Bati Bleki Buzz, Weekly Recap Aug 19th, 2018

Old News, Still Threatening

In a world where people are afraid of their own shadow, and where fear is used as a political and social tool, the mere talk about the Zika virus may cause a major economic disaster.

It’s true that a website page at the CDC created in February 18, 2016, at the height of the Zika virus scare, was updated just recently on August 07, 2018, which spread renewed waves of anxiety and fear in the media here. So, basically everything reported was old news.

In 2016 the dormant Zika virus, I think it was unheard of for 60 years, re-emerged in our region. We have to remember it is endemic, it has always been here, only 5% of people infected realize they are sick, dengue and chikungunya are 1,000% worse. And I am quoting from the CDC site, Director Robert Redfield, M.D. admits, that while they suspect Zika puts pregnancies at risk, he CANNOT confirm it: “We know that Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause serious health problems in babies, such as birth defects and vision problems, including conditions not always evident at birth. We are still learning about the full range of long-term health problems these babies could face,” end of quote.

They are not sure, they are learning, taking precautions, covering their butts, and meanwhile the media sensationalizes the subject, putting our economy at great risk.

OK, so it’s old new, still MinTour/MinHealth should announce to the world that we have NO new reported cases, that Aruba is handling the situation well and controlling the mosquito population. We had no rain, so far so good.

From talking to friends at the Public Health Department I understood the following: Aruba has just ONE person, an Epidemiologist, a public health professional, who is currently an advisor to the MinHealth, in charge of weekly reports to the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, in the Netherlands, where CDC obtains its information.

Imagine, just one person wielding incredible power to declare an epidemic, not a committee, just a single decision-maker.

My sources continue to claim that in 2016 the island had just one confirmed Zika virus patient, the cases did not multiply, there was no epidemic curve – increase in cases, indicating an outbreak – yet some trigger-happy staff members were ready to declare an epidemic outbreak, out of sheer enthusiasm for disaster, and spend the entire Public Health Department budget on testing and retesting, at the family related lab.

Funny?! Not.

Social media often hypes threats to the point that sociologists and psychologists call mass hysteria, where a population, a crowd, or a group of people, perceives an imaginary threat, and reacts out of great fear. Example? Cancelling trips to Aruba for no good reason.

Final Chapter: The round peg hammered into the square hole

Just like that without fanfare on June 11th, 2018, GOA enacted the All-Inclusive Law, via a state decree. Remember it was approved by Parliament in 2016.

The law went into effect July 1st, 2018.

While the pre-legislation debate was very loud and public, the enactment received no news coverage nor did it get any public announcements.

Here is more or less what AHATA circulated to inform its membership:

Kiki ta kiko

The new law says that 40% of total “accommodation inventory” on the island is allowed to be All-Inclusive, but that the EP hotels can offer up to 20% of their room inventory, to groups for example, on an All-Inclusive basis.

The new law introduces some definitions, and all of those renting apartments and houses via AIRBNB and BOOKING.COM, had better pay attention:

Hotel: Total sleeping capacity of 10 or more, renting accommodation for less than 90 days, read short-term.

(I guess 90 days is the cut off between long-term and short-term rentals)

Lodging:  Total sleeping capacity up to 9 persons, renting accommodation for less than 90 days, read short-term. 

All-Inclusive: In addition to rental of accommodations, unlimited meals and (at least non-alcoholic) drinks can be consumed, against prepayment. 

If you run a Hotel, see definition above, your liquor license is included.

AND you must apply for a lodging permit, to operate vacation rentals. This point is of interest to the general public because of permit requirements. It is also of interest to the resorts because these vacation rentals, usually EP, count towards the 60% non-all-inclusive inventory decreed by GOA. If more vacation-rentals are licensed, the All-Inclusive portion can grow.  

Basically, more paperwork: All-Inclusive hotels require a special permit, also EP hotels who desire to offer all-inclusive to their guests, up to 20%, required a permit.

The authority is at the hands of the MinHealth in combination with the MinTour, in our case in the current coalition, it is the same person, which makes him a super powerful player.

The legislation goes on and on and all I say is: GOOD LUCK, in regulating and enforcing and governing and licensing…. some more clarifications are forthcoming because it is vague where and how to apply for example for a lodging permit.

 I asked: “It is a permit (based on the licensing law) that has to be requested from the Minister of Tourism. Probably you have to file for this permit through a letter to the Minister of Tourism.

This is what I understood from the requirements.

Ruben Giel – Deloitte

Not very conclusive, but that’s all we have for now.

Domestic abuse is now called the silent epidemic

There was a sad funeral yesterday, that of Anuska Tromp, 47, who died Aug 6th, of an incident of domestic violence the previous day.

She died in the hospital in the early morning hours having suffered fatal blows to her head, at the hand of her partner who was then arrested in his apartment, oblivious to the dire consequences of his angry outburst.

From what I gather, Anuska was preoccupied in recent months, a diabetic wound refused to heal, and she lost her job as cashier at Kowloon restaurant, where she worked for many years. She spoke openly and about her health and financial concerns but never reported her life was in danger at the hand of a violent significant other.

