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Investigation to be conducted in explicit social media video-clip

PHILIPSBURG - The Sint Maarten Police Department (KPSM) is making the following information known. “Between June 18th and June 22nd 2018 there has been a video-clip posted and circulating on Social Media regarding two individuals (male and female) involved in a very explicit sexual act.

“Also is clear to see in this video-clip is that the female is wearing a uniform shirt of the Dutch National Police Force. This video has raised much concern within the Justice Ministry, the KPSM, the Dutch National Police Force and the community at large.

“An internal investigation was done in regard to this video and at this time no evidence whatsoever was found to indicate that this video-clip was even produced on Sint Maarten or if any of the colleagues from the Dutch National Police Force who have returned to the Netherlands since their tour of duty to the island, or who are presently on Sint Maarten has been identified.

“In addition the commander of the Dutch contingency presently on the island denies having any knowledge who these individuals are in the video-clip or where it was recorded.”

The Honorable Minister of Justice Cornelius De Weever has been informed of this situation and has ordered an in depth investigation into this case, the Friday police report said. (Sint Maarten Police Force)

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State Secretary Blokhuis starts visit to the Dutch Caribbean on care and prevention

SINT MAARTEN/SABA - State Secretary Paul Blokhuis (VWS, Health, Welfare and Sport ) will visit a number of care facilities on the Windward Islands Saba and St. Eustatius from Thursday June 21st to Wednesday June 27th, 2018.

All health care, elderly care and child welfare in the Caribbean Netherlands are the responsibility of the State Secretary for Health, Welfare and Sport.

Additional effort on prevention policy

In the meetings during this visit Blokhuis especially wants to discuss possibilities for extra effort on prevention policy for the Caribbean Netherlands ('special Dutch municipalities' (public entities) Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius) with politicians, professionals and residents of the Islands.

Prevention is a point of concern, because there is a relatively large number of overweight in the Caribbean Netherlands, many people move insufficiently and the consumption of alcohol is relatively high and many children have to deal with passive smoking.

St. Maarten and Curaçao

The visit of the State Secretary starts with the participation in the “Vierlandenconferentie” on Curaçao on Friday June 22nd, 2018.

At this conference members of government of Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten and the Netherlands make agreements on the mutual support at the introduction and conservation of the international health regulations of the WHO in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom.

On St. Maarten Blokhuis visits among others the St. Maarten Medical Center and he discusses the consequences of hurricane Irma for the care for residents of St. Maarten and residents of the other Windward Islands, who are depending on the care on St. Maarten. (RCN Caribbean Netherlands)

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Shooting on Union road leaves one nursing gunshot wounds

COLE BAY - The Detective Department is presently investigating a shooting which took place on Tuesday June 19th in the mid-evening hours on the Union road in the vicinity of the Pet Shop.

Police patrols were directed to the scene to investigate what had taken place but did not locate anyone on the scene.

Shortly after the 911-dispatch received a call from the French authorities informing them that a man reported to the hospital on the French side and that he stated that he was shot on the Dutch side.

A police patrol was again sent to the same location to do an in depth investigation during which evidence of a possible shooting had taken place. The Forensic Department went on the scene to collect this evidence.

The male victim in the meantime is in stable condition and has been admitted to the hospital for further treatment and observation. The suspect(s) responsible and the reason for this shooting are still unknown.

Anyone who may have information in connection with this case should immediately get in contact with the Police Department by calling 54-22222 ext. 213/214 or dial 911. (Sint Maarten Police Force)

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Prime Minister’s address to Parliament on National Recovery & Resilience Plan

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – Prime Minister and Minister of General Affairs Leona Romeo Marlin addressed the House of Parliament regarding plans for the National Recovrey and Resilience Plan of Sint Maarten. Her statement is as follows as provided by the Cabinet of the Prime Minister:

Madam Chair,

After months of intensive preparations, I’m pleased to present two important documents to Parliament today: (1) the National Recovery and Resilience Plan of Sint Maarten, and (2) the Temporary Ordinance on the National Recovery Program Bureau.

