Feds take over fuel distribution in Puerto Rico
SAN JUAN – Federal government employees, along with members of the National Guard and the Puerto Rico Police Department, have established a new protocol to supply diesel to local hospitals. They are currently in conversations with gasoline wholesalers to design a similar coordinated effort for regular gasoline supply to gas stations.
Public Security Secretary Héctor Pesquera explained to Caribbean Business that for these operations they have requested, through FEMA, that the federal government provide 1,500 security workers.
“We have established a pattern to restock these hospitals without having them call the command center saying they have just one hour of diesel left, which is what had been happening. The same with the distribution of gasoline. We are going to the wholesalers asking for information about who they will be supplying during the day. The wholesalers must give us that information and they have to send the gasoline to the gas stations because it’s a basic necessity and it’s important,” Pesquera stressed. The distribution of fuel, the official said, is being worked on by a special task force.
Pesquera thanked the Department of Justice for its support via the U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez for the District of Puerto Rico for making employees available to the government. He said the federal government was sent a request for 1,500 additional employees, which will arrive in phases. There currently are 544 members of the U.S. Armed Forces and 89 firefighters on the island. Sixty members of the National Guard were arrive with four additional helicopters on Wednesday as well.
On Tuesday, La Fortaleza Chief of Staff William Villafañe said the response of the Department of Defense to the collapse of the island’s basic infrastructure after Hurricane María was slow.
In terms of the operation to reestablish communications, Pesquera said “the best and most technical among providers AT&T, Telefónica, T-Mobile” are being sought out stateside. He explained that executives at these companies are working in collaboration to get their systems up and running. He also indicated that the U.S. Army is working to reestablish the radio towers.
As for food distribution, Pesquera said federal and state officers–in collaboration with the Chamber of Food Marketing, Industry & Distribution (MIDA)–are establishing the means to ensure distribution for more businesses to open to the public.
“We are going to provide continues security so the Walmarts, Econos, SuperMax and everything begins to run,” he said.