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Prime Minister Jacobs meets with Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Blok

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok arrived in St. Maarten on Sunday afternoon for a working visit. During his short stay, Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs managed to have an informal pre-meeting with Minister Blok on Sunday evening where they discussed several matters, some of which falls within the purview of Minister Blok, other matters concerning St. Maarten’s recovery since 2017, as well as government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a great opportunity for Prime Minister Jacobs to highlight the importance of the working relationship between the government of St. Maarten and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Prime Minister Jacobs also met with Minister Blok together with Préfet Sylvie Feucher this morning to discuss French-Dutch relations. Prime Minister Jacobs stated that quadripartite meeting remains one of the best mechanisms by which St. Maarten manages its relations with the French. “It is important to find a solution where the border closures are concerned so that we may continue to manage the coexistence of our two sides on this island in times of emergencies and crises,” she continued.

“While I understand and appreciate the right of a state to protect its citizens, St. Maarten is truly unique in the sense that on such a small island, two nations coexist. Consequently, the relationships not only familial, but also economic are highly interlinked and interdependent. As such, formal agreements must exist between both governments whereby despite difference in nationality, status and constitution the two sides can protect the people and ensure their livelihoods,” concluded Prime Minister Jacobs.

A kingdom consultation meeting on foreign affairs is scheduled to take place tomorrow Tuesday, November 24, together with the Prime Ministers of St. Maarten, Curacao, Aruba and Minister Blok.

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In memory of Paul Hoetjes, a legend in nature conservation

SINT MAARTEN/BONAIRE - It is with great and profound sadness that we have to say good-bye to Paul Hoetjes, a legend in nature conservation in the Dutch Caribbean and cofounder of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA), the DCNA said on Monday in a statement. Paul Hoetjes passed away on the 13th of November 2020. 

Paul’s passing was a shock for his loved-ones with many of them being part of the Dutch Caribbean nature conservation world. Paul was known as a gentle, kindhearted gentleman who provided a great contribution to many regional nature conservation initiatives, particularly in the field of coral reefs, sea turtles and marine mammals. He was a mentor to many, who greatly benefited from his insights, advices and support over the years. 

Paul moved to Curaçao from Indonesia with his family as a young child. He gained a biology degree at University of Amsterdam (UvA) and became active in coral reef conservation shortly after returning to Curaçao to work in the island’s sea aquarium. 

Paul retired in the beginning of 2020 after a twenty-year career as nature policy coordinator in the Dutch Caribbean, working for the Central Government of the Netherlands Antilles out of Curaçao from 1998 to 2010 and from 2010 to 2020 for the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV), stationed on Bonaire, working for the Caribbean Netherlands. During these years he was responsible for the formulation and implementation of national nature policy for the islands, embodied in the Nature Policy of the Netherlands Antilles 2000-2005, the Nature and Environment Policy Plan of the Netherlands Antilles 2004-2007, the Nature Policy Plan for the Caribbean Netherlands 2013-2017 and lastly the Nature and Environment Policy Plan for the Caribbean Netherlands 2020-2030. 

Paul was involved in many conservation initiatives. He was amongst others central in creation of the DCNA in 2005, a regional network of protected areas set up to help and assist the park management organizations on the islands of Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Maarten. Paul contributed in countless ways to environmental policy, education, management and establishment of protected areas in the Dutch Caribbean. Some of Paul’s many achievements were the formation of the Marine Mammal Protected Areas Network and the designation of the Saba Bank as an internationally recognized marine protected area, the establishment of the Yarari Sanctuary for marine mammals & sharks in the waters of the Caribbean Netherlands and the Mount Scenery National Park. 

Paul was actively involved in various regional and international multilateral environmental agreements, such as a delegate to the Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) Protocol, the Inter-American Convention for the protection of Sea Turtles (IAC), the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) and Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network Caribbean Initiative (GCRMNCaribbean).

Paul’s great expertise, dedication to conservation and continuous efforts to promote co-operation for the benefit of nature and society made him contributory to the state of nature and conservation in the region. 

