Bati Bleki Weekly Recap, April 23rd, 2017

All you wanted to know about precario

Just before the Easter holiday and five-minutes after a meeting with the government, designed to discuss the precario, the resorts got invoices from DIP  – hand delivered – for the new beach precario, with an ultimatum to pay  the imposed amount by May 1st 2017, if not the  Tiki huts on the beach may be subject to demolition.

It’s a great time for lawyers on the island, as they will be busy battling the inflated charges in court.

Precario is a new term, a new draconian measure.

One of my friends reports:  “So we had meeting with MinJust, MinInfra and MinTour. MinInfra had this arrogant smirk on his face throughout the meeting and made a remark that the precario was too cheap (!?!) joking at the expense of the hoteliers, whose major objection was the amount charged.

The precario went from Awg 5 per sqm to Awg 135 per sqm, so the hotels are disputing the calculation. Well, no sooner was the meeting over, the hotels got their precario bill with an ultimatum to pay up by May 1st or the demolition trucks will be let loose.”

I guess the United Airline style of passenger re-accommodating appealed to DIP.

Mind you, the government wants to charge Awg 135 per square meter of beach WITHOUT cleaning it, maintaining it or policing it; no life-guards, no first-aid, no trash cans, no replenishment of sand, that is all on the hotels’ account!

How did they get there?

In the past Awg 135 per square meter was the amount charged by the government for rent of a commercial venue, a kiosk or a bar, a permanent money making structure, but a chair? It isn’t making money, it is a service.

The hotels do not object to some charge, but they are objecting the crazy amounts. Example, a medium size timeshare resort got a bill of Awg 320.000, the smallest hotel Awg 82.000. The Marriott wouldn’t disclose the amount, but I am even afraid to ask.

Let’s do the math: One chair, time 3 meters, times Awg 135, times let’s say 1,000 chairs = Awg 405,000.-

And some friendly lawyer I spoke to says that the hotels shouldn’t have applied for a precario license at all, because the beaches on Aruba are public and guests should be allowed to prop a chair and enjoy the space.

The intention of the Beach Policy was good, naturally, we must protect and preserve the beach, but the way it went down empowered the water sports operators to expand and spread more umbrellas and chairs, while the hotels folded back to a certain distance from the water.

Because no one did anything about the water sport operators’ bad behavior, they brought the jet skis down to Eagle Beach, disrespecting swim zones, and disrespecting guidelines regarding safety, insurance and general conduct.

Basically, Justice, Infrastructure and Tourism, three different ministries must learn to collaborate on that one Beach Policy project, on behalf of Aruba’s #1 asset. But they are bickering and pointing fingers, unable to work together for the good of the island. It is also lamentable that the Beach Policy is just a guideline, not a law, and you know that a guideline is a mere suggestion, followed by law-abiding citizens and ignored by the rest.

A LAR court case on June 15th, will mark the beginning of the legal process.

A Trashy Column

We had a great Eater weekend, filled with friendly lunches, home-cooked brunches, spa treatments, and an island tour with visitors.

The only fallout from the weekend is the trash. Humongous quantities of trash. And people here are not shy about leaving it behind. Just about anywhere.

On a recent visit to Japan what I admired most is a society without trash cans. Not a single trash can to be found in miles. And everything is spik n’ span. Why? Because everyone is responsible for carrying and disposing his own trash. And when it is broken down to personal responsibility, it doesn’t get humongous. You carry a small bag with you and at the end of the day you separate your waste: Reusable goods, including clothes, and household items, paper and newspaper, bottle caps, PET plastic bottles, regular plastic containers, metal and aluminum, glass, wood, chemicals including batteries, food leftovers, textiles, and plant debris, every category goes into a separate container.

AND that is the reasons why the Japanese do not have garbage cans because they have to separate the waste and recycle, and it is difficult to place 12 cans on every street corner.

So no trash cans anywhere. And no sanitation workers. You can lick the toilet floor, or the fish market floor, it is all immaculate. No trash at the foot of mount Fuji, not a leaf out of place in the parks.

Weird. But you will not find any napkins, no straws, no Styrofoam. Single portion take out sits in little reusable, multi-compartment bento boxes, which you take with you, naturally, to wash and reuse.

It is possible without fines, without the help of the trash Police; they are just disciplined people who take care of their environment.

Which brings me to progress made here: The Jolly Pirates recently introduced adorable reusable sippy-cups, available for $1 at the store when you board the fun ships. All your cocktails while sailing will be poured into your own cup.