Before introducing the NRRP and the Temporary Ordinance, I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to all the civil servants, the representatives of the World Bank and the many different stakeholders who contributed to the preparation of the NRRP.

In line with the unprecedented nature of Hurricane Irma, the NRRP is the product of a unique level of collaboration. I am very proud of my fellow Sint Maartener’s and especially the civil servants of each of the seven ministries who played a leading role in drafting this Plan.

I hope that the members of Parliament have studied the NRRP in detail, and that they can agree with the Government’s view that this is a thorough and knowledge-based document. The NRRP is prepared by more than 170 national and international experts that have collected, validated and analysed data on the damages, losses and needs in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

Based on site visits and consultations, the NRRP quantifies the recovery and resilience needs in 18 different sectors. It puts numbers and a plan to a reality that we know: as a country we have a lot of work to do.

We need to strengthen our infrastructure, our economy and our institutions - not just to recover, but to avoid a repeat of the devastation brought by Hurricane Irma.

The NRRP tells us what we need to do, as a country, to build back better. This is the roadmap for our ongoing recovery process - a process that began the day of the storm and will require our undivided attention for years to come.

Madam Chair,

Let us not be mistaken. We cannot pretend to return to business as usual. Sint Maarten’s recovery process will take a lot of time and energy, we cannot do everything at once.Recovery is not a sprint, it’s a marathon”.

As a country we do not have the absorption capacity and the money to rebuild what we lost, in a few months or even a few years. The NRRP foresees a very ambitious recovery process, which will take at least five to seven years, that is, if Sint Maarten is not confronted with another major hurricane.

As stated in the NRRP, the Government of Sint Maarten and the World Bank estimates total damages and losses from Hurricanes Irma and Maria at 2.7 billion US dollars. The NRRP estimates that about 2.3 billion will be required for recovery and resilience interventions over the next seven years.

The NRRP guides us as a Government on what we should do as a country. However, the reality remains, that no one, including Government, can spend money that we do not have. At this moment, the Government the country of Sint Maarten do not have all the necessary funding to finance the whole NRRP.

There is a significant gap between the 2.3 billion in the NRRP and the currently available funding. As Interim Prime Minister, the Government’s highest priority has been to ensure that the Trust Fund of the World Bank would be established and that the available funding of the Netherlands would be secured - something that was uncertain when this Government came into office earlier this year.

This Government has ensured that 580 million US dollars will become available to Sint Maarten in the coming years. This will be our biggest source of funding – which we can only access by following World Bank procedures. I acknowledge that these procedures do take some time and can be frustrating but is necessary in order to obtain the funds.

In addition to the Trust Fund, the second major source of funding for now will be insurance payments for property. These are estimated to ultimately total between 320 and 430 million US dollars. Together the Trust Fund and insurance pay-outs will cover, in the best case scenario, about 50% of the identified needs in the NRRP. This leaves a major funding gap of at least 1 billion US dollars.

Madam Chair,

Our common task, as the Government and representatives of the people of Sint Maarten, is to find additional funding to narrow this gap. This funding could partly come from the national budget, by reducing costs and increasing revenues. Other important sources of funding can come from public-private initiatives and additional support from the Kingdom and the International community.

Meanwhile, the Government of Sint Maarten cannot spend money that we do not have. This makes clear that we need to find more money, but also that we need to prioritize.

Madam Chair,

What needs to be done first? The NRRP categorizes proposed interventions in four phases: immediate, short, medium and long-term. The top priorities of the NRRP, and the Government of Sint Maarten, are straight-forward:

One, the basic needs of the people of Sint Maarten – such as food, shelter, health and psychological care, education and livelihoods.

Two, to prepare the country as much as possible for the peak of the hurricane season. And three, to kick-start the economy.

Focus has been on vulnerable groups that need assistance to ensure they have a roof over their heads and a basic income to buy essentials. An immediate solution is being worked on to remove the debris left behind by Hurricane Irma and the wider issue of dump fires at the landfill. Plans are ongoing to repair Emergency shelters, strengthen emergency support services and assist public utilities with their recovery.

To restart the economy, the Government is working with the World Bank and the Netherlands on ways to support struggling small and medium-sized enterprises, and to ensure the continued reconstruction of our critical infrastructure, including the airport, hospital and hotels.

