Monday, March 1, 2021

Senate will investigate P3 for Vieques, Culebra ferry service

By on February 4, 2021


Measure seeks a ‘dignified’ transportation service for residents of the island-municipalities

SAN JUAN – The Senate of Puerto Rico passed Thursday a measure to investigate the public-private partnership (P3) contract awarded to HMS Ferries, which belongs to Hornblower Cruises & Events, for the operation of the ferries that offer maritime transportation services to and from Vieques and Culebra, and also between San Juan and Cataño.

“This is an investigation requested by the people who reside in the island-municipal of Vieques and Culebra, which for decades have been affected by poor public transportation service. This is a contract that today has to be questioned, when they allegedly won a proposal and are still not operating in February. The people of Puerto Rico have, as with the LUMA [Energy] contract, review this contract. It seems to us that from what was proposed to what was contracted the difference is abysmal,” the author of the measure, Carolina district Sen. Javier Aponte Dalmau of the Popular Democratic Party is quoted as saying in a Senate media release.

Sen. Javier Aponte Dalmau (Courtesy)

New Progressive Party (NPP) Sen. Maritza Jiménez, of the Carolina district as well, added that “the vessels and that sea are the highway of the Viequenses and Culebrenses and this contract definitely needs to be investigated.”

The upper chamber also passed Senate Resolutions 2 and 5, both authored by Senate Vice President Marially González Huertas.

Senate Vice President Marially González Huertas (Courtesy)

Resolution 2 orders the Senate Restructuring and Compliance Commission to conduct an investigation into the outcome of the inspections carried out in public schools after the 2020 earthquakes.
“In the event of an earthquake, we have 10 seconds or less to react properly, so we must guarantee our boys and girls the right to study in a structurally safe school if a major earthquake occurs during the school period,” emphasized González Huertas, who also chairs the Compliance and Restructuring Commission.

Meanwhile, Resolution 5 orders the Senate Committee on Education, Tourism and Culture to carry out an investigation on the process of distributing electronic devices to students and teachers of the public education system and the current status of the delivery of computers and tablets. It also seeks to learn about the process of granting and claiming the subsidy granted to students and teachers of the Department of Education (DE) for the payment of high-speed internet service and the current status of related claims filed with the department.

“With the results of this probe, we ensure that distance learning reaches the homes of students in the public education system,” said González Huertas, who represents the district of Ponce.

In addition, Senate Resolution 27 was approved to order the Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources to carry out an exhaustive investigation into the delay in the removal of discarded tires at the tire recycling plant in Guanica. It seeks to know what the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. and Department of Natural and Environmental Resources’s plan is for removing the tires and cleaning the plant, as well as the measures to mitigate the environmental and health issues until the structure’s demolition.

Lawmakers also endorsed Senate Resolution 23, for the Committee on Women’s Affairs to carry out an investigation into whether there is price discrimination in Puerto Rico in goods and services based on the gender for whom they are intended. According to the explanatory memorandum, it is not clear whether there is discrimination in products and services reflected in their pricing.

Another of the passed measures was Senate Resolution 3 which seeks to order the Compliance and Restructuring Commission to carry out an investigation that allows documenting the infrastructure conditions of the State Roads and their Branches in the municipalities of Adjuntas, Guánica, Guayanilla, Jayuya., Juana Díaz, Lajas, Lares, Maricao, Peñuelas, Ponce, Sabana Grande, Utuado and Yauco.

It was also said during the session that Gov. Pedro Pierluisi, submitted to the Senate, for its advice and consent, the appointments of attorney Fernando Figueroa Santiago as attorney general; Ana l. Escobar Pabón as secretary of Corrections; William O. Rodríguez Rodríguez as Housing Secretary; Carmen Ana González Magaz as Family secretary; Manuel Cidre Miranda as secretary of the Department of Economic Development; Ray Jones Quiñones as secretary of the Sports and Recreation Department; and Edan G. Rivera Rodríguez as secretary of the Department of Consumer Affairs.

The session was recessed until Feb. 11 at 1 p.m.