“Thank you guests for joining the #carryyourcup movement. By bringing a reusable cup aboard, you are helping eliminate thousands of wasteful 1- time use disposable cups from Aruba’s landfill each month. #Waytogo#thearubaloveisreal #wastenot #reducereuserecycle

Some more good news: Aruba Wine & Dine replaced plastic straws by bio-degradable ones. The bio-degradable straws will be served with cocktails at Hadicurari restaurant, Fishes & More, Tango Argentine Grille, The Sopranos Piano Bar & Café the Plaza, and we hope that many others will join the movement to eliminate plastic straw, in fact anything plastic. Environmentally friendly products from environmentally responsible companies are available here at:

Tara Eco Supplies
Business address: Bushiri 24-A plus, Oranjestad, ARUBA

Email: [email protected]
Phone: +297 583 9646
Fax: +297 588 9646

Revisiting AirBnB: A column opposed to discounted AirBnB rates

According to the AirBnB website there are about 300 properties listed as short-term vacation rentals here, and their average rate is $159 a night.

Last year I remember, a representative of AirBnB came to the island, and signed a memorandum of understanding with GOA. According to that document, AirBnB was supposed to start collecting the 9.5% government tax and $3 a day environment fee, and handing it over to GOA.

But so far we nothing happened.

According to the former MinTour, that legislation, authorizing AirBnB to collect taxes and fees  from short-term vacation rentals is ready for introduction, but GOA hasn’t implemented it yet.

Which is a money-losing proposition, because not all landlords comply, they might collect all taxes and fees, but are they handing them  over to GOA, every 15th of the month?

AHATA circulated an interesting read on the subject lately.

So the hotel industry in the USA is fighting back.  Because it is clear that “Airbnb is encroaching on the traditional hotel business.”

In Aruba too. I went on the website this morning, and short-term vacation rentals are offering ridiculously cheap rates in premium island districts. That’s clearly a mistake because they have no clue how to price themselves.

On Aruba, AirBnB rentals are operated by moms and pops who want to supplement their income and they really don’t know how to manage their rates to get a decent ROI, without resorting to sharp discounting.

With sharply discounted rooms all around, according to the article,“ Airbnb has brought hotel pricing down in many places.”

I think the local hotel industry should fight back by teaching the short-term vacation rental landlords how to price themselves. There is no way of getting rid of them, so teach them better revenue management practices, because with cheaper rates come bargain hunters who won’t spend at restaurants, casinos and shops.

Our AirBnB community must be taught about the relationship between cheap lodging and budget travelers, and what it does to the economy.

Local short-term vacation rental landlords should take a page out of Maduro’s handbook and see what happens to an economy where a barrel of oil, or in this case a room, sells for $50 instead of $100.

Anyway, how can they offer a house for 8 at $80 a night, in view of water, electricity and labor cost??

Silence of the Dump

We haven’t heard anything about the dump since plans to close it in December of 2016 were announced.

I was there. I read it. I saw the news item with my own eyes, black on white: “The dump will be closing Dec 31st, 2016.”

Then silence, nothing happened

Moreover, on my recent visit to San Nicholas, we drove past Parkitenbos, and Bucutiweg in the evening hours, and the landfill was smoking, business as usual.

The dump in Barcadera, has been in use for almost 80 years. It is the only official dump in Aruba. It has never been managed. It endured Lago Oil Refinery, Coastal, El Paso, and Valero waste, and it provides waste removal services to cruise ships visiting here. It receives all airplane waste, and everything more than 1 million visitors per year, discard.

The way its operation runs, is clearly against existing laws.

But when something has been wrong for so long, it is easy to ignore, for fear of tackling an issue, to big too handle.

I started writing about the health-hazard and environmental-threat last year, with zero results.

So this is a column celebrating zero accomplishment.

A number of years ago, the neighborhood got together, setting up Stichting Parkitenbos, a lobbying body. That foundation has been quiet recently, while in fact it should be taking the government to court, and every single minister involved should also be dragged into litigation, because they are all guilty of having insane priorities.

Have you seen the Gateway Arch, style after St. Louis, USA, towering over the highway? That colossal steal structure, the world second largest arch is the most ridiculous bridge, totally disproportionate to the puddle it straddles. It was conceived by our government, as part of the ironically called Green Corridor, determined to waste as much public funds as possible.

The cash should have gone towards capping the dump with special soil, then topping it with grass, and little, cute chimneys to allow the toxic fumes fermenting inside to escape.

Capping the dump would have been a better way of spending our money.

I would also like to be kept informed about the progress at Ecogas. Driving by we noticed they were baling compressed waste, in their effort to turn it into alternative energy, but we haven’t heard any updates lately.

Is Serlimar delivering waste to be sorted and compressed?

Who gets paid and how much?

Is the waste high-grade enough?

Is WEB using the gas produced?

If not, where are the bales going?

From a previous column, our advice to the Parkitenbos neighbors: YOU HAVE TO GET MAD, REAL MAD, BE FEARLESS, THROW CAUTION TO THE WIND, GET A LAWYER, A REAL LAWYER, SUE THE GOVERNMENT FOR TORTURING YOU, FILE REAL COMPLAINS AT THE POLICE, SHOOT VIDEOS, GET THE PUBLIC HERE BEHIND YOU WITH IMAGES AND PICTURES, MAKE YOUR PROBLEM, OUR PROBLEM,DO NOT REST, UNTIL YOU GET RESULTS. YOU HAVE TO FIGHT FOR IT. The MinPres with his phony-baloney green initiatives should be the one in charge of rescuing your neighborhood, there has to be a way to get his severely Attention Deficit Disordered attention.