With the limited funds that has been made available, these are the priorities that the NRRP and the Government of Sint Maarten are focussing on, right now, in the first early projects that are being financed by the Trust Fund.

Madam Chair,

Making a plan and identifying funding is only part of the recovery process. Implementing projects takes more than money and good will: it takes time, capacity, material, knowledge, labour and undivided attention. This brings me to the second item on the agenda today, the proposed Temporary Ordinance on the National Recovery Program Bureau.

As a small island development state, Sint Maarten has limited resources. This creates particular challenges for project implementation. The reality is, that the Government of Sint Maarten does not have all the capacity and expertise to implement the different projects that will be financed by the Trust Fund. For these reasons, the temporary ordinance proposes to establish a National Recovery Program Bureau that will operate alongside the existing government organization.

Under the ordinance, the Bureau will be responsible for the implementation of the projects that will be financed by the Trust Fund. In all phases of these projects, the Bureau will work very closely together with the ministries. The Bureau is not there to replace the ministries, but to support the ministries as much as is needed to execute the projects in a successful manner and to build capacity in the existing organization.

The Bureau is financed by the Trust Fund and will be headed by a Director who is responsible for approximately twenty staff members that will assist the ministries with necessary requirements of Trust Fund projects, including financial management, procurement, as well as social and environmental safeguards.

Given the urgent need for additional support, the Government has already appointed a selection committee and they have begun recruiting the Director and the staff of the Bureau in a transparent manner. This selection process is ongoing.

Madam Chair,

Let me conclude. I count on all members of Parliament to recognize the NRRP as a knowledge-based document that will serve as the roadmap for the recovery process.

I have full confidence that this Parliament, as the representatives of the people, will acknowledge the necessity of additional capacity and will approve the Temporary Ordinance. This is urgently needed to ensure that the ministries receive the necessary support to implement the recovery and resilience projects.

Madam Chair,

This is what Sint Maarten needs, right now, to restore, secure and strengthen the well-being of our people.

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LEE ELABORATES ON PROCESS FOR RECONSTRUCTION WORK PERMITS

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - In the Council of Ministers press briefing of Wednesday June 20th, the Minister of Public Health, Social Development & Labor, Emil Lee elaborated on the efforts of the Ministry in relation to the granting of work permits based on AB 2013 nr 73 article 7 lid 3. 

The Division Labor Affairs & Social Services has invoked AB 2013 nr 73 article 7 lid 3 of the National decree containing general measures on the employment of foreign labor. This allows the Ministry to approve an employment permit on a one-time basis for projects related to the reconstruction. 

“Post-Irma, the need for construction workers has increased dramatically, to which the Ministry has responded with various skill building trainings, transition opportunities, employment drives and collaborative job fairs.

“These programs were realized to ensure that local workers and interested workers would be offered the opportunity to gain training and employment in the construction sector. These efforts have been now exhausted and we have now moved to invoking AB 2013 nr 73 article 7 lid 3 in order to be able to facilitate, in a timely manner, the high demand for workers in construction.” – Emil Lee, Minister VSA 

There are now two new scenarios as it relates to work permit requests submitted to the Division Labor Affairs & Social Services. 1) Post-Irma project based expedited for reconstruction: request will be expedited through the application process by waiving the requirement of the vacancy advertisement placement, five week waiting period and the processing time being reduced to 2 weeks vs. 6 weeks.

Applicants must meet registration requirements and submit a viable housing plan. These permits are non-transferrable, can only be renewed once, with a total duration of maximum three years. 2) Post-Irma Non-project based reconstruction related work permit requests would be expedited. Both the requirement of the vacancy advertisement placement and five week waiting period would be waived, these permits however can be renewed. 

Pre-Irma, the work permit request would be more extensive, with longer waiting and processing times. Companies would have to go through the registering of the vacancy, placement of vacancy advertisement, five (5) week waiting period for processing of local candidate applications, if unsuccessful, hereafter a work permit request may be submitted for a foreign worker, the application processing time is up to 6 weeks. This complete process could take at least 3 months’ time.

