Bati Bleki Buzz, Weekly Recap, January 25th, 2020

Seroe Teishi, abandon or fix

A petition started circulating last week, asking locals to add their signature to a plea to close Seroe Teishi and to stop the burning at the Dump of Parkietenbos.

You don’t have to sign it.

Some of the neighbors contacted me to help explain their point of view, one that is completely different from the version presented by Fundacion Parkietenbos, at a recent press conference.

In better times, Ecotech used to bury environbales in Seroe Teishi, a stone-throw away from the Dump of Parkietenbos.

The environbales contained the much-reduced remnants of the sorted household and commercial waste collected by Ecotech, from businesses and private addresses.

Ecotech buried the bales according to regulations, covering them with sifted sand, running liners and ventilation pipes so the bales could burp and belch their gasses freely, without terribly molesting the neighbors.

Sometimes mid-2018, Ecotech was booted from the job, and Caribbean Trucking, a more politically-connected company started handling the disposal of the bales, conveniently cutting a few corners – forget about sifted sand, the liners and the ventilation, who need those. Let the bales burp, who cares?!

And that is the core complaint of Fundacion Parkietenbos, wishing to get rid of the stench, making residents of several adjacent neighborhoods sick.

But some of the neighbors say: It stinks because improperly disposed, fix that operation and it will do just fine, no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

And find a reasonable alternative to burning hazardous waste, still delivered to the Dump of Parkietenbos.

The neighbors I spoke to also implied that what’s known as of Stichting Parkietenbos, is a privately held foundation of just one neighbor in the PR and marketing field who happens to also handle the Serlimar account, and would love to see the dreaded incinerator added to his portfolio, how convenient and lucrative. More paid PR work.

He is politically motivated, the neighbors imply. He does not represent the people living in the area.

And that is why they are ALSO trying to collect signatures. Signatures because they cannot go to court, Aruba has no clean air bill and in the absence of legislation and set standards Caribbean Trucking is trying the get away with a job half-done.  And we cannot sue.

The counter-petition, is asking locals to sign, hoping to pressure Caribbean Trucking into compliance with their legal obligations. “Stop burning at Parkietenbos and correct the process at Seroe Teishi,” is the name of that counter-petition.

Stichting Parkietenbos, the original petition, invited the general public to personally sign to “Stop the activities at Seri Teishi and rehab the Dump @Parkietenbos,” last Saturday.

Of course we wish they could all get together and find the silver lining, broker an apolitical agreement, resolving the island’s garbage situation once and for all.   

De Palm Tours, celebrated 60 years on January 15th, 2020.

While this is a pride-inspiring milestone, those who have been part of this journey know that you don’t get to celebrate six decades of service to Aruba’s tourist industry without an endless supply of passion, dedication and perseverance.

Over the years, De Palm Tours has transported, toured, entertained and serviced millions of visitors from Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands to all persons, from all walks of life, in between.

Aruba has been blessed with a thriving tourism industry during this time, and De Palm Tours has proudly contributed to that industry for over sixty years.

The story has been told a number of times, but it is good to remember that grit is the secret ingredient.

On January 15, 1960 Witchi De Palm started a small bus company which carried his name and consisted of 3 mini buses and a staff of ten, offering transportation and sightseeing services to Aruba vacationers. Eleven years later, in 1971 two young and ambitious local entrepreneurs, Harold Malmberg and Ramon Richardson purchased De Palm Tours with funds they raised from friends and family members and thus began the process of creating the company, and growing it to what it is today.

Harold Malmberg bought his partner ‘s shares to become the sole owner of the company in 1982, and with his son and daughter recently graduated from college in the USA, they set about to transform the company for the new decade.

It wasn’t always easy.

When De Palm Island opened in 1985 things did not always go according to plan. It took the better part of fifteen years of grit and perseverance, experimenting with different concepts, until the attraction of an island-off-the-island eventually caught on.

Today De Palm Island is a successful visitor attraction, welcoming more than one hundred and fifteen thousand guests annually. The island has recently enjoyed an Awg 10 million investment, projected to grow its popularity even more, over the coming years.

Thanks to careful succession planning, the family has been able to step out of daily operation, to serve on the board of directors, and focus on their role as shareholders.

