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SEC, Public Entity Saba address increasing electricity bills

SABA (THE BOTTOM) - The recent announcement by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), concerning another increase in the maximum rates for the distribution of electricity, has understandably raised concerns in the community.

Saba Electric Company N.V. (SEC) and its shareholder the Public Entity Saba (OLS) met on Monday, June 28. Both acknowledge the economic burden being experienced by the general population and empathize with the community. It was agreed upon during the meeting that both parties would explore solutions, both short- and long-term, to further reduce SEC’s cost and address the increases in the cost based tariffs which are calculated by ACM. These calculations are based on the energy law which is established for Saba, St. Eustatius and Bonaire.

Contrary to concerns that the rates have been increasing monthly, this is not the case as the rate has been the same since January 2022. What has increased is the actual consumption of energy by the households. Historically, energy usage is always higher in the summer months when the temperature is higher. Each energy bill illustrates the kWh usage over the period of one year so that customers can easily monitor their monthly and annual consumption.

The new maximum rates set by the ACM should be applied as of July 2022 electrical bills, which consumers will receive in August 2022. The new rates have not been applied to the most recent bills.

Fuel Prices

The escalating global energy prices are a concern throughout the world, and Saba is no exception.

Unfortunately, SEC and the public entity cannot control these external factors. SEC is in frequent contact with its fuel supplier to keep the fuel cost at a minimum. Nonetheless, the price of fuel that SEC pays has increased by 223% from June 2020 to June 2022. This has a considerable impact on the rate calculation.

Solar Park/Renewable Energy

The solar park produces between 35 to 40 percent of the total production. On a day with optimal sun the island is completely powered by solar and battery power between the hours of 8:00AM to 5:00PM.

The power from 5:00 PM until 8:00AM is produced by conventional diesel generation. When the island is being supplied energy from the solar panels, the diesel generators are not being used, thus reducing fuel usage. However, because of the exorbitant fuel prices, the amount of fuel being saved because of the solar panels is not sufficient to offset the current fuel prices. Thus, the calculation shows that the rate should increase significantly.    

Without the fuel savings from the solar park, the variable tariff would be at least US $0.10 higher per kWh used by the consumer. The investment for the solar park is not factored into the rate that is passed on the customer because the project was fully subsidized.

SEC, along with the Public Entity Saba, is working on a project to move to near 100% renewable energy, which will significantly reduce dependence on diesel fuel and SEC’s operational costs. But this is a long- term solution.

In the short term, both parties are exploring options to avoid such a sharp increase in the rates which have been calculated by ACM and would impact energy bills as of July. Both SEC and the public entity stressed that households should monitor their consumption as much as possible and to explore energy-saving options such as using LED bulbs and limiting air-conditioning usage.  

Subsidy for low-income households

Due to increasing energy cost, a subsidy has been granted by the Netherlands for low-income households that will receive a onetime compensation of US $850.00 that will be applied as a credit for electricity usage. It is estimated that this will be apply to approximately 400 households.

The details are being worked out by the Community Development Department and the Public Entity Saba. More information about this will be shared at a later date.

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Incidents with scooter riders. Reckless driving and Violating Traffic Laws

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Over the last few days, traffic department personnel had to conduct several investigations into traffic accidents in which scooters were involved and whereby the riders suffer severe injuries.

In several of these traffic incidents, the investigation was hampered because the scooters involved in the collision were removed from the accident site by unknown persons.

One such case happened on Monday evening, June 27, 2022, at 11:30 p.m., when Central Dispatch received a report of a scooter rider being injured on A. Th Illidge Road during a collision with a car.

Upon arrival at the scene, unidentified persons were attempting to remove the scooter involved in the traffic incident from the scene.

Nevertheless, the patrol succeeded in preventing this from happening and took the scooter in the interest of further investigation into safekeeping.

Most of the accidents involving a scooter that are being investigated over the last few weeks have to do with the ongoing epidemic of risky behavior being shown by some of the riders.