There are several requirements to be met when requesting the expedited reconstruction work permit from the Division Labor Affairs & Social Services. One of these requirements being that companies applying for these work permits must present a housing plan for their workers.  

Lee stated, “This process should not create a displacement of people or an increase of rental prices which will have a negative impact for local tenants and home seekers.” Some of the conditions for these permits are that the applicable taxes and social premiums of the workers are paid and the company must be in good standing with the Tax Administration office. Companies and permit holders are reminded that the permits are non-transferrable, can only be renewed once, and has a duration of maximum three years. 

“In other words, you cannot come in on a permit for company A and use that permit to work for company B after. With these conditions we want to ensure that compliance is in place and also that after the reconstruction phase that these workers do not become competition for our local workers by remaining on the island. A collaboration with the Ministry of Justice will be enforced to ensure that persons do not ‘outlive’ their stay, based on the end date of their permit.” – Emil Lee, Minister VSA 

The most common inquiry from construction sector on the process for the expedited reconstruction work permit has been, if they have a series of smaller construction projects within a projected timeframe, would this be considered a project vs. one dedicated construction assignment for a hotel for example.

As a reaction to this, the Ministry is currently in the process of redefining the definition of the ‘project’ and clearly identifying the scope of this in order to facilitate efficient processing of requests. An advice on this will be submitted to the Council of Ministers next week for approval. 

 “There is a responsibility to ensure that the reconstruction process can move forward as quickly as possible. We will continue to offer trainings and stimulate employers to be flexible and offer those able to work in the construction sector. However, the demand for skilled workers is high and based on the numbers, these cannot be met with local workers alone.

“We believe that this expedited service will be good for the speedy recovery of our economy. In the meantime, we will continue to facilitate in the employment of our local workers and offer trainings and skill building programs for those that have an interest. Next week Thursday and Friday there will be a registration drive for technical and vocational courses in collaboration with NIPA and MIC-IT.” – Emil Lee, Minister VSA 

The registration drive for technical and vocational courses will take place on Thursday June 24th and Friday June 25th at the Government Administration Building from 1pm – 4pm in Room 2, ground floor. Registration will be open for the following Level 1 courses: masonry, plumbing, carpentry, electrical installation, welding and general property maintenance. For more information contact: 5205270 or 5422026 ext. 2119 or 2120 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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SMDF Continues Senior Home Construction & Repairs

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - St. Maarten Development Fund (SMDF) has been moving full speed ahead with the home construction and repair component of its Senior Relief Project which is financed by the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations.

With a group of committed contractors working diligently on the project, the Fund has successfully completed works to 25 homes.

“Over the past few months, SMDF has been working almost around the clock, pushing to execute works on as many homes as possible,” said Managing Director Keith Franca.

This push has led to SMDF completing repairs to 23 homes and building 2 brand new concrete homes that had been completely destroyed by hurricane Irma.

“We are taking the position of building back better, so homes that we work on are being constructed more securely to better protect residents,” he continued. 

In the coming weeks, the number of completed homes will be growing by an additional 28 dwellings. Presently 5 new concrete homes are under construction and 12 homes are being repaired, all of which are expected to be completed by mid-July.

Additionally, SMDF signed contracts for 11 home repair projects and 5 full new rebuilds on June 8, maintaining its momentum of full speed ahead.

Together, the 25 already completed dwellings, along with the soon to be completed 12 new homes and 16 repair works, total 53 home repair and construction projects led by SMDF.

“We are very proud of our progress in this project and even prouder of our contributions to St. Maarten’s recovery – we hope to continue down this path for the people of St. Maarten,” concluded Franca.

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Nature Foundation Warns About Increased Potential for Large Scale Sargassum Invasion

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - The St. Maarten Nature Foundation is warning of a potential significant influx of Sargassum seaweed in the coming days: “We have been coordinating our monitoring efforts with our partners in the region and based on weather predictions, sattelite imagery and aerial surveys there is a significant amount of the seaweed headed in our general vicinity.

