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American Airlines Is First US Airline to Introduce Health Passport for All International Travel to US

SINT MAARTEN/FORT WORTH, Texas — American Airlines is the first U.S. airline to introduce an easy way to provide results from a negative coronavirus (COVID-19) test and other completed documents required for international travel into the United States. The VeriFLY app, a mobile health passport that helps customers understand and verify their travel requirements, will be available for travelers starting Saturday, Jan. 23, for travel from all international destinations. American is expanding access to the app in support of the U.S. government’s requirement that all passengers two years of age and older traveling to the United States from any international location test negative for COVID-19 within three calendar days of departure.

“We’re expanding our work with VeriFLY to quickly evolve our usage of the app and make international travel easier for our customers,” said Julie Rath, Vice President of Customer Experience at American. “We support the implementation of a global program to require COVID-19 testing for travelers to the United States, and we want to do everything we can to make travel a seamless experience for customers. We’ve received positive feedback about the app so far and look forward to more customers having the opportunity to use it.”

Customers can already use VeriFLY to streamline their travel from the U.S. to several countries including Jamaica, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. To date, thousands of American Airlines customers have traveled using the app.

Using VeriFLY

Using the VeriFLY app is simple. After downloading the app from the iOS App Store or Google Play Store, customers create an account, enter their destination and upload required documentation such as proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

Customers are encouraged to review travel requirements to their destination, including any restrictions on passport or point of origin. Visit aa.com to learn more about VeriFLY and the airline’s preflight testing program.

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MP Emmanuel, USP faction call for meeting on COHO

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Christopher Emmanuel, supported by the MP’s representing the United Sint Maarten Party (USP) Faction in Parliament Claudius Buncamper and Akeem Arrindell, has forwarded a letter to the Chairperson of Parliament requesting a Central Committee meeting to discuss the Caribbean Body for Reform & Development (COHO), the law supporting this entity and the country packages.

The letter reads as follows:

“On Tuesday, December 21, 2020, the Prime Minister Of St. Maarten and Minister of General Affairs Silveria Jacobs signed an agreement with the Netherlands for liquidity support (third tranche). The agreement also gave St. Maarten's consent for the Dutch government to establish the Caribbean Body for Reform & Development (COHO) in the Netherlands which reportedly will oversee numerous reform initiatives outlined in country packages for St. Maarten, Aruba and Curacao. 

The Prime Minister has since, via the media, made several comments pertaining to how informed the Parliament of St. Maarten is with reference to the COHO and country packages. To be more specific, the Prime Minister has said on more than one occasion that Parliament has been aprised of all developments regarding the COHO and the country packages. Contrary to these statements by the Prime Minister, the undersigned members of Parliament have not been informed about developments regarding the COHO and any related matters thereto. 

Furthermore, on January 10, 2021 the Prime Minister was quoted in the media as stating: “This marks a new beginning for the Netherlands and St. Maarten as we embark together on this mutual agreement. The government of St. Maarten identifies and acknowledges the opportunity to make St. Maarten resilient through structural reforms. As such, we are developing our implementation strategy for the package of reforms which is to be complementary to the projects and initiatives already in place via the Trust Fund and World Bank." 

The statement of the Prime Minister and that of others such as State Secretary Raymond Knops, opens a box of questions that must be answered and clarified to Parliament and by extension to the people of St. Maarten. 

As such and considering that deadlines have already been identified for the trajectory of the reforms without Parliament's input or information being provided to Parliament about same, the undersigned hereby requests an urgent Central Committee meeting be convened to discuss the COHO, the COHO law and country packages. The Prime Minister and Minister of General Affairs Silveria Jacobs should be invited to this meeting to answer Parliaments questions.”

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Sarah: Social and Political dialogue on Country Package Missing

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - “Not only has the agreement for the country package  been signed, but the Government has also announced the organization that it has put in place to guide St. Maarten's part in the agreement. What will follow now is the so-called implementation plans, although items in the country package are already being worked on. Case in point,  we  see from a meeting of the four Ministers of Justice that it has been concluded that matters raised in the country package will be executed.  So it is not as if everything is on hold until there are implementation plans.  It is therefore paramount that the officially signed documents between the Dutch and St. Maarten Governments be shared with the Parliament of Sint Maarten,” stated Member of Parliament Sarah A. Wescot-Williams,  regarding the Country’s Reform Package.  

