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Vieques And Culebra Master Plan 60% Done; Presented To Residents This Week
Tourism, Low-Impact Manufacturing, And Fishing Industries To Be Emphasized
By MARIALBA MARTINEZ
May 20, 2004
Economic Development & Commerce Secretary Milton Segarra had little to say about the governments master plan for the sustainable development of Vieques and Culebra during a press conference last Wednesday, other than that it is 60% complete and will consider the views of the offshore islands residents.
Segarra was accompanied during the press conference by Vieques Mayor Damaso Serrano, Culebra Mayor Ivan Romero, Special Commissioner for Vieques & Culebra Juan Fernandez, and Jose Santana of Estudios Tecnicos, the consulting firm that is studying the matter and will present the final plan in June.
Segarra emphasized that a unique plan would be created for each island, taking into account its specific socio-economic development needs. The initiatives being considered include encouraging activities that promote community participation, reduce the cost of living, increase revenue, and promote integration into Puerto Ricos economy. In addition, the master plan favors the development of small and midsize businesses on the islands.
According to Santana, three types of tourism will be developed on Vieques and Culebra: ecotourism, nature tourism, and cultural tourism. All economic development activities must conform to the geographic characteristics of each island.
In manufacturing, projects should include initiatives to save energy and water and should make use of local resources. Santana said the plan also aims to strengthen the fishing industries on both islands by providing the resources needed to make them commercially successful.
Estudios Tecnicos will be strongly involved in suggesting how Vieques and Culebra should be zoned according to the projected best use of the land. There are already concerns about real-estate speculation in Vieques, opposition to tourism projects that are ready to begin construction, and possible harm to the islands natural resources.
According to Vieques community member Sixto Perez, the municipality is considering a law to prohibit construction in Vieques until the final master plan is presented. If the law is enacted, it would throw a wrench into architect Roberto Brambillas plans to begin construction of a $150 million resort and spa in the Esperanza sector. The project includes restoring the historic Casa del Frances and adding new villas around it plus a marine facility on a four-acre plot.
Last week, the Land Authority aborted an attempt to expropriate the beachfront property after several government agencies, including the Tourism Co., and Vieques residents expressed support for Brambillas project.
Culebra expanding alliances with private industry
In Culebra, Mayor Romero announced more than 80 companies have signed up for the purchase program between the offshore islands businesses and mainland Puerto Rico businesses. Under the terms of the agreement, the former will obtain exclusive selling rights to Culebra businesses in return for lower prices on items bought and shipped in bulk.
According to Romero, a second alliance involving Puerto Rico private airlines soon could be established. At least four local airlines provide regular transportation services from Fajardo and Isla Grande to Vieques and Culebra.
By forming an alliance, the nearly 100 private airplane owners on Culebra could compete with larger airlines such as American Eagle, which is considering providing service from Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport in Carolina to the offshore islands. The alliance also would mean more flights, larger airplane fleets, and the expansion of corporate services.
This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.