The Police Force of Sint Maarten (KPSM) is letting it be known that this behavior is not holding well with the force or the general public. Police are not going to tolerate this level of behavior on the road. If the scooter riders intend to run the gauntlet, then they will suffer the consequences when caught.

It revealed that the human factor appears to be the most prevalent contributing factor of road traffic crashes. This includes both driving behaviors such as reckless driving and violating the traffic law of Sint Maarten. (KPSM)

police acci scooter on causeway

 

police Picture4 scooter accidents

police Picture5 scooter acci in car

 

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Green Destinations’ Silver QualityCoast Award for Saba

SABA (THE BOTTOM) - Saba, also known as "The Unspoiled Queen", has successfully applied for recognition of its sustainability policy and achievements through the Green Destinations Award program. This program certifies and promotes sustainable tourist destinations at an international level in accordance with environmental, socio-economic and cultural criteria.

After a period of extensive preparation and reporting of substantive dossiers covering more than 100 sustainability criteria and indicators, and an independent audit, the Silver QualityCoast Award level was attributed to Saba indicating excellence in all fields of sustainable destination management such as nature and heritage conservation, waste management, energy and climate.

The award is also a recognition for the destinations’ efforts to sustain the attractiveness of its tourism in the future. Not only visible, tangible aspects are measured, such as natural heritage, but also policy and management plans that take sustainable development principles into account.

Eco-conscious

‘Saba is a tranquil and safe destination, providing an authentic experience. Attracting visitors that are eco-conscious and that seek green destinations that have such a prestigious rating. Due to its small scale and low numbers of visitors, many of the challenges that other Caribbean islands face are not an issue on Saba.

As one of the improvements for the future, it was recommended to monitor tourism impact in the broadest sense and to further create plans and policy concerning sustainable tourism’, Green Destinations motivated its decision. The Tourism Master Plan, currently being drafted, can help set the right priorities and targets.

Challenges

Over the last two years with the pandemic the tourism sector faced lots of challenges. “We are honoured that Saba has maintained its Silver status and we look forward to apply the recommendations also to stimulate partners to include and promote good environmental practices as it’s a collective effort and continue to demonstrate our environmental efforts as the Unspoiled Queen of the Caribbean,” said Director of Tourism Malinda Hassell.

Top 100

Saba was listed in the 2018 Sustainable destinations Global Top 100 in recognition of its efforts towards responsible tourism and distinctive appeal. Saba was also in the Top 100 in 2017. Maintaining the Green Destinations Silver Award is a major step-up towards fully evidence-based and independently verified certification of sustainability performance in accordance with international standards dictated by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC). The Award will be officially presented on September 27th, 2022.

About Green Destinations

The Green Destinations Award & Certification Program challenges destinations (municipalities, regions, protected areas and private estates) to promote responsible destination management on an ongoing and sustained basis with the aim of stimulating the tourism sector to implement environmental practices leading.

Participating destinations engage in a sustainability management system, with every 2 years an independent verification of performance and progress, and recommendations for improvements. Green Destinations Certification is accredited by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC). More information: www.greendestinations.org  

View of Windwardside from Mas Cohone Hill

 

 

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Guana Chat Child Helpline expands to other islands

SABA/SINT EUSTATIUS - The partnership between Fundacion Telefon pa Hubetud Aruba and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) for the ‘Guana Chat’ child helpline in the Caribbean Netherlands is a reality.

State Secretary Maarten van Ooijen from VWS and director James Sneek from the Aruba child helpline signed a collaboration agreement on the 25th of June to expand the services of the Aruba-based child helpline to Saba and Bonaire.

The child helpline for the Caribbean Netherlands will be called Guana Chat 918, and children from Sint Eustatius have been able to use it since the 16th of March.