Wescot-Williams says what she missed in the Government’s notification about the St.Maarten's organization is the involvement of all stakeholders in this process - the involvement of the social partners and the larger communities of business, health, education, care etc.  In addition to that, the MP said, the Government of St. Maarten,  in making the announcement regarding the agreement and the work organization, refers to the governing program.  The Parliament of Sint Maarten is yet to receive a governing program of the current Government.  The Parliament is yet to debate the National Development Vision! 

“We all want a clear picture of where this Government wants to take the country and how exactly the country package of St. Maarten aligns with the NA/UP governing program as well as the national development vision, as announced by government. It behooves the Government and the Parliament, if we are serious about collectively deciding on the future sustainable development of this country to analyse for ourselves how we are going to carry on with this process in the context of the agreement signed with the Dutch Government.” 

Further Wescot-Williams believes that “much of the process towards decision making that should be lead by the Government is now actually  in the hands of -as it stands right now- a team of the internal affairs ministry in the Hague and the local government apparatus.  Unlike what the government purports, this does usurp a lot of what the Government should be deliberating and deciding. In deciding on these crucial topics, we must get ahead of the curve. Any chatter that St. Maarten can later on take a different position at the handling of the draft COHO law is   nothing more than wishful thinking, because this train has already departed the station and the process based on the agreement has commenced.”  

If that COHO law is not approved or if there is even the appearance that it will not be approved by St. Maarten, the MP expounded, then the agreement for the country package etc. no longer stands, with all the  dire consequences thereof.  

“We could have been much further in the process and have some meaningful deliberations on the draft law and the country package,  had the Government from the onset not played hide and seek on the matter.  The Government played hide and seek with Parliament in seeking its approval to reject the new entity. So holding off until we have the discussion regarding the draft new entity and thinking that we can then turn things around or in a different direction is an  unrealistic  and misleading view.”

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GRACITA: A NEW YEAR TO FIRMLY RESOLVE OLD ISSUES

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Leader of the People’s Progressive Alliance (PPA) Gracita Arrindell said on Tuesday in a media statement: “The start of a new year is always a good time to take stock of the previous year and evaluate how we can improve on the past. The year twenty -twenty (2020) started and closed with one of the single most critical issues facing much of the world.

“This new year will hopefully mark the start of a new era. We have ten years ahead to look at our lives with a clear vision supported by achievable and coherent plans to deal with this pandemic as well as other pressing matters facing our young Nation. As stated in previous publications, there is a undeniable correlation between how intelligently we handle the pandemic and our ability to stabilize and grow our economy. We must put people back to work with a executable plan.

“Today we can look back at measures taken and evaluate our actions to present a comprehensive COVID-19 repressive– economic growth -policy to our nation. We must do this now and not in hindsight. Citizens must be better informed as well and have more say in decisions that affect their lives and livelihood. This year is the year for and by the People. It’s a year during which we must solve issues that are in your face up-close and personal.

“‘Inspraak vooraf niet achteraf’’. Citizen’s consultation must be done prior to implementation of decisions that affect us all and not after the fact or once past the point of no return. Increase transparency and accountability to the people. Deep-clean Sint Maarten and strictly enact litter fines for trespassers”.

Arrindell states: “Again, there is a compelling case to be made in appointing a separate department manned with a multidisciplinary team to research/ coordinate, plan and advise Covid- repressive policies on behalf of the government. The latest government decision to allow this year’s Carnival to take place followed by the public debate about the consequences of this decision warrants the need to install such department soonest. If this fete is allowed to take place, the negative health and -economic consequences will be catastrophic if common sense fails to prevail. We paraphrase our current Prime Minister in response to the Dutch government’s conditions set to provide liquidity support to Sint Maarten: “we will be caught with our pants down.”

