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St. Maarten presides at 11th EDF Caribbean OCT Meeting. EC suggests redirecting monies to disaster fund

POND ISLAND – St. Maarten is among Caribbean overseas countries and territories attending the 11th EDF (European Development Fund) Caribbean OCTs (Overseas Countries and Territories) Regional meeting and workshop, this week.

The OCTs are 25 countries and territories, which have special links with Denmark, France, the Netherlands or the United Kingdom. The meeting is presided over by a representative of St. Maarten, who has been selected Regional Authorizing Officer, and takes place in Bonaire on November 23 and 24.

Earlier discussions between the OCTs and the European Commission (EC) concluded to concentrate the allocation of funds towards sustainable energy and marine biodiversity. This with the objective of building resilience to withstand the effects of climate change and to ensure sustainable economic development in Caribbean OCTs.

The Bonaire meeting comes in the wake of significant progress being made with the 11th EDF Caribbean Regional Programme. The goal of this week’s meeting is to partially complete the programming process and to agree on a draft Action Document.

As a result of the damages and losses sustained with the passing of hurricanes Irma and Maria, the meeting is additionally expected to address the possible redirecting of a portion of the funds of the 11th EDF toward a resilience component. The funds would be redirected from the 40 million euros, previously earmarked for sustainable energy and marine biodiversity solely. 

The main challenges facing Caribbean OCTs include increased vulnerability and risk to natural disasters, unstable energy consumption patterns, food security, poorly planned coastal development and weak governance capacity. These in turn lead to challenges to effectively manage marine biodiversity as a tool for climate change revision and mitigation.

Caribbean OCTs depend on the tropical climate for tourism, agriculture and fisheries. Creating island communities that are more competitive and resilient is thus essential for their survival with a healthy eco system considered key to this resilience.

The small size of OCTs and their relative isolation directly affects the price of commodities and goods, waste and waste water management as well as transportation within the region.

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Port, Government and Private Sector take Evaluation Tour in Effort to Ensure a Positive Cruise Experience

PORT ST. MAARTEN – Representatives from the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunications (Ministry TEATT), Ministry of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure Management (Ministry VROMI), SXM Airport, Taxi Association DSTA, St. Maarten Tourist Bureau (STB), and Port St. Maarten, took a bus tour recently around the country along the route that taxis and tour busses will be taking passengers when the first commercial cruise ship calls start early December.

The objective of the bus tour was to see the country through the eyes of the visitor while driving along the designated routes. The tour allowed key stakeholders to evaluate and assess the current state of affairs along the identified tourism corridor and take additional measures where the clean-up of the destination is concerned in preparation for cruise ship destination calls.

An action list has been compiled of things that still need to be done.  Cruise lines continue to send to the island assessment teams to review destination recovery efforts in preparation for cruise ship calls, and therefore, it is extremely important for clean-up/beautification efforts to continue full speed ahead.

Part of the assessment action list includes the following: cleaning of beaches with a refined finish; refined finish of temporary garbage depots in Cole Bay and at Kim Sha Beach area; removal of boats/containers on Great Bay Beach; beach promenade street lights to be repaired; clean-up of popular beaches; placement of temporary restrooms at popular beaches. 

“There are a number of critical things that still need to be done as the clock ticks down to December cruise ship calls, a less than two weeks away.  We cannot wait until the last couple of days before the vessels arrive to randomly remove debris, decorate, prune and polish up. 

“We are appealing to the general public to assist with the clean-up around your area.  We call on businesses to do the same.  During the tour we noticed some debris still in front of some business establishments, and have observed some unsightly areas along the airport strip. 

“Clean-up should be done in a timely manner and done correctly thereby ensuring the cruise industry that we are open and ready.  This is a crucial period in the cruise sector history of the country, and all hands are needed on deck to make sure we are ready for the first and subsequent cruise ship calls,” Port St. Maarten Management said on Thursday.

Port St. Maarten is working closely with Ministry TEATT, the STB, the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce & Industry to get the message out to the business community about being ready for the upcoming cruise ship calls.

The bus tour also included Mico Cascais, a 30 year veteran of the Cruise Industry both in Ship Board Management and Corporate Management. Mico is currently the Principal of Mico Cascais, Inc. a company focused on reshaping the story and experiences cruise guests will enjoy when sailing in the Caribbean.