The DCNA expresses their deepest condolences to Paul’s family, friends and colleagues. “Paul Hoetjes will be remembered and sorely missed. We sincerely thank him for his kindness and valuable contribution in safeguarding nature for generations to come within the Dutch Caribbean.” Tadzio Bervoets, Director DCNA

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DECEMBER INCOME & UNEMPLOYMENT SUPPORT DEADLINE IS DEC. 5

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Ministry of Finance would like to remind you to apply to the Income Support for Sole Proprietors, Vendor License Holders, Bus and Independent Taxi and Tour Drivers and COVID-19 Unemployment Support. Both programs disburse ANG. 1,150 per month to approved individuals. In order to receive continued financial assistance, applicants must send in a support request monthly through the online portal each month.

If you are applying for Income Support for the first time, you will need to create an online account. To do this, applicants must:

  • Complete the Income Support Application Form.
  • Upload a copy of a valid Sint Maarten issued ID or Dutch passport (expired no longer than six (6) months).
  • Upload a copy of a valid copy of the Chamber of Commerce & Industry registration, this is only required from sole proprietors (excerpt cannot be older than 6 months);
  • Upload a copy of a valid (or not expired longer than 6 months as of the date application) vending permit (of any kind), bus or taxi license
  • Upload a copy of the 2019 Income Tax Return, stamped by the Tax Inspectorate.

If you are applying for Unemployment Support for the first time, you will need to create an online account. To do this, applicants must:

  • Complete the COVID-19 Unemployment Support Application Online Form;
  • Upload a copy of a valid Sint Maarten issued ID or Dutch passport (expired no longer than six (6) months).
  • Upload a Letter of Termination or Dismissal (on Company letterhead with authorized signature and Company Stamp);
  • Upload a copy of the applicant’s last pay slip (from a payroll system with the Company’s name clearly visible)


Applicants with existing online accounts should log in to their portal and choose the month they wish to receive support for. Applicants should receive a confirmation e-mail indicating that their request was successfully submitted. 

All information and updates can be found on the official SSRP website. The SSRP website can be accessed at www.ssrp.sx. Please note that the deadline for December will be on Saturday December 5th, 2020. 

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Grisha calls for urgent action to stop the rapid rise in food prices

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Faction Leader in Parliament for the United People's UP Party the honorable Grisha Heyliger-Marten is calling for an urgent Public Meeting of Parliament to discuss the alarming rise in food cost on St Maarten and seek ways through legislation to stop what could potentially result in a food crisis.

Her concern comes from the outcry of many within the community and a three-year-old study, which somehow was never brought to the public. The study commissioned in May 2017 by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs shows St. Maarten’s food price rose by 53 percent between 2012 and 2017. That rise is double the increase in food price of both Curacao and Aruba who were subjects of the study.

Heyliger-Marten said on Sunday her goal is to submit some proposals to Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications TEATT and to bring a motion to Parliament that instructs the Minister to find ways to reduce food costs so low income earners can feed themselves and their children.

Matters at home and abroad are of importance to me as a Member of Parliament and what should be asked is why this report, which speaks about the alarmingly high cost of food and its negative affect on the people of St. Maarten, was not addressed before.

One way to provide some relief to residents according to MP Heyliger-Marten is Heyliger-Marten is urgently reinforce School-based food programs, especially now with the return of face-to-face learning, as part of her recommendations to address the rapid rise in food price on St. Maarten. “We must put our people's needs above everything else and do something to stop their suffering."

"It is difficult for families to put food on their tables today. We must realise that food insecurity creates significant health and educational challenges as children cannot get the nourishment they need to live and learn. "We must put our people's needs above everything else and do something to stop their suffering." "It is difficult for families to put food on their tables today. We must realise that food insecurity creates significant health and educational challenges as children cannot get the nourishment they need to live and learn. 

MP Heyliger-Marten calls the details of a May 2017 study on the rapid rise in food prices in St. Maarten is "alarming." She warns that if nothing is done to reduce food price, this will plunge St. Maarten into a food crisis. When compared to the other Dutch Caribbean Islands, the Report, called the "Ecorys Report," shows food price increase by more than twice the amount in St. Maarten compared to Aruba and Curacao. The Report recommends promoting fair competition, strengthening consumers' position and reviewing the permit systems for supermarkets as a means of breaking the "strong concentration of power around a few market players." 