Saba will be connected to the 918 number on 27 June, and Bonaire will follow later this year. The special telephone line allows youngsters to anonymously phone volunteers from Telefon pa Hubentud Aruba free of charge every day between 2 pm and 6 pm.

For over 20 years, the Aruba child helpline has been offering telephone and internet-based support, advice and information to Aruba-based children and youngsters between the ages of 8 and 24 years.

The expansion of their services to the islands of the Caribbean Netherlands represents an important development for youngsters. James Sneek: “The child helpline is for all children who need someone to talk to. 'The child helpline allows you to talk about EVERYTHING'. Support can always be requested and/or you can always talk about your experiences.”

VWS is responsible for supplying communication-related resources such as the website www.GuanaChat918,com, calling cards for all school children, and promotion materials.

State Secretary van Ooijen: “It’s great news that children from the Caribbean Netherlands now have the Guana Chat 918 to go to with everything that is on their minds.

“I hope that it will now become the norm for children and youngster to contact us when they have an urgent question or just want to talk because they feel like it. We all feel that need sometimes to be more comfortable in our own skin.”

Launch for children on Saba

Starting the 27th of June, the free telephone number 918 is available every day between 14:00 and 18:00.

The website www.guanachat918.com gives information on the use of the helpline and the different topics children and young people want to talk about. On the 27th of June, the social support team of Saba Government and involved aid organisations will visit grade 2 till grade 6 pupils of the primary schools to inform them about this helpline and guide them through the website.

Furthermore, between 11:00 and 14:00, an information booth will be placed at the parking lot in front of Bizzy B in Windwardside, where information will be given to the residents. Also, online the residents will get the information through videos and messages.

The Guana Chat helpline is a collaboration between the Ministries of Health, Welfare and Sports (VWS) and Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK), the child helpline of Aruba, ‘Telefon pa Hubentud’ and the Public Entity of Saba, St. Eustatius and Bonaire.

(RCN Caribbean Netherlands)

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Cft about Bonaire: “Now is the time to act”

BONAIRE (KRALENDIJK) - Bonaire wants to achieve an unqualified auditor's report on the 2022 annual accounts. This is also included in the recently concluded Government Agreement (Bestuursakkoord).

In order to achieve this, a number of essential steps will be needed in the coming months, as is also apparent from a discussion that the Board of financial supervision (Cft) held with Bonaire’s Executive Council.

It is also important that the covenant between the Caribbean Netherlands Tax and Customs Administration (BCN) and the Public Entity Bonaire (OLB) be renewed before the end of the year.

Financial management

Bonaire is gradually making progress in the area of financial management. The auditor approved the closing balance sheet as per December 31st, 2021, but did not issue an opinion on the fairness and financial lawfulness of the 2021 annual accounts.

The auditor also indicated that it is expected that, subject to the restriction that the quality of the financial management and the administrative organization and internal control (AO/IB) will be continued and further improved, an unqualified auditor's report can be issued for the 2022 financial year.

The interim audit findings of the external auditor, which are scheduled to see the light next October, are of crucial importance in that process. The Cft has also insisted that prior to June 30th, the Executive Council submit an amended first quarter implementation report that complies with the legal requirements.

Land policy

The Cft has repeatedly signaled the need to determine the land policy as soon as possible. To date, this has not been acted upon. This means that Bonaire does not yet fully comply with its legal responsibility under the BES Budget and Accountability Decree (BBV BES).

As part of the Government Agreement, Bonaire has drawn up a land policy framework memorandum, in which the vision on land policy is elaborated. It is important that the new land policy framework memorandum be submitted to the Island Council for final adoption as soon as possible.

Conversation with BCN

In a conversation with the BCN, the Cft has taken notice of the developments within the organization. It has been established that for the processing and collection of island levies it is important that the new covenant between the BCN and the OLB is agreed upon as soon as possible. An adequate provision of information between BCN and OLB must be raised to a higher level.

Cft BES visited Bonaire on June 21st, 2022, and held conversations with the Executive Council, the Island Council and the BCN.