The first cruise passenger experience will be one of discovery for the guests to return on another cruise to the destination in the future, and therefore, it is extremely important that the destination showcases itself in a manner that will shape future calls for the remainder of 2017 and going into 2018 and beyond. 

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At UN, over $2 billion pledged to help hurricane-affected Caribbean nations ‘build back better’

SINT MAARTEN/CARIBBEAN, 22 November 2017 – The international community mobilized over $1.3 billion in pledges and more than $1 billion in loans and debt relief to help Caribbean nations recover from the strong hurricanes that pummelled the region a few months ago, during a meeting at United Nations Headquarters on Tuesday.

“I think we’re extremely happy with the results of the conference,” said Stephen O’Malley, the UN Resident Coordinator and Resident Representative of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) for Barbados and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States.

The powerful category-5 hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the Caribbean in September causing a number of deaths and widespread devastation in the Caribbean. According to the latest needs estimates, recovery costs are expected to surpass $5 billion.

Barbuda, the smaller of the two-island State of Antigua and Barbuda, and Dominica were among the most severely affected, along with Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands. Haiti and St. Kitts and Nevis also suffered damage, while St. Maarten/St. Martin as well as Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico were also impacted.

“It is a very long road to recovery,” Mr. O’Malley said in an interview with UN News, noting that while the roads in the capital, Roseau, are more or less clear and water is back, only three per cent of the country currently has electricity. In addition, agriculture has been badly affected. “It’s still a hard time.”

Meanwhile, on Barbuda, water was restored yesterday and people are trickling back to the island. The roads have been cleared and people are beginning to repair their homes, and trying to determine whether they can come back and resettle or wait longer until the conditions are right for returning. Schools have not re-opened and medical services are very limited, Mr. O’Malley noted.

Nearly 400 high-level representatives from governments, multilateral and civil society organizations and the private sector gathered in New York, along with the Secretaries-General of the UN and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to help the affected countries “build back better.”

“They want to be a climate-resilient region,” Mr. O’Malley stated, explaining that this involves practical steps from the way a country’s road network and electricity grid are designed to ensuring that schools and hospitals are built to withstand the impact of climate change.

“It’s your infrastructure. It’s also better planning and preparedness by the governments so that they can respond more quickly,” he pointed out. “They have the capacity to do that […] there’s a variety of different things there to make everybody more climate resilient.”

Addressing the conference yesterday, Secretary-General António Guterres noted that countries in the Caribbean need support now to rebuild, and to take effective climate action.

“We need a new generation of infrastructure that is risk-informed, to underpin resilient economies, communities and livelihoods,” he told the gathering.

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Tzu Chi donates relief items to Pond Island residents

CUL DE SAC - When the St. Maarten Tzu Chi Foundation noticed that the residents of Pond Island were heavily affected by Hurricane Irma and that many of their homes had been badly damaged and they were without electricity and water, the foundation decided to coordinate one of its “three goods” relief effort for the residents.

The three goods relief effort signifies the importance of thinking good, speaking good and doing good.

The foundation noticed the situation in the district during a visit on Tuesday, November 14, and immediately coordinated a relief, which was held soon after on Sunday, November 19, from 3:00pm to 5:00pm.

A total of 18 volunteers got together to assist during the exercise. During the activity, Tzu Chi donated 1,000 pounds of rice, 200 pairs of comfortable sandals and 200 polo shirts to residents of the area.

The need was so big for the relief items that scores of residents began showing up from as early as 2:00pm. Some residents cooperated with volunteers and the foundation managed to execute the effort peacefully, with some recipients even joining the foundation in helping to set up the donation stations. For the activity a “Think Good” station was set up to distribute the polo shirts, a “Speak Good” station to distribute the rice and a “Do Good” station to distribute the sandals.

Volunteers demonstrated the “three goods” philosophy during the event and recipients were very grateful to receive the assistance from the foundation and expressed appreciation as they received the items.

One recipient said he was very thankful to Tzu Chi for coming into their neighbourhood to distribute relief items at this time after the devastating Hurricane Irma. He said residents were still without light and water and they were in dire need of assistance are very thankful and grateful to Tzu Chi for coming to their aid.