The Report also states that contrary to popular belief, the transportation/shipping costs play a small role in the overall retail price on St. Maarten. The Supply Chain on St. Maarten, according to the Report, leaves a lot to be desired. 

MP Heyliger-Marten said Sunday the high food prices must be addressed quickly mainly when faced with the reality of a significant economic decline and health crisis. "We cannot wait until the price of food rises to such a level that we create a food crisis, and we must do something because already too many of our citizens are living below the poverty line and this does not help. Minimum wage is still meagre, and single parents are struggling, even more, today at the supermarkets because of the rapid increase in food price."

She said, "Since the extreme poverty line is determined by the cost of the basic food basket, people living below this line do not have sufficient income to cover basic food costs. As food prices increase, the most vulnerable are faced with new and growing concerns. This means that the downturn in the economy will have an impact on the food security of the people.

The MP expressed is the question of comparing prices on French St. Martin with that of the Supermarkets on Dutch St. Maarten. She said there must be a multilateral cooperation effort put in place immediately to prevent St. Maarten from entering into a food crisis. According to the Ecorys Report entitled: Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten- Study on price developments and logistics in the Region, "All the islands in the Kingdom faced severe price increases from the period 2012 -2017. The Cost Analysis for St. Maarten, in essence, showed that even though transport costs tend to be lower (because of the closer proximity to Miami and Rotterdam), taxes slightly higher, the wholesaler’s profits are larger, and prices are higher.

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Travel entry requirements updated to allow rapid antigen tests

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – The Ministers of TEATT Ludmila de Weever and VSA Richard Panneflek have updated the entry requirements to include antigen testing with effective date of November 25th.

Travelers to St. Maarten are required to complete a mandatory health authorization application via the Electronic Health Authorization System (EHAS) available on www.stmaartenentry.com and upload their negative RT-PCR test within 5 days or their negative antigen test result within 48 hours.

Currently, the following antigen tests have been approved: Abbott (CGIA Panbio COVID-19 Ag rapid test), Becton Dickinson (CGIA BD Veritor COVID-19 test) and Roche (SD Biosensor F test). The list of acceptable tests is constantly being reviewed as government continues to seek the most accurate alternatives to the PCR test.

“I’m happy with the addition of another test as this will assist in easing travel to St. Maarten since these specific antigen tests are readily available in our main tourist markets. In fact, one of our major airlines, Air France, is already using this test for travel between Paris and Guadeloupe, within the 48-hour window. Our island’s economy needs to return to pre-pandemic levels as safely and quickly as possible and this decision allows us to make the necessary adjustments to help improve load factors, thereby increasing the number of visitors and with it economic activity,” said Minister of TEATT Ludmila de Weever.

The Minister of Public Health, Richard Panneflek, stated, “I am diligently working at the possibility of using antigen tests for the local population. This will allow us to further synchronize the protocols that CPS and ARS have been working on. Due to the improved accuracy of antigen tests, the realization of mass testing will be possible for St. Maarten in the near future, allowing for a more realistic depiction of our COVID-19 situation. However, PCR test will remain St. Maarten’s gold standard testing method.”

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Rotary Sunset Donates Tablets to After School Programs

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On October 28th, 2020, members of the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset gathered at the Rupert Maynard Community Center in St. Peters and the Senior Citizen Recreational Center in Hope Estate to present tablets to two after school programs.

The Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset launched its tablet / computer donation drive in August with hopes to provide the much-needed computer devices to students who were unable to attend online classes. The club was able to donate over 60 tablets to students at the various public schools thus far. There continues to be an outpour of support from Rotarians and supporters both here and abroad and the club is happy to present a second batch of tablets. With students gradually returning to the physical classroom setting, after school programs are faced with lack of devices to continue the learning process during the afternoon hours. With this community assessment, the club has decided to shift its approach of donating the tablets to the schools to donating the tablets to such after school programs.

The club was thrilled to present 4 tablets to the Young Achiever After School Program currently located at the Senior Citizen Recreational Center in Hope Estate and 6 tablets to the Star After School Program currently located at the Rupert Maynard Community Center in St. Peters. Both receiving after school programs conveyed their sincere appreciation to the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset and its membership. The club will continue its initiative of providing devices to the vulnerable for as long as there is a need in education.