Gracita also states: “Currently several Ministers and or their spokespersons and other stakeholders update on pandemic measures while using several and different media outlets. This remains of great concern as often these messages contradict each other or are sometimes even outdated. We certainly understand our small island culture where most Ministers prefer to do the talking themselves rather than delegate to an experienced and qualified entity. Such an entity removes the political element from the issue at hand. Doing this leaves the day -to day management of our people’s business to the Ministers while Parliament executes its oversight duties on the Executive branch. Too many voices and one head can’t work.

“There are enough pressing issues facing our island in the wake of this pandemic which need our undivided attention. Matters that lie in the hands of our local Ministers and Parliament can be solved without pointing fingers at Holland. For example, our national symbols are derelict and have many unfinished structures, empty beer bottles and screaming ugly advertisement placed anywhere possible. These matters may seem small however once dealt with will give new meaning to small and clean equals beautiful. Areas which need our attention include the following:

  • Introduce the unemployment benefit regulation. This public/ private partnership regulation can take away the element of negative surprise for employers and employees after any disaster. Focus on the plights of our pensioners.
  • Update our urban- zoning laws. In the aftermath of hurricane Irma several derelict structures remain un-cleared, un-developed and even insalubrious. These include the former government administration building, Saphire beach club and Mullet-bay. The fate of other buildings such as the ‘ Blue Mall’, Westin- hotel, Caravanserai hotel, Mary’s Fancy Plantation remains unclear. At the same time building 15 stories and -up- are constructed. Is this the direction we are heading towards? Are we ready to cope with the inevitable disasters ahead with the choices made today?
  • Update our economic zoning regulations. Why have food prices reportedly increased over 53% over the past years while government continues to grant more licenses for grocery stores including locations that obstruct traffic and in locations that previously hosted restaurants? These ‘new’ shops are allowed to do business a few hundred meters from yet another grocery store. Also there’s a noticeable increase of ‘ side walk adds’ and liquer / cosmetic adds on buildings. Additionally, our island is littered with empty beer bottles. Revenues are literally to be found on the streets. It’s time for government to restart the discussions on introducing the so-called ‘sin tax’ on liquer and tobacco, implement the removal of the income and or profit tax. Increases in ‘number booths’ and stand -alone casino’s must be halted. What is the status of the gaming control board.

Our beautiful island is slowly turning into one giant advertising board. Business diversification policy is urgently warranted.

  • Implement real bus stops thereby significantly cutting traffic jams. It’s time to bring part of our infrastructure into the 21st century. Identify, purchase land where needed and designate Real bus stops.

Gracita: concludes; “The first quarter of the new year should give citizens a more unified and coherent action plan from our elected and appointed representatives. Plan based on a vision that is clear in its intention and deliberate in its actions. Our citizens also have a critical role and say in the direction we want to take Sint Maarten. Together we can. Let’s make it happen.”

ppa hurr dam

 

 

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NV GEBE Management & Staff take part in the Art of Giving Challenge

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - NV GEBE announced in a press release on Tuesday that food boxes have been distributed to several families within the community on behalf of the Management and Staff of the company. 

In early December, the Management along with the employees of NV GEBE joined in the Art of Giving Challenge where employees would donate one item per day for twenty-four days. 

The food boxes were initially scheduled to be distributed on Christmas Day, however the team decided that due to food items still being placed in the boxes what better way to start the New Year than gifting to others.  The Food Boxes were placed in different locations of the company and were collected and replaced once the boxes were filled. 

For the sake of transparency NV GEBE posted a notice on its Facebook page requesting the community’s assistance by sending in names of persons or institutions who are in need.  Those names along with names sent in via email were all gifted a box. 

Dr. Sharine Daniel, Interim Manager of NV GEBE stated that this could not happen without the staff and that she is extremely grateful for their selfless and generous donation to assist in helping and supporting families of the community in these uncertain times. We know that due to COVID19 pandemic many families have experienced challenges and with these challenging times it is important that as a people we support each other. 

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NV GEBE to Implement Scheduled Maintenance Program

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - NV GEBE stated in a press release on Tuesday that the company will be intensifying its community schedule maintenance program over the next couple months. 

