Wednesday 31st May 2023.
May 31, 2023
The Cabinet Council, in its session on Tuesday, declared a state of environmental emergency throughout the country in the face of “prolonged drought” as a consequence of the climate crisis that is affecting the world.
In this sense, the resolution of the Ministry of the Environment (MiAmbiente) warns that high temperatures, evaporation and lack of rain are the preamble to the arrival of a possible El Niño phenomenon, which would reduce water production for the human consumption and agricultural activity throughout Panama.
The resolution also indicates that the artificial lakes Alajuela and Gatún −which supply water to more than half of the country’s population and to transit through the Canal− have been “drastically” diminished by the prolongation of the dry season.
It should be remembered that on May 23, the National Association of Livestock Farmers had already requested the Ministry of Agricultural Development (Mida) to declare a “state of emergency” in the agricultural sector, in order to release funds for the purchase of inputs to the productive sector.
The document details which are the entities authorized to carry out special contracts necessary to face the state of environmental emergency: Mida, Institute of National Aqueduct and Sewerage, MiAmbiente, National Authority of Public Services and the Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology of Panama (Imhpa ).
“Panama is one of the countries highly vulnerable to climate change, despite being one of the three carbon negative countries in the world,” Castro said.
He added that the climate change scenarios for Panama (2030, 2050, 2070), developed by MiAmbiente, “clearly establish that the country’s temperatures will increase and rainfall in four climatic regions will decrease.”
One of the regions where there will be a decrease in precipitation is the western one, in the province of Chiriquí, which is the center of agricultural production in the country, it was warned.
Meanwhile, Olmedo carried out an analysis of the behavior of the rains in the country, where he stressed that there is currently an extension of the dry season in the country, affecting agricultural production in some regions.
He explained that the country registers six months −between 2022 and 2023− with a rainfall deficit, to which is added the global situation of the El Niño phenomenon. “We are at the door of the El Niño Phenomenon”, with an 80% forecast of its occurrence by the world’s expert body, emphasized the deputy director of Imhpa.
The last time the El Niño phenomenon was recorded was between 2015 and 2016. The World Meteorological Organization classified 2016 as the hottest year in history. Due to its intensity, the El Niño phenomenon caused the death of more than 600 cattle in Azuero and caused losses to the agricultural sector of more than 102 million dollars in 2016.
Law 351 of 2022, modified the Organic Law of the Comptroller General of the Republic . This Law has been harshly criticized and questioned because it promotes impunity, favors the abuse of public funds, and establishes a privilege for the institution’s personnel that frees them from all criminal, civil or patrimonial responsibility, for the expenses that endorse, audit, or otherwise have an impact.
The Foundation for the Development of Citizen Liberty, Panamanian chapter of Transparency International, sued on April 13 the unconstitutionality of 11 expressions contained in 10 articles of the 51 that Law 351 of 2022 has.
The Foundation, represented by its executive director, lawyer Olga De Obaldía, acted in defense of the country’s public interests and in favor of justice and the rule of law.
In a 33-page document, dated May 9, the Administration Attorney, Rigoberto González Montenegro, issued his opinion on this claim of unconstitutionality. Of the contested articles, Attorney General González Montenegro found grounds for the unconstitutionality of 6 of these precepts. According to the Public Ministry official, the contents challenged in articles 1, 2, 14, 22, 31 and 46 are unconstitutional.
In unconstitutionality processes, the opinion of the Public Ministry is not binding on the Supreme Court of Justice, but serves as a general guideline for legal discussion. The articles that the prosecutor pointed out as unconstitutional are the most harmful of Law 351.
The First Administrative Electoral Court of the Electoral Tribunal (TE) accepted a request from Judge Águeda Rentería, who requested that the electoral criminal jurisdiction be withdrawn from businessman David Ochy Diez, in the midst of the investigation that is being followed for the alleged commission of crimes against public administration in the contract for the rehabilitation and widening of the Arraiján-La Chorrera highway.
The decision of the electoral court was announced this Tuesday, May 30, by edict. Rentería submitted the request to the TE last April, because Ochy acquired the aforementioned legal protection because he ran to compete for the presidential candidacy of the Realizando Metas party, in the elections that this group will hold on June 4.
Ochy will compete with the president of Realizando Metas, Ricardo Martinelli, among others.
The TE also has a second request to lift the electoral criminal jurisdiction against Ochy. It is in charge of the Fourth Administrative Electoral Court.
However, Article 314 of the Electoral Code says: ” once the electoral criminal jurisdiction has been lifted within a process, it will not be necessary to request its lifting again in the event that the taxpayer acquires the jurisdiction again for any other situation. ”
The Panamanian authorities launched a 71.3 million dollar project on Monday to clean up the Matasnillo River, one of the most polluted in the country and which flows into the Bay of Panama, which bathes the capital of the Central American country.
This project, financed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and CAF, development bank of Latin America, and the Government of Panama, seeks to eliminate the direct discharge of untreated water into the river and which are illegal, the coordinator told EFE general of the Panama Sanitation Program, engineer Rafael Díaz.
The Matasnillo, 6 kilometers long, is the only one that is born and flows into the Panamanian capital. Its channel is the result of a series of streams which, according to studies, are characterized by a high pollution load.
In this river there is “contamination of garbage, chemical waste, hydrocarbons, sewage” from residences and industries, which in the end end up contaminating the Bay of Panama, Díaz said.
In this context, the first phase of the Matasnillo river sanitation project began this Monday, which consists of a geotechnical exploration, which will last approximately one month, to determine the behavior of the soil and consequently design a system of water collection pipes. served to be taken to the Juan Díaz treatment plant.
The objective “is to eliminate all these illegal discharges (of sewage) and direct them to the treatment plant”, from where the water comes out clean and is “poured into the mouth of the Juan Díaz river”, which in turn ends in the Bay of Panama, said the project administrator, Paulette de Vicente.
“In 50 years we hope we can bathe” in the Bay of Panama, added de Vicente.
The Cabinet Council on Tuesday, May 30, 2023 approved the extension of the price of a gallon of solidarity fuel to $3.25 −for 91-octane gasoline as well as diesel− until next July 15.
This subsidy applied until May 31 but, as detailed above, its validity period has now been extended.
“With this approval, the effects of article 1 of Cabinet Resolution 60 of May 19, 2022 are extended from July 1 to next July 15, with a State contribution of up to $14,325,000.00″, need an official statement.
The President of the Republic, Laurentino Cortizo, led this Cabinet session where he said that “this measure has served for the economic recovery of the country and that we have inflation of 1.4%, one of the lowest in the world.”
As announced by the Government, with these measures it is intended to continue promoting economic growth in sectors such as: agriculture, livestock, manufacturing, fishing, construction, commerce, industry and tourism, among others, and that the price of the ticket does not become more expensive to the population.