In addition to Rotary Sunset’s contribution, the club would also like to extend its heartfelt gratitude to the general population of St. Martin, supporters, and Rotarians from across the globe for their kind contributions toward this initiative thus far. A special thank you is extended to international contributors such as the Rotary Club of Nassau Sunrise in the Bahamas and our local contributors such as Tamisha Morris-Arrindell, Cadet Frenel Lambasador Car Rental, Rene Laurent of Sarl Hurricane Transport, Roger Lawrence and Lisa Barrot for ensuring this donation to the two after school programs was possible.

Persons who are still interested in contributing towards the club’s device initiative can do so by making a deposit of $100 or more to the club’s WIB USD Account number-82173909 or WIB NAF Account number-82173806.

The Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset meets every second and fourth Monday of the month at Carl N Sons Unique Inn and Conference Facilities in Colebay at 7:30pm. Due to Covid19, the club currently meets via Zoom. 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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Minister of VSA and ECYS support PJIAE with Pavilion for arrival terminal expansion

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - On Friday November 13th, Minister of VSA, Richard Panneflek and Minister of ECYS drs. Rodolphe Samuel signed a “use agreement” regarding the use of a mobile pavilion owned by Country, St. Maarten, to be used and operated by the Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIAE) for the upcoming season.

With the damages caused by Irma, PJIAE has been operating with limited space. As the peak tourism season is approaching, St. Maarten can expect approximately 3,500 inbound passengers on peak days during the week, and this number is expected to rise in the month of January onward. In addition, the new health screening measures at the Airport requires additional space that will be accommodated in the Pavilion to create a smoother throughput and travel experience for all travelers.

“As Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor, it is with great pleasure we are able to assist PJIAE, and we thank them for their collaborative efforts to ensure the new health checkpoint at PJIAE is able to operate efficiently in order to protect our population and incoming visitors,” stated Minister Panneflek.

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Negotiations on the 3rd tranche of liquidity support started on Friday

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The discussion on the third tranche of liquidity support commenced this morning, Friday, November 13, 2020, after the Kingdom Council of Ministers (RMR) meeting, wherein Dutch State Secretary (SS) Raymond Knops expressed willingness of the Netherlands to engage in discussions with St. Maarten on the third tranche for liquidity support. St. Maarten has been given the green light to commence discussions on the third tranche of liquidity support.

Following a constructive conclusion of the negotiations with the College Financieel Toezicht (CFT) for which a positive advice was rendered to the Chair of the Kingdom Council of Ministers (RMR), Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs secured a meeting with State Secretary Raymond Knops together with their support teams on November 11, 2020.

During the meeting, SS Knops confirmed that St. Maarten had sufficiently complied with the requirements regarding the second tranche of liquidity support and could now begin the long-awaited discussions with the Netherlands for the third tranche of liquidity support.

Prime Minister Jacobs reconfirmed St. Maarten’s willingness for dialogue on the Dutch proposal of the Caribbean Reform Entity (CHE) as presented on July 10, taking into consideration the changes to the Caribisch Hervorminings en Ontwikkelingsorgan (COHO) which has been sent to the Kingdom Council of State.

Jacobs highlighted the motion of Parliament which mandates the Government of St. Maarten to continue to negotiate with the Dutch government in the best interest of the people of St. Maarten. These negotiations would be aimed at the arrival to a consensus on the conditions for the much-needed third tranche of liquidity support.

She stressed that it was important for parties to make strides to meet each other with understanding for the current liquidity position. “It is important that St. Maarten is given enough negotiating room, just as the other Caribbean countries have, in order to develop a package that could be brought to parliament,” Prime Minister Jacobs expressed during the meeting.

Prime Minister Jacobs also looks forward to solutions for the maturing loan of NAf 50 million and expects to have this finalized ahead of the November 18th deadline. This is one of Government’s top priorities for dialogue with the Netherlands. SS Knops expressed willingness to have an open discussion on this point as well and arrangements were made related to the composition of the technical teams on both sides.

The technical discussions that begun today will focus on St. Maarten’s concerns related to the Caribbean Reform Entity as well as St. Maarten’s stance on the country packages. St. Maarten is happy to finally have the opportunity to engage in an open dialogue on the proposed Kingdom Law.