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Chris tells government to stop using suffering and Parliament as a crutch

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Independent Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel on Sunday told the government to stop using the suffering of the people as a political tool and conveniently using Parliament as a crutch in its discussions with the Dutch. "Especially since it was this government and its Minister Plenipotentiary that accepted the 12.5% cuts and other conditions without so much of a negotiation," the MP said.

The MP was specifically referring to a comment of Minister Plenipotentiary of the National Alliance Rene Violenus last Friday after the Kingdom Council of Ministers RMR on Friday decided that St. Maarten cannot start with the reversing of the 12.5% labour benefits reduction for its (semi) government employees because conditions have not been met.

Violenus said: "We are punishing hard-working civil servants who have been putting in their best efforts through this pandemic. They have to wait on the law to be finalized before they can see a return to some resemblance of normalcy of their labour benefits package."

Emmanuel didn't take lightly to this revisionist type of comment. "They want you to forget that they didn't consider hard working civil servants when they told these same workers that they could not negotiate and their backs were against the wall. It is insulting to raise the fact that people are not living normal lives now that it is convenient to do so for political purposes," Emmanuel said.

He continued: "This government made the lives of its workers more difficult in a pandemic, instead of more manageable. It was and still is a monumental failure of a government towards its people. By all indications the suffering was for nothing since the savings are so low they barely qualify as minimal. Now they cry 'poor civil servant' to get out of a mess they put the same civil servant in."

MP Emmanuel also took issue with the comments considering it was the same Minister Plenipotentiary who on May 20, 2020 sent letter to former State Secretary Raymond Knops in which he indicated that St. Maarten unconditionally accepts the Dutch conditions for liquidity support. These conditions included the 12.5% cuts.

To date, the MP said, the Minister of Finance and Prime Minister has failed to be forthcoming on how the three laws are being applied or not, how they are managing to circumvent them or not, the expectations for budget implications and so on.

"Questions are asked, and as usual no answers are provided. But what do you hear from the Minister Plenipotentiary in Holland? Parliament has to do this and Parliament has to do that. The Minister actually said with a straight face that they are trying not to tie Parliament's hands," the MP said.

"All of this almost two years after the government did just that by agreeing to conditions and then having it rubber-stamped by Parliament. So at present their negotiating tactic is to use the suffering of the people, and their sudden respect of Parliament's authority, to reverse what they created by ignoring the former and the latter. This government continues to an embarrassment onto itself," Emmanuel explained.

He reminded that he was the only MP to vote against the laws to cut worker benefits and income.      

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Rotary Sunset Donates Hygiene Kits To PWAS

SINT MAARTEN (BELVEDERE) - In an effort to promote proper hygiene among children, the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset donated hygiene kits to students of the Prins Willem Alexander Primary School (PWAS) on June 23rd, 2022. This would be the club’s second year making this much needed donation to the school.

Rotary Sunset received a sponsorship request from the school to assist with providing hygiene essentials for 13 students who will be moving on to secondary school. The school has also embarked on several hygiene sessions to combat the concern of lack of hygiene care among the students. The presentation took place at Rotary Sunset’s board meeting in the presence of Rotarians and the donation was accepted by Jina Mamtani-Mahbubani, who is the school’s counselor at PWAS. The hygiene kits will be distributed to the students during their school leaving exercise on June 27th, 2022. The kits include body wash, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, comb, brush, toothpaste, mouth wash, body mist, lotion, hand sanitizer, face wipe, sanitary pads, lip balm, razors, shaving cream and a wash cloth.

“Forming good hygiene practice from a young age can have a positive effect on a child’s growth and development. A child will also learn to be independent and boost their confidence and self-esteem. Rotary Sunset is elated to be able to assist in this area as we strive to play a proactive role in the early education and personal hygiene of children,” Rotary Sunset President, Norrisa Anatol stated.

The Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset would like to commend the management and staff of the Prins Willem Alexander Primary School for contacting the club and their continued efforts in promoting proper hygiene practices among their student population. The club would also like to congratulate the graduating class of PWAS for their exceptional achievements and wishes them much success in their future endeavors.

The Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset meets on the second and fourth Monday of the month at Carl N Sons Unique Inn and Conference Facilities in Cole Bay at 7:30pm. The club can be contacted via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or via the official Facebook page at facebook.com/rotarysxmsunset.

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Murder investigation launched into death of 86-Year-Old woman

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Police Force of Sint Maarten KPSM and the Prosecutor’s Office OM SXM have launched a murder investigation into the death of the octogenarian who died on 29 May 2022 after armed robbers invaded her Pointe Blanche home. The robbers also assaulted and injured the woman’s husband.

The “Pharao” investigation into the initial break-in and assault, took a turn to murder after the autopsy findings revealed that L.M. (86) died an unnatural death.

Prosecutor’s office (OM) and Police Force of Sint Maarten (KPSM) encourage anyone with information about the brutal and fatal attack on the two 80-plus-year-olds in their home before dawn to come forward in the pursuit of justice.

Anyone who may have information about this fatal incident is urged to contact the Police Force on +1 721 542 2222 ext. 208, 214 or 224 or the free anonymous tip line 9300. You can also visit www.policesxm.sx to report crimes anonymously via the tip contact form or leave a private message via Facebook: Police Force of Sint Maarten - Korps Politie Sint Maarten. (KPSM)

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Dominican Republic to Host the 2022 FCCA Cruise Conference

SINT MAARTEN/MIRAMAR, FLORIDA - Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) is pleased to announce that the Dominican Republic will host the 2022 FCCA Cruise Conference, the only official cruise conference representing the Caribbean, Mexico and Central and South America. Taking place in Santo Domingo from October 11-14, the event will feature a series of workshops, networking opportunities and meetings, including one-on-one meetings, with an expected 100 high-level executives from FCCA Member Lines, which represent more than 90 percent of global ocean cruising capacity. It will also allow the Dominican Republic to showcase its potential for increased benefits from cruise tourism and help the destination fulfill targeted objectives.

“We, along with our Member Line executives and partners around the regions, are ecstatic to return to the Dominican Republic for the 2022 FCCA Cruise Conference,” said Michele Paige, Chief Executive Officer, FCCA. “This return displays the long-standing relationship we have had with the destination and the ability to constantly grow together, which is truly what the event is all about, so this will be the perfect place and time to gather our partners to develop mutual understanding and success.”

“Hosting this meeting where conversations will be held to promote the development of the cruise industry, in addition to being an honor, gives us great satisfaction,” said the Dominican Republic Minister of Tourism, David Collado. “The communities will benefit from social and economic growth, assuring the investor's interest in each destination. That is development. The Dominican Republic is ready and prepared.”

All Conference participants will have access to workshops led by cruise executives and successful stakeholders concentrated on topics including developing all-encompassing and far-reaching plans, as well as expected workshops centered around the revamped FCCA Employment and FCCA Purchasing Committees focused on increasing local employment and sourcing opportunities – and participants’ needs will take center stage, with most workshops encouraging audience input.

Participants will also have opportunities to interact with the expected 100 cruise executives during a series of meetings – including a schedule of 15-minute one-on-one meetings where pre-registered delegates can select executives that can help launch business, as well as a Heads of Government Forum that will join Ministers of Tourism throughout the regions with Presidents and above from FCCA Member Lines – and networking functions throughout the event, including the celebration of FCCA’s 50th anniversary.

Additionally, the Dominican Republic will showcase some of the best to see, eat and hear in the destination for cruise guests, along with what its opportunities for growth that hosting the event can launch – something that the destination previously experienced.

The Dominican Republic hosted the FCCA Cruise Conference in 2010, and immediately following the event, Carnival Cruise Line announced the development of Amber Cove, the cruise port and destination development in Puerto Plata.