Another recipient said residents in the Pond Island area really needed the assistance provided. He lauded Tzu Chi for having an open door policy, noting that the foundation offers assistance to any and everyone. “We thank you for coming in this area because we really needed the assistance,” the recipient said.

Tzu Chi Commissioner Sandra Cheung said the foundation is grateful for the opportunity to assist and thanked residents for accepting the items donated.  

chi inside

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70-95% of Some Coral Species on Sint Maarten Reefs Suffered Extreme Hurricane Damage

COLE BAY - The St. Maarten Nature Foundation has been continuously monitoring coral reefs both inside and outside of the Man of War Shoal Marine Protected Area in order to determine the impact of Hurricane Irma.

Intense impacts have been recorded on certain coral species and on the reef, however also some reef recovering has already been recorded.

Acropora coral (Elkhorn and Staghorn) were hit the hardest by Hurricane Irma: this particular group of species is very prone to intensive water movement and has caused large pieces to break off.

Besides the major break-off of coral fragments, also large die-offs have been recorded in those particular coral colonies. Many parts of especially Elkhorn coral colonies (A. palmata) died, due to direct impacts of the swell or sediment cover, light reduction or water quality reduction.

About 80% of Elkhorn (A. palmata) coral colonies are affected by and have died off directly and indirectly due to Hurricane Irma on St Maarten Reefs. Staghorn (A. cervicornis) coral colonies have shown even more damage due to the storm surge; hardly any coral fragment have been found back and entire colonies have been wiped out. 95% of the Staghorn coral colonies have been destroyed by Hurricane Irma. No colonies have been found or only small fragments remain.

The loss of these Acropora species will have large negative impacts on our reefs due to their importance as reef builders. Acropora corals decreased tremendously in the 1980’s and are currently already listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems and Species.

Until the 1980’s Acropora coral species dominated the near shore zone of many Caribbean islands, including Sint Maarten. Even before Hurricane Irma these coral reef zones have almost disappeared from most islands in the region due to diseases, climate change, pollution and habitat destruction.

The increased loss of these Acropora corals due to Hurricane Irma will have even larger negative effects on biodiversity, biomass of fishes, coastal protection and tourism.

Also Pillar coral (Dendrogyra cylindrus) colonies have been significantly affected by Hurricane Irma. Pillar colonies have been reduced with about 70% due to Irma. Colonies at the dive sites Mikes Maze and Hen and Chicks which were known to reach up to five feet are now reduced to not much more than a foot.  

In order to qualitatively assess the reefs and the Man of War Shoal Marine Park, the Nature Foundation will start up reef monitoring according to the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Protocol (GCRMN) in the coming month. Data from before Hurricane Irma and data from last year will be used to determine the detailed impacts and damages on St. Maarten reefs.

PHOTO CUTLINE: Pillar (Dendrogyra cylindrus) coral colony which is chopped down by 70%.

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PHOTO CUTLINE: Only a little piece of Staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) coral is found alive in the Marine Park since the passage of Hurricane Irma.

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PHOTO CUTLINE: An Elkhorn (Acropora palmata) coral damaged over 80% due to Hurricane Irma at the islands Hen and Chicks.

nature coral inside final

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MP Wescot seeks urgent info from Ministers of VROMI and VSA on Roof Repair Program

PHILIPSBURG - Member of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot-Williams has requested Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure, the Honorable Christopher Emmanuel and Minister of Health Care, Social Development & Labor, the Honorable Emil Lee to answer the following questions urgently.

Can the Parliament be told of the conditions, selection and the criteria of the roof repair program?

Will this include self-help?

Is it coordinated with the Red Cross roof repair program?

Can the Parliament be told how the bidding took or will take place?

The selection of contractors?

Please make the criteria public.

The recent announcement that a roof repair program will finally start was a welcomed one for MP Wescot, who on October 26th, decided to force the hand of Government to accept the conditions set by the Dutch Government to release the reconstruction aid from said country.

In motivating her questions, the MP elaborated as follows: The money we “scorned” will now help us to build back and build back stronger.

