Tuesday 11th October 2022.

October 11, 2022

As of this date and until June 30, 2023, the government of Laurentino Cortizo will be able to directly contract up to 25 million dollars to mitigate disasters caused by the rains and “the imminence of new damages derived from atmospheric conditions.” in the provinces of Panama, Colón, Chiriquí, Bocas del Toro and the Guna Yala and Ngäbe Buglé regions. This was determined by the Cabinet Council when declaring a “state of environmental emergency” in almost half of the country through Cabinet resolution 110 of October 6, 2022, published in the Official Gazette on Monday. That is, before the blows of Hurricane Julia, which mainly affected Chiriquí and Colón. The Cabinet points out that in the months of June, July, August and September 2022, extreme rains caused the Chico, Chiriagua and Escarrea rivers to flood, affecting streets, roads and homes in Alanje (Chiriquí) and putting them in danger of collapse. They also cite the damage to the road that leads to the Nole Düima district, Ngöbe Buglé region. They also mention the damage caused by floods and landslides in the province of Colón, which affected businesses and homes. It includes the deterioration of the El Llano-Cartí highway in the Guna Yala region and the landslide and subsidence in Isla Colón, Bocas del Toro. The resolution specifies that once the exception period expires (June 2023), the contracting entities must submit a detailed report to the Procurement Cabinet, which must be published in PanamaCompra within five business days of its presentation.

The legislative subcommittee created to discuss, once again, bill 625, which adopts the legislation for the extinction of illicit assets in the country, met for the first time this Monday. The same last week by the Government, Justice and Constitutional Affairs Commission of the National Assembly , it is made up of deputies Victor Castillo (chairman of the subcommission) , Emelie García Miró and Fátima Agrazal. Castillo, Miró and Agrazal will have 10 working days to formulate modification proposals and present them to the commission. This is the second legislative subcommittee created to deal with this issue. The previous subcommittee made recommendations, but the bill (presented by the Executive in April 2020) was not approved in the first debate. “They have wanted to think that the National Assembly is afraid of giving way to this bill or demonizing the bill. It is not like this. There is a willingness on the part of the Assembly to discuss and listen to the people,” Castillo said. The first to speak at Monday’s session was the secretary general of the Ministry of Security (Minseg), Jonathan Riggs. He assured that the bill “is a necessity” and stated that the entity aspires to achieve a consensus that allows the bill to advance on the legislative agenda. He clarified some points about the proposal and the initiative promoted by the Executive, through the Minseg. He explained that as he is proposing in the current proposal, it is an autonomous jurisdiction that would be developed in parallel with a criminal proceeding. Castillo asked about the budget that would be needed to implement what was proposed in the bill. Riggs assured that it would have to be budgeted through the Public Ministry and the Judicial Branch. Riggs pointed out that the Minseg intends to propose modifications to the same project that it presented a year and a half ago, after attending consultations and forums. The lawyer Miguel Antonio Bernal took the floor . “It is my opinion that this bill violates constitutional principles,” said Bernal, who asked to file the proposal. The same was requested by the lawyer Alfredo Vallarino, a prominent member of the defense team of former President Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal. “Those of us who oppose this bill are not in favor of crime,” said Bernal. In his opinion, the project is “clear evidence of an authoritarianism that violates human rights…destroys citizen legal security.” He argued that he does not consider the project to be a necessity for the country. Deputy Agrazal took the floor and asked those who have considerations about the articles and the bill, to send their proposals in writing to the subcommittee. This, with the idea of ​​being able to use each opinion as an input to elaborate modifications or proposals.