“We have been really trying to work both with our partners in the region and with local stakeholders to monitor the situation and to find a way to control the amount of the weed washing up on beaches in the case of a significant influx. In the case of an influx we need to find a way to coordinate the removal of the seaweed with heavy loaders which causes serious risks to nesting sea turtles and hatchlings while the grass itself can be a hazard to the animals. Uncoordinated seaweed removal can also cause significant erosion on affected beaches,” commented Nature Foundation Manager Tadzio Bervoets.

“Economically speaking there is a serious effect that seagrass can have on the beaches of the island. As soon as the grass is cleared it is being deposited back on the beach by the wind and currents. We will continue to work towards researching the effects of the grass and some possible solutions but at this point Sint Maarten, like many islands in the Caribbean, are being heavily impacted,” continued Bervoets.

Sargassum is a genus of brown (class Phaeophyceae) seaweed which is distributed throughout the temperate and tropical oceans of the world. Most of the Sargassum Seaweed lies concentrated in the Sargassum Sea, a region in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean surrounded by ocean currents. It is bounded on the west by the Gulf Stream; on the north, by the North Atlantic Current; on the east, by the Canary Current; and on the south, by the North Atlantic Equatorial Current.

Sargassum first plagued the Caribbean and St. Maarten in 2011 and 2012, with the Foundation having to warn swimmers to avoid swimming in Guana Bay in August and September due to the large amount of Sargassum Weed and many beach front residences and hotels having to continuously clean washed up Sargassum.

The Nature Foundation will continue to monitor the situation and will issue releases as information becomes available.

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APS to start construction of 62 residential units this summer

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - On Monday June 18th, Algemeen Pensioenfonds Sint Maarten (APS) signed the construction agreement with contractor Liccom NV for the construction of its new housing development project; ORYX Residences in Cay hill.

The contract signing will allow for construction of the 62-unit housing development project to commence this summer. The project is expected to be completed in 12 months, by summer 2019.

The agreement was signed with Mr. Franklyn Richards - Chairman and member of APS Board, Mr. Guilliano Saturnilia - Member of APS Board, Mr. Andre Sneep - Managing director Liccom NV. Witnessed by: Mrs. Nadya Croes – Van Putten - Director APS.

The signing of the agreement is a welcomed new milestone for APS and pending buyers. APS has been committed to fast track the housing development project, which will offer more short-term opportunities for home seekers, especially post-Irma. APS sees these investments as a win-win for the community and the fund.

“We were especially happy with this proposed timeframe of 12 months by Liccom. The quicker we can get the homes in the hands of the buyers, the better. A well-thought through organization of the construction in our opinion leads to the relatively short timeframe for constructing 62 units.” – Nadya Croes-van Putten, Director APS 

The bidding and selection process for a contractor started in December 2017. APS expressed interest in selecting a main contractor with an established track record in similar projects to execute the work. 

Both local and international contractors were to participate in the bidding process for the housing project. Liccom NV ultimately proposed the winning bid, after which APS started preliminary contract discussions with Liccom NV. In April 2018, the terms of the construction agreement were negotiated, culminating in the June 18th signing of the construction agreement. 

“Over the weeks of discussing terms of the agreement, many aspects of the project development were discussed. The discussions on the construction agreement were not always easy, however we were content with the input from Liccom on ways to reduce construction costs while maintaining the quality of the construction.

“We are very confident that they understand what we are looking for in this development and truly know the plans and drawings to the finest and most minute detail. As a corporate citizen of Sint Maarten, we see the shared benefits of these investments.

“These developments will offer a return that will enable us to continue to pay the pensions to our participants, make a socio-economic contribution to the individual buyers and the economy of the country as a whole.” - Kendra Arnell, Manager Projects APS

The architectural design of ORYX Residences has been prepared by local architectural firms: Cicca NV and IXI Design NV. Also involved in the design and engineering are local firms Independent Consulting Engineers and Windward Electrical Company. The Project management for ORYX Residences is assigned to Heren2.

The building permit for the entire project has already been issued by the Department of VROMI. The design is in accordance to applicable Sint Maarten earthquake and hurricane codes and regulations, as well as fire regulations. ORYX Residences will be located in a commercial and residential zoned area in Cayhill, right behind the CC1 warehouse. 

Over the past months, APS has hosted several information sessions for potential buyers on the project. In collaboration with Key Real Estate, potential buyers were given project details, purchasing procedures and guidelines, during the information sessions. Active participants of the Fund were encouraged to make use of the opportunity to gather information on this potential homeownership opportunity. 

ORYX Residences will consist of 62 units, 44 of which will be two- or three-bedroom townhouses. The project further includes 18 apartments of 1, 2 or 3 bedrooms. Sales prices depend on the size of the unit. The average sales price will be around US $200,000 and the maximum price will not exceed US $250,000 for the largest units. 

ORYX Residences will be a gated community project, of which the layout and design will promote a community atmosphere with a central outdoor area where neighbors can come together and socialize in a community setting.

“Interested buyers can opt to qualify for a mortgage issued by APS, which consist of 100% financing with no down payment. Most local banks require a down payment, which could easily lead up to 30% of the purchase price. APS believes that this incentive will help in particular young professionals in buying a home.” – Nadya Croes-van Putten, Director APS

Over the years, APS has invested assets in real estate and embarked on a number of real estate development projects. By developing properties in which APS has invested, the expectation is that return will be generated and contribute to the appreciation of the pension fund’s assets and capital.

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CLIENTS CELEBRATED AT CIBC FIRSTCARIBBEAN

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Clients throughout the region were celebrated at CIBC FirstCaribbean, as it honored one of its businesses’ pillars and marked Client Appreciation Day on Friday June 15th

As the bank’s doors opened in St. Maarten on Friday, clients were greeted by CIBC FirstCaribbean Country Manager, Garth Sherwood with gifts of appreciation. Mr. Sherwood thanked the clients for being part of the CIBC FirstCaribbean family, for their continued confidence and stated that “the bank looked forward to a long and beneficial relationship with them”. Clients were treated to breakfast and other tokens of appreciation throughout the day. 

The bank also recently celebrated employee appreciation day on May 15th, the second pillar on which CIBC FirstCaribbean stands. The history of CIBC in the region is expansive, having been in the Caribbean since 1920. The first branches were established in Bridgetown, Barbados and in Kingston, Jamaica. In the same year, branches were also opened in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Havana, Cuba. 

FirstCaribbean International Bank was formed in 2002 with the merger of CIBC West Indies Holdings and Barclays Bank PLC Caribbean operations. In December 2006, CIBC acquired the Barclays share and became the majority shareholder in FirstCaribbean. 

On June 20, 2011 the bank became co-branded under the CIBC banner, adopting the branding CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank.

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De Weever welcomes Koop Avond Thursdays

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – Koop Avond will kick off on Thursday, June 21, and will continue for a six-week period until July 26.  This is an initiative of entrepreneur Bertaux ‘Mr. Rude’ Fleming of Xtratight Entertainment.

There will be food, live entertainment, shopping and local craft stalls on display every Thursday for a six-week period from 5.00pm to 10.00pm.

Acting Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (Ministry TEATT) Cornelius de Weever, commends the initiator and partners involved and supporting the shopping evening.

“We have to be innovative in these challenging times. Every little or great initiative that can generate economic activity for micro and small-medium sized businesses, is a good thing especially in the capital Philipsburg, the shopping mecca of the Caribbean.

“Just recently the Philipsburg Promotional Board organized the ‘Philipsburg Alive Block Party’ that took place at Pastorie Steeg. It was very well attended, and I am looking forward to the same support and turnout by the Sint Maarten community and visitors to the Koop Avond shopping evening every Thursday starting June 21.

“Everybody has to do their part to bring life back into Philipsburg and we are well on our way,” Minister Cornelius de Weever said on Tuesday. 

The Koop Avond will take place on Front Street from Rouge et Noir to the St. Rose Arcade.

Shuttles have been arranged that would pick up tourists from various hotels around the island.  Stores and restaurants according to the organizers will be offering specials during the Koop Avond.

A number of entities are involved in the Koop Avond, namely, the Department of Culture, St. Maarten Tourist Bureau, Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Philipsburg Promotional Board, Downstreet Community Council among others.

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