The money for the roof repair program is also Dutch aid, because it is from the deficit budget, for which the Government is expecting to receive budgetary assistance as part of the reconstruction aid from the Netherlands, MP Wescot said in her letter to the Ministers.

“It is unfortunate that the Government is not making haste with the law that is supposed to legitimize their financial spending during these times, including legitimizing the roof repair program expenses.

“Especially in these times, the Government should do everything to avoid any semblance of politicizing the relief and reconstruction programs,” the MP further started.

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Goya recalls ‘adobo’ seasoning for possible Salmonella contamination

SINT MAARTEN/SAN JUAN – Goya Puerto Rico has announced its voluntary recall of two varieties of its Adobo seasoning due to possible contamination with salmonella, which affects the gastrointestinal system, particularly in people with weakened immune systems.

Some 660 cases of these products were distributed in Puerto Rico through retail stores, according to the Food and Drug Administration, but no illnesses have been reported.

The recalled products are Goya Adobo with Cumin Seasoning packaged in 28-ounce plastic jars with a green cap and a best-by date of 10/18/22; and Goya Adobo with Pepper Seasoning, packaged in 28-ounce plastic jars with a red cap and marked with a best-by date of 10/23/22.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), salmonella is a bacterium that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people and others with weakened immune systems.

It can cause diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain 12 to 72 hours after infection. Diagnosed by a laboratory test, the poisoning can last up to seven days but most patients recover without the need for treatment. However, some cases can trigger severe diarrhea that requires hospitalization. (CB)

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Deadline to register new political parties is Thursday November 23

PHILIPSBURG - The Electoral Council of Sint Maarten hereby reminds any prospective political party that in order to participate in the parliamentary elections on February 26, 2018, it is required to apply for the registration of the party and its reference with the Electoral Council no later than Thursday, November 23, 2017.

According to article 16 of the National Ordinance on Registration and Finances of Political Parties: new parties must submit a written application to register the party with the Electoral Council. Together with the application for registration of the political party, the following documents should be submitted:

  1. a) Notarial deed containing the Articles of Association of the party;
  2. b) Excerpt from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry;
  3. c) Statement containing the appointment of the party’s authorized representative and authorized deputy representative;
  4. d) Application for registration of the reference which is to be placed above the list of candidates.

Failure to apply for registration by the deadline will result in the party not being able to contest the upcoming elections.

In addition, the Electoral Council would like to remind existing political parties that wish to change the previously registered reference above the list of candidates, that they are required to do so no later than November 23, 2017.

Since the Electoral Council does not have an office, the Electoral Council will be available to receive applications to register new political parties and/or references on Thursday, November 23, 2017, from 2:00pm until 6:00pm at the Government Building, in Conference Room #1. No appointment is needed.

For more information, please visit the website of the Electoral Council, www.ecsxm.org, or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Sint Maarten Nature Foundation, Tour Operators Clean Great Bay Beach

PHILIPSBURG - The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation, together with volunteers from the Cruise Operator Sector, cleaned up a large portion of Great Bay Beach this week. Great Bay Beach is not only a critical nature area in terms sea turtle nesting but it is also the major tourism beach.

"We have been cleaning the beaches systematically and one of the most important is definitely Great Bay Beach.

“With the announcement that the first cruise visitors will start to arrive in December we placed Great Bay Beach on the priority list. Great Bay Beach is also the major nesting site for Sea Turtles on Sint Maarten,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, manager of the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation.

The Foundation has been using unemployed youth and volunteers to clean the beaches using funding from the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance.

nature inside

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Dozens of Schiphol flights delayed, cancelled due to air traffic control problems

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dozens of flights have been cancelled or delayed due to technical problems with the air traffic control systems at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.

The disruption began around 11.30 on Tuesday morning and officials are unable to say when the problem might be fixed. By 15.30, KLM had cancelled at least 50 flights within Europe, while other flights from the Dutch flag carrier are being delayed by up to four hours.

British Airways and Flybe have also been hit by the disruption but Easyjet says none of its flights have so far been affected. Travellers are being urged to keep a close eye on departure boards to check the status of their flights.

‘We have put extra people on the job in an effort to end the problems,’ the air traffic control centre said. ‘We are well aware of the consequences this has for travellers, airlines and the airport.’ (DutchNews)

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