She was never registered at Fundacion pa hende muhe den dificultad, the local foundation offering counseling and support, and did not share any of her trials with acquaintances.

But family members should have known. Hence the deep sadness at her funeral yesterday.

She came from a very humble background, and by that we mean poor. She was a motherly figure at school, warm, caring and responsible.  She worked at low paying jobs from an early age, had 2 kids, now grown, and fell on hard times.

She never reported her abusive partner to the Police, though her eyes told the story of a woman trapped between a rock and a hard place.

From sources at fundacion pa hende muhe den dificultad, I understand that domestic abuse is a common reality in Aruba and that the foundation designed a Crisis Plan designed to deal with it, which involves more funding and professional guidance from a similar Dutch organization.

With just four people on staff, a social worker, a coordinator, an administrator and a housekeeper at the shelter there is only that much the foundation can do to save lives.

A committee organized in the wake of Anuska’s tragic death suggested a law change to allow family members to lodge official complaints against abusers in cases where the abused is incapable of acting herself.

Anuska hid her abuse, she was paralyzed, brainwashed, a prisoner of a toxic relationship, silent and helpless, walking on eggshells around her partner. She paid the ultimate price.

Where did we fail her?

“Open communication climate can contribute towards enhancing the Aruba product by beautifying the Malmok area for locals, island visitors and the Malmok residents.” S. Romano

Just as the tragic accident was unfolding in Malmok, I was on my way to the radio station, Magic 96.5FM, two columns of bikers, one heading to the California lighthouse and one heading back to Palm Beach, intersected right at the site of the accident, in addition to the multiple UTVs whose tour was interrupted when the light-framed, side-by-side UTV overturned with almost fatal results.

Malmok is popular.

Some clients of the neglected kiosk at Arashi even consider it an extension of Palo Marga, as they zip down the brittle asphalt at the speed of lighting.

Today, Parliament is in budget discussions for a two-phase improvement plan in Malmok. In the spirit of the Green Corridor. But the plan has not been finalized yet.

It’s a bit of a Catch-22. Parliament is ratifying something that doesn’t exist, but unless they allocate a budget, the plans cannot be drawn. And if plans cannot be drawn, how would a budget be created? Unless parliament allocates funds, and so forth.

However, as residents of the area in discussion, we don’t want funds allocated to a plan that wasn’t approved, in fear it would be shoved down our throats later. Capisce? Understand?

Members of Preserva Malmok, PM, met with GOA representative yesterday, Sharlyze Romano Project Manager Tourism Product Enhancement Fund, TPEF, and some of the fund’s board members, with Francis Gomez of DOW, and architect Joel Croes. I have a paragraph at the end of this column about TPEF.

The two-pronged project includes the ‘enhancement’ of the area from Fisherman’s Huts to the intersection of Malmokweg and the restoration of the 27 light poles leading to the California lighthouse.

Preserva Malmok had no problems with the installation of lights leading up to the California lighthouse as long as they are vandal proof, and environmentally sustainable.

However, the suggestion was made to replace poles by reflectors, low-lying, durable, low-cost, efficient, respectful to the scenery, overall turtle-friendly in that area, and easy to maintain.

The following were suggestions made in regards to the ‘enhancement,’ the Green Corridor boardwalk project from Fisherman’s Huts to the Malmokweg intersection.

Preserva Malmok says yes to safety, no to development, no to tall light poles, no to retail, no to vending, no to parking lots, no to additional beaches. PM wants to see as little as possible interference with nature, yes, to biking and walking trail, no to picnics, lingering-loitering areas.

Preserva Malmok expects the project to be respectful to archeological sites and Indian burial grounds in the area, and protective of turtle nesting locations. In areas where the road must be moved east to create more space for biking, running trails, Preserva Malmok must be part of the decision-making process, and the move expected to be minimal.  

A suggestion was made to encourage Arubus to use their minivans instead of the large buses, who race down the street empty most of the time, and require the construction of a large unnecessary roundabout, at the Malmokweg intersection.

A suggestion was made to create an overall master-plan, identify goals, not just in bits and pieces, and run the complete plan by stakeholders such as Tortuga Aruba and Preserva Malmok

Preserva Malmok was asked to submit guidelines to contribute to the creation of that masterplan.

According to Preserva Malmok GOA’s timetable is not realistic and the project cannot possibly be carefully planned and executed before the end of 2018.

Overall, it was an excellent meeting, that made it clear that Preserva Malmok welcomes sport activity in the area, and rejects additional motor traffic, noise pollution and congestion.

“As we go through the funnel of project planning,” writes Sharlyze, “we will do our best to align with your concerns and input. I am sure that together through an open communication climate we can all contribute towards enhancing the Aruba product by beautifying the Malmok area for locals, island visitors and the Malmok residents.”

TPEF – “Tourism Product Enhancement Fund”

The old fashioned 4Ps for marketing include Product, Place, Price AND Promotion, and as such a fund was created to enhance our tourist product. The “Tourism Product Enhancement Fund,” can provide a little tender loving care, in the form of road signs, trash can distribution and trash collection, a million little things that remained undone, such as security cameras, street lights, lifeguards, the welfare of stray animals and the Linear Park.

