed the system confirms that there are no levels of concern at the well. The system will remain in place as a safeguard. EPA was able to install this system to provide the community with water that is safe to drink -- and that is of paramount importance to us, EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck said in a written statement. That system is working well, and EPA is proposing to continue to operate and maintain it, but we want the public to have a voice in that decision. The EPA will hold a public meeting to explain the proposed plan on Thursday at 6 p.m. at Felipa Sánchez Cruzado School in the Naranjito s Cedro Abajo sector. The Corozal well, known locally as the Santana well, serves a small, rural population that is not connected to the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRA- SA) public water supply system. The Puerto Rico Health Department sampled the well, which serves an area within the municipalities of Corozal and Naranjito, and found that the chemical tetrachloroethylene, known as PCE, was contaminating a source of drinking water for local residents. Exposure to PCE, a solvent commonly used in industrial processes, can have serious effects on people s health, including liver damage and an increased risk of cancer. After discovering the contamination, the Health Department ordered the well closed. In March 2011, the EPA installed the activated carbon treatment system in the REAL ESTATE FOR SALE Residential, land and commercial properties available for sale in multiple locations For more information, please scan the QR code for a link to FDIC Real Estate and Property Marketplace Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation well to remove the contaminants and provide the community with water that is safe to drink. The carbon strips out the PCE as the contaminated water is drawn through it. Since 2013, data shows that the water in the well now meets drinking water standards for PCE. The EPA plans to periodically sample the groundwater to confirm that the PCE level continues to decline. The cleanup of the well is being conducted and paid for by the EPA. The EPA has not identified the source of the groundwater contamination. 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