Attorney Roy Brown joined the dream team in heaven

I met the always restrained and correct attorney Roy Brown mid 80s I believe, when he first spread his wings to open his own law firm becoming an in-great-demand Legal Eagle on the island.

A highly intelligent, brilliant lawyer I knew he came from San Nicholas, from humble beginnings and that he managed to successfully graduate law school in the Netherlands, despite, or perhaps thanks to, the obstacles he had to overcome.

Roy’s father worked at the Aruba Golf Club on Goldweg, remember the nine hole, historic Astroturf course? Roy and his siblings inherited their love of the game from dad, playing on oiled sand greens, in their youth.

Wednesday, I heard from his niece Ayra Kip that Uncle Roy passed away on April 19th, and was saddened by the news.

Our lives crisscrossed on a number of occasions. Recently we met at the supermarket as Roy was pushing his wife’s shopping cart on Saturday mornings. It’s always nice to see that unity of purpose as it manifests over groceries. Because Roy partially withdrew from public life, the supermarket was a perfect meeting place.

We also met when I did some work for brother Rudy & Roy at their now defunct Brown Golf Practice Range, when the lawyer and the Golf Pro decided to make their dream come true, and open a modern golf practice range on Palm Beach. It was a lovely project, and the brothers worked hard to breathe life into it, but it was not their core business, and thus it slowly failed. Roy was a great person to work for, and I value the time I spent with him on press releases and adz, back in the late 90s.

In recent years, Roy had the brilliant idea to refer his nieces to me, Ayra & Ira Kip, the founders of Art Rules Aruba, and over the past seven years I thanked Roy every time I saw him for sending these two creative yiu-sin-dolor my way.

As a professional Roy worked hard, and listened to his clients, leading them down the right path, with straight and firm advice.

One of his great accomplishments I believe, are his kids, he managed to raise two brilliant lawyers, Patrick Brown and Maura Brown and thereby secure succession for his business, which is a considerable feat on today’s panorama.

A bit shy, but with a darkish sense of humor, Roy took sides but no one faulted him for that, because it was all understated and correct!

Rest in peace.

Late column today, went on a dog walk….

Tomato Soup

My fridge was loaded with tomatoes. I guess they were so beautiful in the supermarket, so I stocked up. Then they got old on the shelf.

Do you have a recipe for an award-winning tomato soup I asked one of my friends, with whom I was hanging on the phone.

Sure, he says. Pour some hot water over your tomatoes, peel the skin off carefully, cut into quarters, discard the seeds, chop the flesh and sauté the tomatoes in olive oil lightly. Then in a separate pan sauté yellow onions until nicely browned, sneak some sugar into that pan to further caramelize your onions. In yet another pan give some diced celery and carrots a chance to soften over low fire; the vegetables should be both soft and crunchy. Boil two or three small potatoes, they will thicken your soup, then throw everything except the onions into the food processor for a short grind. Salt, pepper, parsley, cilantro, mint or basil are all welcome, a dollop of cream or yogurt. Tada, can I come for dinner?

I was falling asleep on the other end of the line. The visions of two pots and three pans came to me, I was scrubbing them clean in my dream.

No way. I am not cooking dinner for Bradley Cooper, I am just making soup for myself.

Anyway, I threw everything into just one pot including tomato skins and seeds, celery and carrots, thinly slice potato, brought it to a short boil, zapped it with a Magic Wand, threw in some translucent onions, wow what a great soup that was!

Best one-pot meal ever!

Crossings Sauvignon Blanc or Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling with your sushi

Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Azia Restaurant & Lounge will be offering sushi workshops combined with wine pairings.  Chef Gerald will provide professional instruction for the sushi class, and a sommelier, on staff at Pepia Est, will lead the wine pairing.

This is what you should do, form a group of up to six people, and sign up for a most enjoyable afternoon of sushi & wine, from 1pm to 3pm.

Those signing up for the experience will learn the secrets of sushi preparation, as Chef Gerald will take you through all steps, demonstrating the correct rolling technique — you must have soft hands — and the proper presentation — the roll must be properly sealed —  of California Maki, Vegetable Temaki, Tuna Temari and Salmon and Tuna Nigiri.

Azia Restaurant & Lounge will provide students with knives and rolling mats, Japanese rice, fresh fish and crab, nori sheets, and other ingredients such as avocado, cucumber, shredded carrots, and wakame salad. At graduation, you will be presented with a handsome certificate of course-completion.

Call Tel: 588 2599 and sign up at $59.50 per person.

Sushi & wine pairing, with four kinds of sushi and two kinds of wine make perfect birthday celebrations, and are especially effective in bringing people together for a fun time.

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April 23, 2017
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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
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster