Dominican government announces a US$1.45B tourism investment
Santo Domingo.- The government of the Dominican Republic on Thursday laid to rest the fears of a major land theft in the Southwest region, where individuals with forged titles sought to take over Bahia de las Aguilas, one of the world’s most pristine beaches, and announced an investment of US1.5 billion by U.S. developers.
The announcement however also accepts the fact that many titles which originated in the fraud would be recognized as legitimate.
In a National Palace press conference which began 12 noon, the Presidency’s Legal adviser Cesar Pina, and the ministers of the Environment Bautista Rojas, of tourism, Francisco Javier Garcia announced an ambitious project to develop the Southwest with Pedernales at its center, taking advantage of the region’s vast biodiversity, recognized as such by the United Nations.
Garcia said the studies in and around Bahia de las Aguilas started several months ago and took into account the sectors concerned with the environment. “But there’s been some confusion regarding the proposed development.”
He said the project seeks to develop the Southwest, “which other presidents have had to deal with.”
He cited a 2001 decree of former president Hipolito Mejia to form a similar commission including the declaration of eminent domain over the lands, “but it was revoked because the State doesn’t have to expropriate lands which it already owns.”
He said if the normal proceeding were to be conducted to recover the lands that figure in the hundreds of title, including some that were forged, ”it would’ve lasted as long as 60 years. The south region cannot wait that long.”
“The south doesn’t have any other resources except natural ones,” the official said, but affirmed that Bahia de las Aguilas will be left totally intact.”
He said the area will be developed placing Pedernales at its center, with the three other provinces of the Enriquillo region, including Barahona, Independencia and Bahoruco.
He also announced an investment of US$1.45 billion by U.S. developers that he didn’t identify.
“If it weren’t for the Government’s indictments in 1997, Pedernales would’ve been developed in an unorganized fashion, mutilating its natural resources,” he said, showing the Territorial Development Plan for the southwest, and cited the work by experts from Costa Rica, known for its advanced ecotourism.
He said Jaragua, Sierra de Bahoruco and Enriquillo Lake national parks comprise the country’s major biodiversity region. “But neither the inhabitants nor tourists take advantage of that treasure. The Presidential commission decided to resolve this problem because the southwest also has the right to development.”
Rojas noted that 42% of Pedernales territory are protected areas, which he also affirmed wouldn’t be touched by the development projects. “Bahia de las Aguilas will be totally protected, just as Isla Saona.”
“We guaranteed that every project to be developed in Pedernales will be duly classified under the management plan and terms of reference for every request.”
“We guarantee the Dominican people that not one inch of Jaragua and Sierra de Bahoruco will touched by this development, “so the people can enjoy this biodiversity.”
Pina said the transactions leading to the elaboration of the development program sought to advance the land expropriation process, stemming from the various types of exchanges after the Dominican Agrarian Institute’s designation of areas in and around Bahia de las Aguilas, as an agricultural homestead in 1996.
He said the government intensified the case against the land fraud in 1998, but noted that the proceedings “were expected to take an extremely long time.”
“If we were to await the process to unfold in the courts, I wouldn’t even venture a guess as to how long it would take.”
“That’s the reason why we sought out those who had deeds recognized by the State to proceed with a transaction, because if we were to start an authentication, again, would be an extremely drawn out process.”
“This allowed the State to become the sole claimer of the lands and therefore proceed to seek investors.”
Pina said titleholders will obtain 45% of the land values, while the Government’s part will be 55%.
The official said a trust fund will be established to pay the titleholders their share.
He said the trust fund will be highly effective and includes the reception of the transfers “but the State’s portion of the funds will used exclusively for the region’s development.”
“It’s no surprise to anyone that ecotourism is the type of tourism which Dominican Republic needs most.”
Pina said the trust fund is the most transparent manner to manage the expected resources, adding that the program encompasses “two totally legitimate procedures.”
He announced a call for tenders to establish the trust fund, but acknowledged that there are no specific figures thus far.
In the CDN TV program, the environmentalist Laura Acosta said the announcement constituted “the biggest land fraud in the country’s history.”
Category: DR News |