“The Government of St. Maarten looks forward to receiving much-needed clarity on the nuances of the law, its effect and influence on the governing processes, the financial consequences, and the manner in which the country packages can be envisioned in execution. As such, I pledged to continue in keeping Parliament updated throughout the process,” stated Prime Minister Jacobs.

 

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Prime Minister Jacobs Congratulates President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - “On behalf of the Government of Sint Maarten, I hereby congratulate Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on their election victory as the next President and Vice-President of the United States of America.

This election is particularly important given that the outcome has resulted in not only the first female Vice-President but also the first person of Caribbean and Asian descent, and the first woman of color to hold this office.

St. Maarten remains committed to working with this new administration underscoring our strong historic, economic and social ties with the United States,” stated Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs.

joe biden 2

President-elect Joe Biden

vp elect harris

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris

 

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MP Heyliger-Marten clarifies Parliament’s approach towards decolonization

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - In a statement issued on November 9th, the Faction Leader of the UPP and Second Vice-Chair of Parliament, MP Grisha Heyliger-Marten responded to statements from the opposition parties in Parliament regarding the decolonization process. 

“In the first place”, MP Heyliger-Marten stated, “I would like to point out that, to a certain extent, I can understand the “confusion” that the UD and PFP factions are referring to. The right to self-determination, decolonization, and international law are not complicated topics, but they are very specialistic part of the law. It is not something that most citizens have to deal with on a daily basis. Even most lawyers are not versed in the topic. It took me weeks and months of reading academic research and other documentation, listening to experts, and doing additional research to get a grasp of it. Having started this process back in August of 2019, even I am still learning every day.”   

“The joint proposal with my colleague MP Solange Ludmila Duncan to establish a Permanent Committee on Constitutional Affairs and Decolonization was based this process. The proposal gives an extensive explanation of the tasks and objectives of the Permanent Committee, and I am happy that it was approved unanimously by Parliament.” According to Heyliger-Marten, this matter is crucial for Sint Maarten’s future, and should not be used for party politics. A such, she expressed thanks and appreciation for the cooperation of all parties in Parliament to have the establishment of the Permanent Committee approved during the Public Meeting of November 5th, 2020. 

The motion passed that same day, which was approved with twelve votes in favor and three against, was both a political affirmation of the Permanent Committee and a firm declaration by the representatives of the people of Sint Maarten to the global community -including the Government of the Netherlands- that they will make use of their right to self-determination to achieve a full measure of self-government as required by the United Nations. These rights, and the fact that they have neither been fully exercised by the people of Sint Maarten nor afforded to us by the Government of the Netherlands are not a matter of opinion that need to be debated, but a matter of legal fact. 

According to Heyliger-Marten, these rights and the process do not require “going back to the people for their approval”, since it is both a legal right of the people of Sint Maarten and a legal and sacred obligation of the Netherlands under article 73 of the UN Charter to provide them with these rights. 

“Both the Permanent Committee and the motion create the framework and pave the way for a long-term trajectory. Additionally, resolution four of the motion clearly mandates the Government of Sint Maarten to continue the negotiations for the third tranche of liquidity support with the Netherlands, once the outcome is in accordance with international law, and the interest of the people Sint Maarten are treated as paramount in the process”, Heyliger-Marten stated. 

“As explained in the proposal and motion great deal of the ground-work has been done, and we now have a golden opportunity to finalize unfinished business, correct legal wrongs, and create a better Sint Maarten for generations to come.”

“I was therefore surprised that the same MP’s who voted for the establishment of the Permanent Committee did not support the motion. Both documents have the same points of departure, namely the fact that the decolonization of the former Netherlands Antilles, including Sint Maarten, was never completed.  

The proof of this legal fact has been provided to Parliament months ago, and as legislators, we have the obligation to make sure we read and understand all documents at our disposal before making statements decisions.” Heyliger-Marten added that “you can’t be one foot in, and one foot out, especially not when it comes to matters of crucial importance like these”. 

“I am a firm believer in setting high goals and the five P’s: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. And on the eve of Sint Maarten’s Day I am proud to say that the achievements of the people of Sint Maarten over de centuries give me all reasons to believe that this goal too, will be accomplished by us as a people”, MP Heyliger-Marten concluded.

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