The money comes from ATSA, The Aruba Time Share Association, some of their collected tax goes into this fund, it’s a percentage but it adds up. They did the swim zone in Malmok, one year, 75-meter-wide and 1,500-meter-long dedicated to swimmers to keep the charter boats out.

Basically, funds from AHATA go to the ATA bank and Funds from ATSA to TPEF, supporting “Un Aruba Dushi pa Biba ta un Aruba Dushi pa Bishita” meaning “An Aruba where it’s wonderful to live, is also an Aruba that’s wonderful to visit.”  

Athletes with impairments, wanted

Luciano Mazzeo is Dan Taekwondo instructor of Korean Martial Arts, and he is currently developing the Para Taekwondo discipline in Aruba.

He’s been working on the inclusion of Para Taekwondo in the sports community by studying the subject and attending courses.

What does that mean, you ask?!

It means the adaptation of the sport of Taekwondo for athletes with an impairment, yes, you heard me right, those who thought they couldn’t, now can. 

In 2016, Luciano convinced the organizers of the International Tournaments held here to include Para Taekwondo as a demonstration sport, and got a 3x World Champion, a female athlete from Colombia and another impaired athlete from Venezuela to participate.

In the wake of that demo Para Taekwondo entered local tournaments in a competitive form. He also got the Aruba Taekwondo Bond to join the Aruba Paralympic Committee, which made the sport even more inclusive for para athletes.

At the end of last year Luciano identified a talent, and started the first official Aruba Para-Taekwondo team with just one athlete, 28, a man nicknamed “Lefty.”

Lefty trained intensely, finding internal courage and the perseverance, with a goal, the Para Taekwondo competition in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

It came to Lefty as a surprise how well his training went. In fact, it surprised everyone when this summer, at a high level 2018 Pan-American Taekwondo Championship in Spokane, Washington, USA, Lefty from Aruba came in second – he should have won, but second was respectable. And he plans to participate in many more tournaments, because he has become a changed man, 20kg lighter and 40% stronger, a man with lofty goals despite physical challenges.

His coach Luciano Mazzeo explains that the sport is especially beneficial for athletes with impairments and helps them turn their life around, in more than one way.

Luciano is grateful to fitness guru Rene Wild, for the opportunity to train at the gym at La Cabana Beach Resort & Casino, and is indebted to CEMEDAR for Sport Medicine support, Physiotherapy, Massage, Chiropractic care and Psychology.

With the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games as a goal Luciano is asking our community for help, and every little gesture helps, he says. He is hoping Digicel will chip in with connectivity and that other companies will see the value of restoring self-worth and self confidence in members of our community who suffer setbacks, that may be overcome with hard work and dedication, among other tangible contributions.

Because the Paralympic Taekwondo is not currently as developed as Olympic Taekwondo, and not that many athletes are involved, Aruba would have a greater chance to shine, if it can afford to participate.

Most importantly, Luciano would also like to find some more individuals with impairments who would like to join the gym. A strong will is all that’s required, the rest just happens on its own. It always works if they work it, he says. 

How much is too much, 2018 edition

I keep writing about over-development, but no one seems to listen

A total of 1,000 rooms at the Holiday Inn beach, that is insane.

The single-minded pursuit of financial reward doesn’t guarantee happiness, so in the case of an island marketing itself as the one happy island it is counter-productive.

This is what I found out from my friends

The owner of the Holiday Inn real estate, Alfredo Lowenstein of Lionstone Development, is totally convinced that the AI concept will work for him just the way it works at the Sunscapes Curacao, a so-so 4-star resort.

He has made great efforts to become the former MinInfra’s bosom-friend, and in the wake of a pleasure trip to Italy, and a number of family parties at the Holiday Inn, also sponsoring the creation of Plaza Padu, thank you, he finally secured the outgoing MinInfra’s signature on the AI conversion of his resort.

I understand the 200 rooms in the new tower will be rebranded as a Holiday in Express, while the other 400 rooms will become AI.  Then the developer has an option to tear down Moomba and build another AI tower, for a total of 1,000 rooms.

One of my friends who has a rude pen writes:  Just read it the news about the Holiday Inn planned conversion, and that the current MinInfra claims his predecessor signed the docs behind his back.

I’m completely flabbergasted.

Signing major contracts without authorization or economic study?

If you do the math, the AI and TS represent 78% of room inventory on Palm Beach.

The branded beachfront hotels are in minority, at 22%.

And the fact that the former MinInfra sealed a bad deal is a disgrace.

What was in it for him? A family party? A trip to Italy to drive around in a Ferrari, some wine?

We say: WHERE THERE IS A WILL, THERE IS A WAY, this conversion gotta stop.

Wasn’t this deal the reason for the MinTour’s resignation in the previous government??

Just have a good lawyer look at the docs and trash them.

GOA just enacted a law with a 40% ceiling for AI.

Why bother to sit in parliament if you won’t follow up on your recommendations?!

This is in direct violation of the people’s will on this island, we would like the development monster to slow down.

(AI = all-inclusive / TS = timeshare)


Share on:

August 19, 2018
Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster