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Big cocaine haul on way to St. Maarten

WILLEMSTAD--A shipment of 600 kilos of cocaine was found inside a container destined for St. Maarten by Customs in Curaçao.

What caught the attention of the inspectors is that the reported value of the content of a container at a local cargo company did not make sense in light of the transport costs. The official contacted the head of the investigation department, who ordered the container to be taken to the main office at Nieuwe Haven for a thorough inspection.

While checking the outside they detected a hidden compartment inside a fake wall. That's where they found the drugs, with a street value of NAf. 7.2 million.

The investigation continues.

Copa Airlines announces five flights weekly in December

MARIGOT--Copa Airlines announced over the weekend that it will be increasing its number of flights to the island from two to four weekly in the short term and to five flights weekly as of December this year, St. Martin Tourism Office indicated.

The announcement prompted Tourism Office Director Silviane John to congratulate her counterparts in St. Maarten and Anguilla.

According to the tourism office this good news regarding the flight increase came at the same time the airline reported a 162% increase in the number of passengers destined for St. Martin from various South American cities.

The increase was recorded between the months of January and May 2014 and was compared to the same period in 2013. Brazil which registered the largest number of passenger booking saw an increase of 175% overall. In real numbers Copa recorded a total of 6,031 passengers compared to 2,034 when it began operations in 2013.

Copa attributes the increase in passengers to an aggressive marketing campaign using magazine, newspaper, television and other media. The campaigns, sometimes tailored to a specific market, were driven for the most part by Copa Vacation. The group along with representatives from St. Martin/St. Maarten and Anguilla has had several meetings with Copa Vacation Tour Operators and other reputable tour operators recommended from other sources. As a result of the direct and indirect campaigns, sales tripled in Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Peru and Uruguay, and doubled in Argentina, despite that country's economic problems.

Under the partnership agreement signed between the three countries and Copa other marketing tools are expected to be developed around content that features the islands both as a joint destination, as well as individual destinations that feature specific aspects of the islands.

The partners intend to continue their aggressive marketing strategy in the targeted markets in order to take advantage of the increasing popularity of the destination among South American travellers.

Commented Silviane John: "This shows that hard work and innovation pays off. We have been experimenting and finding new ways to sell our destination. One of the formulas that has succeeded in several of the new markets is joint marketing, where we go in as a group and present the possibility of island hopping or by presenting St. Martin as a hub from which visitors can day-trip to the other islands. This formula gives people another view and presents the best of each island as a new and improved destination."

She added: "The partners invested a lot of man hours and money in building the South American market after the signing of the MOU between Copa and St. Martin/St. Maarten and Anguilla in 2013. This was a market that had been very productive for us in the past and that was abandoned for a while. Now with a new impetus and the growing economy in South America we felt that it should be re-explored. Given the news from Copa we made the right decision."

Development Contract signed between Collectivité and State

page6a062MARIGOT--The 2014-2017 Development Contract was signed Wednesday by Préfet Philippe Chopin and President of the Collectivité Aline Hanson.

The Préfet noted that the State's contribution has risen by 9 million euros compared to the last 2010 contract signed between then President Frantz Gumbs and former Préfet Jacques Simonnet.

Chopin had already mentioned that 6 million euros will be devoted to upgrading sports infrastructures on the French side, among which will be the renovation of the Louis Vanterpool Stadium in Marigot.

This allocation is part of a larger envelope of 15 million euros that covers sports infrastructure, creating an institute of sporting excellence, playgrounds, cultural centres, renovating school canteens, and establishing a local mission etc.

Hanson and the Préfet gave a broad outline of the programme that has four main themes; improving living conditions by developing infrastructure in areas of potable water, waste water, storm water, public lighting and treatment of waste; ensuring social cohesion by developing and upgrading infrastructure in areas of sports, education, social animation and health; developing infrastructure to support economic development in the field of transport (ports and airport); and lastly to promote tourism, environment and natural heritage.

The total allocation for the period is 70 million 720,000 euros, distributed as follows: 39 million from the State (49 per cent), 28 million 750, 000 from the Collectivité (36 per cent) and from Europe (FEDER) 11 million 970,000 euros (15 per cent).

The breakdown and allocation of funds to the main projects within this period are as follows: potable water (rehabilitation of networks, construction of reservoir in Grand Case) 10.5 million euros; treatment of waste water 22.7 million euros; treatment of storm water (management and prevention plan for Grand Case, Concordia, Marigot centre) 10 million euros; public lighting (replacing light points, burial of networks, extension of networks) 3.4 million euros; industrial waste (building equipment, communication and prevention, implementation of waste scheme) 4.8 million euros; commercial port (dredging) 15 million euros; conservation, protection of natural sites (Réserve Naturelle) 6 million euros; and heritage (rehabilitation of historical houses, sites) 2 million euros.

AVS News to host political debates starting Aug. 10

PHILIPSBURG--Arts Video Studio (AVS) News will host three political debates leading up to the August 29 Parliamentary Elections on August 10, 17 and 24. The debates will be broadcast live on St. Maarten Cable TV Channel 15 from Belair Community Centre. All debates start at 7:00pm.

The first debate on Sunday, August 10, will feature the number three candidates of the political parties contesting the elections. These candidates are Anna Rabess-Richardson of United St. Maarten (US) party, Silveria Jacobs (National Alliance), Franklin Meyers (United People's party), Roy Marlin (Democratic Party), and Dennissen Philips (One St. Maarten People's Party).

The second debate will see the number two candidates of the parties pitch their ideas. Those candidates are Leona Marlin-Romeo (US party), George Pantophlet (NA), Gracita Arrindell (UP), Cornelius de Weever and Regina Janga (OSPP).

The final debate will be among party leaders Frans Richardson, William Marlin, Theo Heyliger, Sarah Wescot-Williams, Jacinto Mock (Social Reform Party), and Lenny Priest. Mock is only in the final debate because he is the one candidate of his party contesting the elections.

The first two debates will be two hours each. The final debate featuring the six party leaders will be three hours.

A special debate committee, comprising Clarence Richardson, Terry Woods, Florence Marlin, Mireya Ostiana and Edward Benjamin, has been formed to guide the debate.

Richardson told The Daily Herald the committee will strive for "a high level and professional debate" from all candidates with the ultimate goal that voters are better informed on what each party stands for in their quest for parliament.

Different moderators will take charge of each debate. They will guide the debate with pertinent questions, as well as pose questions received via e-mail to a special account that will be set up by AVS News specifically for the debates. Audience members will also have the opportunity to ask questions.

All parties have been informed of the debates and have confirmed their participation. A briefing for all parties will be held on Saturday, August 2, starting at 2:00pm at AVS Studio in Yogesh Building. Richardson said all parties have been informed to send "people who can make decisions on behalf of the party" to the briefing. The strict and set rules and regulations for the debate will be discussed at the briefing.

The venue for the debates has a limited capacity of only 350 seats. Each of the parties will be allotted 30 seats. The remaining 170 seats will be for the public. A fee of US $5 will be charged for seats. All tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis.

GEBE Senior Relief delayed by a month, pending update

PHILIPSBURG--The planned minimum-six-month Senior Relief Programme by water and electricity company NV GEBE has been delayed to the end of August, at least. It had been planned and previously announced via press release on July 7 that the discounts were expected to be applied to the July bill.

After the July bill passed without discount, which the Daily Herald was made aware of by a consumer complaint, NV GEBE relayed that its computer system needed to be updated for financial calculations, and that the SAP (business management and analytics software) consultant, based at the SAP head office abroad, was still "finalising the configuration and testing."

The discount is now planned "tentatively in the month of August," in other words cautiously, as the company says it is waiting on the computer system update.

The programme is meant to run for six months, after which reassessment and re-application would be necessary based on financial sustainability. It offers between NAf. 50 and NAf. 200 relief to eligible seniors over age 62, depending on their expenditure. NV GEBE had previously released that according to applications received, most seniors would fall into two categories, being relieved of their entire bill, or lowering the bill down to Naf. 100.

Furthermore, all 313 applicants were found eligible for the programme, relayed Corporate Communication Officer Paula Gordon.

The company said that it would release further information on the matter shortly.

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