The last decade brought substantial expansion to De Palm Tours. The company has grown to employ approximately four hundred people, operate a fleet of thirty luxury-motor coaches, sixty off-road vehicles, a 100-passenger catamaran, two submarines, two attractions on De Palm Island, also offering a strong Destination Management Company, providing many services to accommodate the growing tourism markets and demands, the Natural Bridge complex, the De Palm Pier and five retail outlets, in the tourist areas.

When eleven years ago the Aruba Tourism Authority honored 16 individuals who contributed to the development of tourism on the island, recognizing the important role they played in Aruba’s journey which started in 1959, the year before De Palm Tours was born, it included Harold Malmberg and Ramon Richardson, among honorees on the monument at Plaza Turismo.

From my Book: Island Life, available for sale at T.H.Palm & Company, Playa Linda Beach Resort.

HAROLD MALMBERG – THE DEVELOPER

De Palm’s Harold Malmberg looks a lot like movie-kingdom’s Omar Shariff. Poised and serene, he could have been cast as a turn-of-the-century owner of a Spanish hacienda. When he speaks, it is with the authority of a Swiss banker. They don’t call you Mr. Tourism for nothing! Harold laughs when asked when he first saw the place we today call De Palm island. In 1985, he explains, with the closing of the Lago oil refinery and the subsequent negative impact on the island’s economy, he frantically searched for a new idea, an innovative investment. Being already professionally involved with entertainment and transportation, he looked at a new project combining the two. I wanted something unique, and had the idea of an island-off-an-island in the back of my head for 15 years.

As a Dive-Shop operator, he then sent all his divers to scour the beaches off-the-beaten-track and locate the perfect nature reserve, blessed by an abundance of fish and living coral. They soon returned praising an exceptional, forgotten site. That’s how De Palm Island was born, Harold recalls. Leased from the government for 60 years, Harold couldn’t find a contractor, locally, with experience in that type of construction. He ended up hiring a small sub-contractor and hand-picking one-hundred-and-twenty-five additional workers himself. With the help of an out-of-work ex-oil-refinery engineer, their vision then started taking shape, using only environmentally-friendly materials such as straw and wood, imported from Surinam especially fitted for marine work. Improvising left and right they yanked a diesel engine out of an old bus and made it into a barge, to safely transport materials across the channel. No electricity, no water, no sewer lines, it had to be built from scratch.

Permits to Cultivate Medicinal Cannabis

My diligent colleague from NoticiaCla dug into the 2020 budget and discovered an interesting line item, income from sold licenses to cultivate medicinal cannabis.

Initially GOA declared it will only grant permission to import medicinal cannabis products, but now it is clear that we will be growing.

Who will be growing?

The pueblo, or corporations?

I asked around. Apparently GOA received at least 4 proposals of foreign companies, some in collaboration with locals, and local farmers, soliciting permits for cultivation, for export.

One of the reports I saw presents the business plan, the terrain and talks about security gates, greenhouses and solar systems.  

it solicits a permit to grow 47.000 hemp cannabis plants, with a yearly production of 26.500 + kilo and annual 138.250.000 REVENUE, work for 250 people and income for the government of Awg 39.634.378, under a free zone business status, cultivated 125.000m2, in three phases.

The presentation also dangled Awg 2.897.958 income from AZV/AOV/AWW/LB, resulting from the Awg 9.624,000 payroll, in the first phase, these projections grow as productions grows.

The facility, complete with a lab is also projected to conclude with an Awg 10.666.2500, construction cost.

I imagine all presentations to GOA are equally impressive, and look and sound fantastic.

We cannot help but ask, who will control all of this. Poor GOA is having difficulty managing anything properly. Look at KIA, and the hospital for example, the maintenance of our roads, and public buildings.

There is just too much control/supervision needed. Every plant of the 47.000 must be tagged and logged in, like cows in the Netherlands.

Who will do this in Aruba?

We cannot even keep track of our Police Patruya 37.

So, who will control the bushes. The government is the only one who has that right. More police? They have not been foolproof – immune to idiots, lately.

Or perhaps it is a fantastic new opportunity to employ 250 new GOA employees who will need to count the bushes every day.

As far as I understand cultivation is against the law in the Netherlands. Sure, totally lucrative in parts of USA.

So may questions, so little into.

All in all, I want to know if it is as worthwhile as first believed, taking all aspects, including the social one, into consideration. But we will find out. It’s coming.

More Blue on the Street

Over the last few years, a great number of our premier jewelry stores grabbed headlines, and as early as 2012, following an unwelcome visit of low-lives at Paseo Herencia, the jewelers got together and formed an association.