The Presidency of the Republic reported this Monday, that Janaina Tewaney Mencomo , until now Minister of Government, will now be Foreign Minister, replacing Erika Mouynes . The Presidency does not inform the reason for Mouynes’s departure, but in a press release, it thanks the service she provided to the country, “which has contributed both to the strengthening of the foreign service and to Panama’s foreign relations.” With this appointment, there are already three foreign ministers that the government of Laurentino Cortizo has had, since he took office on July 1, 2019. The first was Alejandro Ferrer, who on December 2, 2020 was replaced by the until then Vice Foreign Minister for Foreign Affairs. Multilaterals and Cooperation, Erika Mouynes. At that time, Tewaney was an adviser to Ferrer and also advised Cortizo on some official missions. Tewaney, 38 years old, was Minister of Government since March 6, 2020, after Carlos Romero and Sheyla Grajales passed through that position . It has not been said who will now occupy the position that Tewaney leaves. Like Ferrer and Mouynes, she is also a lawyer. She was present at the dialogue table in Penonomé, installed last July after the intense street protests that paralyzed the country for a month. The new chancellor received her law degree in 2006, at the University of Panama. She also holds two master’s degrees: one in international political law from Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium, and another in arbitration, mediation and dispute resolution from Hong Kong University. She was a negotiator of free trade agreements between April and December 2009. She is a member of the PRD. In the afternoon, she took office in the presence of President Laurentino Cortizo and Vice President José Gabriel Carrizo.

According to official sources consulted by La Prensa , the Ministry of Public Works (MOP) , led by Rafael Sabonge, made changes to one of its main positions, which is aimed at supervising public infrastructure works throughout the country, and who would have been one of the minister’s right hands from the beginning of his duties. Nicolás Real, who served as the MOP’s national director of inspections, was replaced in his position by engineer José Murdock. ” Since last Friday, the Royal engineer has not been in office and was replaced, I do not know the reasons for his departure ,” said the director of the MOP in Chiriquí, Arturo López, in dialogue with La Prensa. Real was in charge of supervising all the works of the MOP, under the Sabonge administration; many of them questioned; such as, The construction of the Modular Hospital for the care of COVID-19 patients , the project that dealt with the landslide of Cerro San Pablo, in Coclé, in charge of the company Equibal SA, whose owners were donors of the Laurentino Cortizo campaign, in addition to the works carried out by Bagatrac SA, after the blows of hurricanes ETA and IOTA in 2020.

The rains and floods in the city of Colón , the Free Zone and France Field caused damage to 500 commercial premises, with economic losses that can reach $15 million, according to inspections carried out by the Colón Chamber of Commerce last Saturday.  The most affected areas of the city were Bolívar and Central avenues and their surrounding streets. In the center of Colón alone, damage was recorded in more than 200 businesses; the majority are micro, small, and medium-sized businesses, including hotels, retail stores, food outlets, peddlers, grocery stores, and department stores. Within the Free Zone and France Field area, more than 300 businesses between warehouses and companies reported losses. “The lack of maintenance of the 12 rainwater pumps in the city of Colón [there are only 5 operational] and the 19 pumps in the Colon Free Zone [only 11 operational] was and is evident,” denounced Michael Chen, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Colón, after a press conference held on the morning of this Monday, October 10. Chen explained that of the 31 pumps, fewer than 16 were working when the floods occurred. “This inaction and irresponsibility harms local commerce, the country’s logistics hub , and the physical safety of families,” he said. The operation of the pumps in the city of Colón is a shared responsibility between the Ministries of Housing and Territorial Planning (Miviot) and Public Works (MOP). The MOP alleges that they have been monitoring the operation of the infrastructure for months, but tries to distance itself from the crisis, when its minister Rafael Sabonge warns that the pumps have not yet been received by the Miviot from its contractor and therefore, has transferred them to the MOP. The Miviot, for its part, has remained silent. As part of the Colón Urban Renovation project , the pumps are initially in charge of Miviot, but once the works are satisfactorily received, this entity transfers the infrastructure to the MOP. Damage to businesses includes furniture, merchandise and infrastructure. Homes, automobiles and other infrastructure such as highways, roads and avenues have not been accounted for, because the losses would be much greater than those quantified. According to Chen, the economic losses of businesses in the city of Colón are calculated between $1 million to $4.2 million, while in the Free Zone and France Field they would be between $3.8 million to $11.4 million in losses. The grand total of losses is estimated at between $4.8 million to $15 million.

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