Numbers also tell the difference, with the Dominican Republic welcoming a 127 percent annual increase in passenger arrivals between 2009 and 2019, with a respective 477,773 and 1,082,451 passenger arrivals, according to data provided by FCCA Member Lines.

Those passenger arrivals represent clear economic benefits for the destination. In the 2008/2009 cruise year, cruise tourism generated $23.5 million of expenditures in the Dominican Republic, in addition to 788 jobs paying $3.1 million, per a Business Research & Economic Advisers study.

The 2018 study found that cruise tourism expenditures accounted for $134.7 million, along with 4,052 jobs paying $17.4 million, in the Dominican Republic for the 2017/2018 cruise year – a difference of $111.2 million in direct expenditures (not including indirect benefits such as supplies purchased by tour operators, restaurants and port authorities) and $14.3 million in employment wages.

These increases are staggering, but the Dominican Republic clearly has the potential and commitment for further growth, with the destination already breaking overall tourism records this year and displaying its resilience and recovery from COVID-19.

Just last year, Taino Bay in Puerto Plata started its operations – which represents more potential capacity and will be a must-see for the cruise executives attending the FCCA Cruise Conference – and Norwegian Cruise Line and the Dominican Republic government recently signed an agreement for homeport operations in La Roma beginning in 2023.

The government also has interest in working with the industry to develop a new cruise terminal in Samana, which will be facilitated during the event, and FCCA and the government are working together to increase demand for Sans Souci Terminal, which is part of the reason the event will be in Santo Domingo so cruise executives and attendees will have firsthand experiences of the offerings.

FCCA is also partnering with the Dominican Republic on new and revamped initiatives up to, during and after the event, including the FCCA Employment Program that will guide the destination and interested parties through the process to be hired on board, which is in demand and has historically high promotion opportunities; the FCCA Purchasing Program, which will link the destination and suppliers with cruise lines to enable the sourcing of local goods to be used on board; and a new initiative that aims to increase the already high percentage of cruisers that return to the destination as overnight guests. 

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ACM sets maximum rates for the distribution of electricity in the Caribbean Netherlands

SABA/SINT EUSTATIUS - The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets [Autoriteit Consument en Markt] (ACM) has set maximum rates for the distribution of electricity in the Caribbean Netherlands. The rates are increasing significantly as of the 1st of July 2022 because fossil fuels are used to produce electricity and the prices of those fuels have risen substantially.

The ACM sets maximum rates for the production and distribution of electricity in the Caribbean Netherlands in December each year. If necessary the ACM adjusts the maximum rates per July 1st in order to take account of the changing fuel prices. Energy suppliers use these maximum rates as a basis for setting the prices which they charge residents and companies.

Subsidies

The increased fuel prices are having a significant impact on the energy bills of households on the BES islands. That is why the government has made subsidies available for 2022 to support people with the cost of living.

Bonaire

The maximum variable usage charges for Bonaire are increasing from 0.3260 USD/kWh to 0.4253 USD/kWh. The maximum ‘Pagabon’ (prepaid) rate is increasing from 0.5332 USD/kWh to 0.6325 USD/kWh. For the consumption of an average household on Bonaire this means an increase of about USD 25.00 per month.

St. Eustatius

The maximum variable usage charges for St. Eustatius are increasing from 0.3553 USD/kWh to 0.4306 USD/kWh. For the consumption of an average household on St. Eustatius this means an increase of about USD 19.00 per month.

Saba

The maximum variable usage charges for Saba are increasing from 0.4093 USD/kWh to 0.5195 USD/kWh. For the consumption of an average household on Saba this means an increase of about USD 28.00 per month.

More information

Residents who have questions about the setting of energy rates can obtain more information from the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM). Information about the measures to support people with the cost of living can be found on the website of the National Office for the Caribbean Netherlands [Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland].

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