Together they visited the then MinJust and demanded more Police presence in plain view in the downtown Oranjestad area and on Palm Beach.

They offered free-of-charge locations, if the Police takes over and builds out a mini-station with tinted windows and a patrol car parked outside, as deterrent, constant, regardless of cruise ship visits, and they impressed upon MinJust the urgency of their plea, then….nothing happened.

The jewelers explained that they would like to continue doing business in the traditionally relaxed Aruban style, with their doors open and minimal security. They did not want to barricade themselves behind closed doors, with panic buttons and armed guards and explained to the officials that sure, it will deter low-lives, BUT it will also keep customers away.

They became a closely-knit association, alerting each other of suspicious activity, and sharing information, but slowly over time, many of them got hit, some by repeat offenders, who get out of jail and return to crime.

Security is not their only concern. The Aruba Tourism Authority has in the past years promoted different experiences among visitors, yoga, more yoga, vegan food, extreme adventures, and nothing about shopping. While Duty Free Shopping and Gaming, were the early drivers of tourism in Aruba, both were abandoned in favor of Wellness and whatever the latest trend is.

Aruba is no longer considered a shopping-destination, the Jewelers lament, because it is not promoted that way, and many cruise passengers opt to spend their shopping dollars on other islands, though Aruba still offers excellent value.

GOA has not been kind to the jewelers, either. Luxury goods, only enjoy a very low profit margin, and with the recent tax increases the jewelers were made to absorb, they stand a much higher risk that a decline in sales will erase all profits, and result in losses, no matter how clever the company’s pricing strategies are and how well they control costs.

GOA doesn’t understand the intricacies of our business, they say, and with the upcoming ADDITIONAL BBO at the point of entry, their 26 members are worried about the future: Added taxes, climbing insurance rates, cruise ship customers who shop for jewelry on other islands, and land visitors, who never venture into town, because of parking difficulties.

On the subject of parking difficulties: The jewelers visited AruParking one year ago. Offered to buy 20 yellow membership spots in a prime waterfront location to allow their customers free parking. The idea was immediately approved and then….nothing happened.

All this is not new. Prior to the Jewelers Association, Aruba had an active Aruba Luxury Retail Association, ALRA, whose president spend considerable effort and time on lobbying with GOA in an effort to help the jewelers mitigate negative forces, but to no avail.

Having explained and explained then…. nothing happened.

So, most luxury retailers ‘got more efficient.’ Meaning they let go of people, and now operate less hours, and some said adios to their locations, kissing our dream of becoming the Mecca of Luxury Goods Shopping in the Caribbean, goodbye

RDA to be or not to be

In May of last year Reuters quoted the MinPress, saying that Aruba will form committee to decide fate of the idled refinery, the article stated that the committee should issue recommendations within two months of its formation, which means July, but as you know nothing specific happened in July, the phantom committee did not report anything.

We are curious who is/was on the committee because no one who knows anything about the Aruba refinery seems to know anything about this committee, who’s on it, or what’s GOA/RdA is seriously doing to get a qualified operator for the refinery.

I asked around:

-A committee? They don’t need a committee; they need a demolition expert!

-Scrap it and establish a renewable energy research and production facility.

-The refinery portion of the biz is dead, it will cost you 8.3 billion to revive it, who has that kind of money? But the crude operation is valuable, boiling and mixing Venezuelan’s heavy Orinoco Gold, is a worthwhile economic pursuit, if we find the right operator. They just have to clean up Venezuela, AND find the right operator. Then Aruba’s in the money

-Robert Haugen, former VP & GM during El Paso’s tenure; and Raymond Buckley former VP & GM with Valero are now working with Klesch Group to restart the Isla Refinery in Curacao. Obviously GOA/RdA missed the boat on recruiting Raymond Buckley the most qualified Aruban for RdA and seriously finding a qualified operator.

-Edward Oduber, an Aruban, working for Citgo until the end of the month, and has close ties with Ray Buckley will probably also be going to Curacao. There are at least a dozen well qualified Arubans, former Valero employees, who should be recruited for this committee instead of involving political allies in the decision. Aruba has people with real qualifications, make the committee apolitical.

-I still say GOA needs a good bulldog lawyer to go after Citgo and their corporate guarantee!!

 

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January 26, 2020
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