Scheduled maintenance is carried out by the Maintenance Department with the aid of the Execution Electrical Department in order to mitigate recurring and unplanned power outages.  The high-voltage grid is designed in such a manner that parts of our network can be switched off for scheduled maintenance without impacting the electricity supply for all users.

So, when a transformer station needs to be maintained only the consumers connected to that transformer are compromised during the maintenance period. The new maintenance schedule is based on weekly maintenance on minimum two transformer station per week. The majority of these planned works will require a scheduled outage of six (6) to eight (8) hours that will affect several areas of the community. Areas with e.g., schools and or high priority consumers are only maintained during the weekends.

The NV GEBE electrical grid consists of several distribution components. These components are the sub-stations, transformer stations, meter walls and the cables that connect all together. The sub-stations are connected via transmission cables from the Power Plant with a voltage of 12,000 kV.

These cables are connected to a high-voltage switch which has outgoing high-voltage cables that supply electricity to as many as 500+ transformer stations on the island. In the transformer station the high-voltage to be transformed to low-voltage electricity which is 127 / 220 Volts – 60Hz. On the meter wall the low-voltage cables are connected in a distribution box which provides the electricity meters.

Interim Manager of Distribution Department, Patrick Drijvers, stated that both technical departments (Electrical and Water) have gone through big developments and educational processes in the employee training program. 

The Execution Electrical Department was the first group to be trained and certified in high voltage. Recertification is compulsory every four years to be able to work on the electrical network.  NV GEBE takes the safety and education of its staff very serious as operation and maintenance work is paramount and shutting down parts of the high voltage grid involves a number of personnel that have to follow strict procedures. 

The NV GEBE water grid consists of, Water Tanks, Pump Stations, valves and service points. The water tanks are connected by coated ductile water lines (main lines) from the water production facilities in Cay Bay, Cupecoy and Point Blanche. Pumps stations are used for pumping water into tanks and supplying water to consumers who live in high areas.

From the main lines secondary lines are connected which feed the consumers through a water meter. These secondary lines are made of HDPE (plastic). The water grid also needs to be maintained to be able provide continuous water service to the customers. This is coordinated by the Maintenance Department with the aid of the Execution Water Department.

The Execution Water Department also got the necessary technical training in the water sector.  Trainings focused on knowledge of material type, installation methods and techniques, types of tools and equipment for the respective installation types.

In order to execute the (maintenance) work on both utility grids, NV GEBE is making sure that the required tools and equipment, to make the work a success, are available for the technicians. Having the right tools (education, tools and equipment) on hand, makes the work so much easier which reduces downtime and inconvenience to the consumers.

NV GEBE will keep certifying and training its technicians to be able to provide a better-quality service on its network and to its customers. 

Before any maintenance work is executed the customers will be notified in advance of the scheduled outage for each area via the NV GEBE Facebook page and several media outlets. 

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Plaza Puerta del Sol Wastewater Treatment Plant Continues to Pump Sewage into the Simpson Bay Lagoon

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - The Nature Foundation has been responding numerous times upon request from multiple concerned citizens, about a very strong sewage scent emerging from wastewater being pumped into the Simpson Bay Lagoon by Plaza Puerta del Sol. “Already in December the Foundation had visited the site multiple times and recorded a very strong sewage scent every time and even saw sewage entering the lagoon. This included small pieces of possible toilet paper and feces which were seen floating out of the pipe. The situation was explained to the management of the wastewater treatment plant, as it was evidently emerging from their system” stated the Nature Foundation St. Maarten. 

The Nature Foundation advised the management of the treatment plant to directly stop the pumping of the wastewater into the lagoon and to use sewage trucks instead, until the situation is 100% solved and the water is tested to be clean. Besides, the situation was communicated with VROMI inspection and it was advised to not allow to continue these activities.

“A few days later the situation resumed, and we again spoke with the Management and explained to use sewage trucks until the treatment plant is tested to work properly. Unfortunately, last week we have recorded raw sewage to enter the lagoon originating from the Puerta del Sol treatment plant once again” stated the Foundation.   

The Nature Foundation did not receive any indication that the treatment plant has been repaired or that the water has been tested to be clean within the standards of their hindrance permit. “In addition, the strong sewage scent, the dirty water being seen to be pumped out and visible toilet paper pieces, show clearly that this treatment plant is not working properly and should be stopped operating before more or irreversible damage has been done” continued the Foundation’s statement. 

Pumping raw sewage into the marine environment can lead to serious health issues for surrounding inhabitants. Swimming, diving or walking in water contaminated with fecal bacteria can result in gastrointestinal illness (diarrhea or vomiting), respiratory illness, and infections of the skin, ear, eye, sinus, and wound infections. 

Fecal contaminated waters can impact the environment and marine life tremendously, as high nutrient input due to poor sewage treatment creates algae blooms. Poor sewage treatment causes raw untreated sewage finding its ways into water bodies. This contaminated water is rich in nitrogen compounds such as nitrates and ammonia, and causes algal bloom. Algae blooms increase the competition for oxygen, leading to an imbalance in the aquatic ecosystem and suffocation of aquatic animals like fish and other marine life, ending up with dead and stinky waters. Marine life species may also be impacted directly, such as the sea turtle disease Fibropapillomatosis which can be enhanced by polluted waters. 

Input of high concentrations of nutrients have a very large impact on coral reefs and is actually the main cause of widespread death of coral cover across the Caribbean. Coral reefs are the most productive and species rich marine ecosystems and are critical for fisheries, tourism, shore protection and biodiversity of tropical islands. However, they are the most nutrient sensitive of all habitats, requiring the lowest external inputs to avoid eutrophication and habitat degradation caused by excessive growth of algae, as algae thrive and overgrow corals due to additional nutrient input. 

Besides the serious negative health effects and environmental impacts, the sewage scent can seriously harm the tourist industry, as currently the island’s tourists first experience the strong smell of sewage instead of enjoying their vacation when visiting close to this location. 

nature sewage1

 

 

 

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SMMC staff vote for new hospital logo

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - Over the past several weeks, staff of St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) had the opportunity to vote for their favorite St. Maarten General Hospital (SMGH) logo and the most popular version was revealed during a well-attended event held at the open-air patio area of SMMC on Friday January 15, 2021.

The SMGH logo reveal was part of a presentation done on behalf of the Evaluation Committee that guided the SMGH brand identity development process. The companies that were selected last year as a result of the open tender (RFP) project are creative agency Silo, who have done impressive work on similar brand identity and wayfinding projects for hospitals and local designer Loic Bryan from Artistic Drive who assisted Silo in the brand development process. Bryan was on hand during the presentation to explain how each of the 3 logo concepts was arrived at. The brand identity development process entailed elaborate staff workshops and stakeholder interviews to distil their expectations and preferences, defined as the brand values for developing the SMGH brand, of which the logo makes up one of the visual identity components.

The chosen logo that resonated most with staff is part of the “Our Hospital” creative concept that Silo developed and has as explanation (brand rationale) that the new hospital relates to all of us, no matter who you are, and that we are proud to be part of it. This inclusiveness is embedded in the logo by way of the light green “plus” (+) symbol which simultaneously is also a universal identifier for healthcare (the cross) and is applied in the overall SMGH brand mentality. The green color of the logo synchronizes with the natural colors chosen by the architect for the interior of the SMGH building who was inspired by the natural esthetics of the mangroves at the nearby Little Bay pond.

The staff were also given an update on the current and upcoming construction activities of the new hospital and an SMGH scale model was unveiled by SMMC’s Medical Director Dr. Felix Holiday, Supervisory Council Vice Chairman Jim Rosen and other SMMC team members after which all attendees were treated to cupcakes branded with the chosen SMGH logo. The scale model has been placed at SMMC’s main entrance for easy viewing for patients, visitors and staff.

SMGH logo

 

 

 

SMGH logo inclusiveness

 

 

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Parliament Misses Opportunity to Tell the World where It stood on the Constitutional Future of the Country

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - During the opening session of the recently concluded IPKO meetings held on January 6th and 7th, St. Maarten was unable to articulate a position on the decolonization trajectory that a majority of Parliament has decided to undertake and so, opines United Democrats (UD) Member of Parliament, Wescot-Williams, the Parliament of Sint Maarten has missed the opportunity to tell the world where it stood on the constitutional future of this country. 

This was not surprising because this articulation and defending the stance on decolonization has not been forthcoming on St. Maarten, either in the Parliament or otherwise.  Nevertheless, the motion of November 5, 2020, by a majority could have legal consequences for the country, the MP stated. 

“I have recently requested a meeting of the committee for Constitutional Affairs and Decolonization of the Parliament and I have asked questions to those responsible for executing the decisions of Parliament, including the aforementioned motion.  The Presidium of Parliament is responsible to execute the decisions of Parliament. Central to my questions, is the question: What kind of legal agreements have been established on the basis of the motion regarding decolonization that was passed on November 5th of last year? 

The Government finds itself in a rather awkward position on this matter. According to the Government, it was pressured into distancing itself from talk of decolonization and in particular the issue of decolonization versus the Charter of the Dutch Kingdom.” Wescot-Williams explains.  

On the other hand, you have an existing motion of Parliament that not only recognizes but endorses the position that the kingdom charter is an unconstitutional document.

The Government has thus distanced itself from a foundation, but whose legal actions have been endorsed by the Parliament of Sint Maarten. 

It was baffling to hear the representative of St. Maarten in the IPKO meeting attempt to explain the purpose of the Constitutional and Decolonization Committee of Parliament. No wonder you had members of other delegations who continued to stress the point because St. Maarten could not deliver an articulate position on where it stands on this matter.  

If the Government is serious about backing down on the matter of decolonization, they also have to revisit a letter from the Prime Minister sometime late last year, in which the Government endorsed decolonization in a lengthy letter to Parliament.  

In fact, this letter concludes with the following quote by the Prime Minister: “I am of the opinion that finalizing the decolonization can and should be started as soon as possible, it will both benefit international reputation of the kingdom of the Netherlands and therefore Sint Maarten and its sister islands and allow for the sustainable social economic development and prosperity of the people of St. Maarten.” 

With this type of a statement, one would think that the Prime Minister would want to see this whole decolonization as an important part of the very agreement signed with the Dutch Government, in which they talk about sustainable social economic development.  

MP Wescot-Williams is of the opinion, that it therefore behooves the Government to not only retrack or distance itself from third party positions regarding decolonization and regarding the Charter of the Kingdom, but also to give a clear position on the matter, given what the very same Government has told parliament. What or who are we to believe?  

“This is not a matter of the independence/free mandate [sic] of Parliament versus the Government. The coalition-government supported by a majority in Parliament needs to make it clear to the people of St. Maarten where they stand on this matter. If we sit back again and feel that we acted clever by distancing ourselves from the matter, because it was   a condition by the Dutch Government, and yet feel that below the radar, we are going to continue to do what we want, it’s going to come back to bite us sooner rather than later”, the MP concluded.

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Carnival 2021 booths, troupes, promoters’ meetings this week

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) has scheduled various meetings with its stakeholders this week in preparation for Carnival 2021.

The first two meetings will be held upcoming Tuesday, January 19. All registered Carnival troupes and those still interested to participate are invited to a meeting at 6:00pm on Tuesday at the SCDF office on Illidge Road. That will be followed by a meeting for Carnival concert promoters at 7:00pm.

Then on Thursday, January 21, the SCDF will host a meeting with all booth holders at 6:00pm at Carl & Sons Unique Inn in Cole Bay. The foundation is expecting full attendance as there is vital information to relay to all parties mentioned above. The SCDF will also be meeting with the Police Department this week.

Once these Carnival stakeholders are informed, the SCDF will then move into the public information phase. “There will be changes and protocols that folks will have to adhere to if we are to pull this off safely and responsibly. Our stakeholders will be apprised this week and the public thereafter. We look forward to everyone’s understanding and cooperation,” the SCDF said.

The foundation has already outlined its plans to the Government of St. Maarten.

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