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Monday, April 21 2014 @ 03:05 AM EDT

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Hydroelectric "Boom" Started During Torrijos Administration

Infrastructure UpgradesDuring his administration former president Martin Torrijos approved 27 hydroelectric projects in Panama. In the past six years the Authority of Public Services (ASEP) has approved 40 concessions for the construction of hydroelectric plants in the country, but only one of them has any impact within the Ngäbe-Buglé region. This is the so-called Barro Blanco Hydroelectric Project, whose reservoir will affect approximately 7 hectares of an annexed area of ​​the Ngäbe-Buglé Indian region, although the civil structures (the dam itself) are located within the territory of the province of Chiriqui, on the flow of the Tabasará river in the area of Tole. The hydroelectric plant is under a concession granted to the company Generadora del Istmo S.A., a Honduran company, and it is being built by the company Panam Energy. The work must be completed by September 2014 and the project will have a generating capacity of 28.8 megawatts, according to the concession contract.

The ASEP reported yesterday that they are evaluating the issue of concessions for hydroelectric projects, after the controversy that arose during the protests by indigenous groups who oppose the projects. "We are currently in a process of conducting an evaluation of all of the applications we have received, to finally determine the next steps, keeping in mind all legal, economic, environmental, and social issues," said Zelmar Rodriguez, the manager of the ASEP. Chiriqui is the province where most of the hydroelectric projects are concentrated, with 26 hydroelectric projects under construction or design, especially on the rivers Chiriqui Viejo, Chico, Caldera and Chiriqui. The province with the second most number of hydroelectric projects is Veraguas, with 7 that have been approved. There is also one under construction in Portobelo in the province of Colon, and another in the design stage in the province of Cocle. To this are added 44 new applications for the exploitation and development of new hydroelectric projects, at least 30 of them in Chiriqui. None have yet been approved.

The boom - Hydropower fever began in 2006 when the government of Martin Torrijos eased the procedures for granting concessions and most of these rights were given away for free. This attracted the richest man on earth, Carlos Slim, as well as the wealthy families in Panama, and the friends and associates of the Torrijos government benefited from these concessions.

The Torrijos administration granted 27 concessions for new hydroelectric projects, including Paso Ancho, which was granted to the company Hydro Power and Jose Guillermo Lewis Navarro, who was the brother of Samuel Lewis Navarro, who was the First Vice President of Panama at the time. On about the same date the family Kupnik-Lacayo, related to Torrijos, received another free concession to build a hydroelectric project called Bajos del Totuma. Later the concession was sold to the entrepreneur Petter Stern.

Another concession that created a legal problem was the Bajo de Mina hydroelectric project, awarded to the company Ideal SA, of the Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, after it was taken away in an administrative process from Cesar Lisac. In November 2010 the Supreme Court ordered that the concession rights should be returned to Lisac. Now the ASEP has resolved to request the "administrative rescue" of the hydroelectric project, and to indemnify Lisac. However, Slim remains in business with another hydroelectric project called Baitun, also granted during the Torrijos administration.

Within groups of local families who received other concessions from the Torrijos government is also the Gonzalez Revilla family, that with the company Panama Power Holding has five hydroelectric projects in construction and design, and the Eleta family, with the company Electron Investment and Cafe Eleta S.A., has another three concessions in the province of Chiriqui.

Meanwhile, the former Vice President Felipe Alejandro Virzi and Gabriel Btesh received a concession on the Tabasará river on 10 January 2008, during the Torrijos administration.

Still pending, since 2006, is another request for a concession from the company Reforestadora Cañazas S.A., a company linked to the current president Ricardo Martinelli. This concession, still pending, is located in the district of Cañazas, Veraguas and will have 9.5 megawatts of generation. According to the ASEP, this project has not yet passed the stage of observations of the environmental impact study.

The administrator of the ASEP said the present Government have given about 13 concession rights for the exploitation and development of hydroelectric projects nationwide. Rodriguez also said during his term in office he has received about 12 applications to exploit and develop hydroelectric projects nationwide that are still under study.

The hydroelectric plants are being rejected by the indigenous ngäbe and buglé Indians and radical environmental groups, but in contrast there are sectors that defend them under responsible management. Yesterday the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Panama held a forum on the issue of hydropower. In it, President of the Chamber of Commerce, Federico Humbert, urged all actors in society to promote a comprehensive analysis on the responsible management of the dams. "We consider it important to promote investments that permit the construction of new plants from renewable sources, as is the case of dams that do not require fuel for power generation," said Humbert. The Chamber of Commerce said yesterday they hope the issue of hydropower is agreed and resolved responsibly without pressure or preconditions. "These plants, require no fuel for their operations, they prevent significant increases in electricity rates for consumers, have less impact on the environment and, if well managed, are capable of being respectful to the communities where they are developed," added Humbert.

According to official data of the ASEP, today 54% of electricity in Panama is generated by hydroelectric plants and the other 46% by thermal plants that use fuel. Although 40 concessions for new hydroelectric plants have been granted, technicians said Panama still will not achieve sufficient volumes to be able to export energy, because the construction of new shopping centers, large buildings with casinos, and the development of the the towns in the interior will use up the new new supply of electricity that will be generated by the construction of the new hydroelectric plants. The Albrook Mall alone demands a maximum capacity of 18 megawatts of energy, similar to a city like Aguadulce, Cocle.

The concessions granted for hydroelectric projects since 2006 come with a 50 year agreement, renewable. Under the rules established by the ASEP during the Torrijos administration, the concession holder can use 90% of the water of the rivers where they are located, leaving only 10% as a reserve of water for human consumption, irrigation and tourism.

