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WOW News

Planner Hopeful With Vieques Guidelines For Development

Editor’s Note: This is the third article in a four-part series on the proposal by experts, environmentalists, and island municipality residents for the cleanup and development of Vieques.

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

August 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW News. All rights reserved. 

Planner Felix Aponte hopes the Puerto Rico government will use the Guidelines for the Sustainable Development of Vieques as a foundation to transform the island municipality into the place its residents have dreamed of.

Moreover, Aponte anticipated that if the government doesn’t take the people’s ideas into consideration and follows the traditional philosophy of planning, the government will face opposition from the municipality residents.

The guidelines are economically and socially viable and could set a benchmark in the history of planning in Puerto Rico because of the predominant role of the community.

The document presents various recommendations to develop every aspect of Vieques, including manufacturing, ecological tourism, renewable energy, and a health system and preventive medicine proposal.

In addition, the guidelines propose strengthening the fishing industry, a plan to satisfy the demand for housing, the creation of alternatives in education, and the establishment of a museum to enhance Vieques’ archeological richness.

The costs to implement the plan are estimated at $350 million. This will include private and public investment.

Similar sums have been assigned by the government to develop specific infrastructure projects on the island such as Ponce en Marcha and the Superaqueduct.

"There’s going to be a conflict in Vieques between the classic vision of planning of a small group with economic interests and the vision of the communities, especially concerning the protection of environment," predicted Aponte, who noted that the possible conflict may arouse a social and political fight never before seen on the island.

Aponte, a former member of the Planning Board, participated in the drafting of the guidelines. A team of construction, planning, and environmental experts in Puerto Rico at the request of Comite Pro Rescate y Desarrollo de Vieques drafted the plan, which was one of the leading voices in the fight for the ousting of the U.S. Navy from the municipality.

The professor, who is the director of the University of Puerto Rico Planning School, noted that the people of Vieques are completely dependent on the activities conducted in Isla Grande (Puerto Rico mainland).

Aponte said Viequenses are aware of their limitations and are hoping to turn those obstacles into opportunities. According to the professor, the people of Vieques has been waiting for six decades for a better quality of life, and the guidelines are a concrete project to achieve their aspirations.

He also expects the local government to be receptive to the people of Vieques. "Vieques is not like Puerto Rico. I hope the government doesn’t allow the traditional way of planning in Puerto Rico to take place in Vieques. If there’s a conflict on this matter, I’m on the Vieques people’s side," concluded Aponte.

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