The dialogue between indigenous groups and the government, seeking consensus on the wording of Article 5 of the Bill 415, resumed today in the afternoon hours. The discussion of the item concerning mining was passed, however, the debate got stuck when they were considering the part about the hydroelectric concessions in the region, because the indigenous groups also want to include the annexed areas. Right now a proposal is circulating to hold a referendum to determine whether or not the concessions granted in these area should be cancelled.

The protests by indigenous groups began on January 31 with the closure of several points along the Pan-American highway, which left losses in the order of $12 million alone in the province of Chiriqui. The road closure led to clashes with the police and left one person dead. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: The Panama America newspaper is basically the only outlet for the Martinelli administration. This article is obviously a "venting" as it were. They are saying that all of these hydroelectric projects were cronyism, granted during the Torrijos administration. Apparently the only one that was no approved was that of Martinelli in Veraguas. And the project supposedly linked to the friends of Martinelli was actually granted in 2008, by Torrijos.

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Via Brazil Will Be Partially Closed At Night To Build Axis Project

Infrastructure UpgradesAs part of the work related to the "roadway realignment project" in Panama City, the Ministry of Public Works (MOP) and the company FCC Central American reported the closure of two traffic lanes that connect Via Brazil with Avenida Simon Bolivar (Transístmica). The closure will be effective as of tomorrow, Wednesday, 15 February 2012, and the two lanes will be closed during the night shift from 9:00 pm until 3:00 am. The closure will be in effect for about 30 days and will focus on the two center lanes. During the scheduled working hours two lanes will remain open, one in each direction. The work will be taking place from McDonald's to the first light located in front of Alexis Billiards and the former Copama on via Brazil. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: This is the North - South Axis project. The design or goal of the project is to connect the Northern and Southern Corridors right through the middle of the city. Right now Via Brazil cuts through the center of Panama City but the priority for traffic is always given to the major roadways that go East - West, such as Tumba Muerto, Transistmica, Via España, Calle 50, and Via Israel. This project will use a combination of bridges and tunnels or overpasses at each of the major intersections, so that drivers will be able to go straight through the middle of the city from the Northern Corridor to the Southern Corridor at Punta Pacifica without having to stop for all of those intersections. So yes, more roadwork, more infrastructure upgrades, more traffic headaches. Just think how nice it's going to be when all of this crap is done. For example, once the new Metro subway system opens up, then more than 100,000 people per day will be riding the train to get to work, which means they will not be on the surface level, driving their cars, riding in buses, or using taxis. So every subway rider will lighten the load on the roadway system. And now the government is already starting the process of preparing for the bidding process to build Line 2, before Line 1 is even complete. By contract, Line 1 has to be delivered before 1 December 2013. Anyway, here's a video which shows some of what's going to be built.

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Water Service Should Be Restored To La Chorrera and Arraiján This Afternoon

Infrastructure UpgradesIt is expected that the supply of drinking water will be reestablished sometime this afternoon to the districts of La Chorrera and parts of Arraiján, after repairs are completed to the power transmission line that feeds electrical power to the La Mendoza water treatment plant. Pedro Miguel Morón, supervisor in charge of the National Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (Idaan) in La Chorrera, reported the valves of the water plant were closed at 4:00 am early this morning, after they received a call warning them an electrical pole had fallen in the neighborhood of El Flamingo. He told Panama America at this time the utility company is working to complete the necessary repairs, and once they are completed they will reopen the water valves. They estimate water service will reach the faucets of all customers within two hours (once the service is turned back on). Customers in the neighborhoods of Colon and Balboa will have water service within ten minutes, but some of the more distant neighborhoods such as La Herradura, two hours later. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: Three Words - "Backup Power Plant." Nah, that would be a waste of money. The power never goes out in Panama, everyone knows that...

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Electricity Would Go Up 30% If Hydro Electric Projects Are Cancelled

Infrastructure UpgradesAn additional cost of $200 million dollars (per year) would be created in additional electricity rates if the hydro electric projects that already exist right now inside of the Ngabe Buglé region, surrounding areas, and indigenous populations were suspended, warned the Secretary of Energy. Fernando Diaz, the representative of this entity, is participating in the discussions that are being held in the Commerce Commission of the National Assembly of Deputies, with government officials and the Bugle Ngabe leaders, and he said the resources have to be used where they are. He argued that this type of energy (hydro) is less polluting than energy produced by burning fuel. There are currently fifteen hydroelectric projects either in the planning phase or under construction; two within the Ngabe Buglé region, three in neighboring areas, and 12 in places where indigenous peoples live. According to the Ministry of Energy if these projects were suspended a person who currently pays a monthly electricity bill of $80 would see that increase to $104 dollars. (Telemetro)
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IDAAN Reports Damage To Water Main in Panama City

Infrastructure UpgradesBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Panama's National Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (IDAAN) reported the sectors of Los Ángeles, El Carmen, and surrounding areas will be seeing lower than normal levels of water pressure due to some damage that has occurred to a 16" water main in the area. IDAAN says work crews have been dispatched to repair the damage to the water main in the area of Via Transistmica, caused by the crews who are working on the Line One of the new Metro subway system in Panama City.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Raw Sewage Still Running Through Panama's Tourist District

Infrastructure UpgradesBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - You might remember that back on 17 January 2012 I posted this video documenting raw sewage that was running down Calle D in El Cangrejo, an area of the city where there are many hotels, restaurants, and rental car companies that cater to international tourists. Panama's National Institute of Water and Sewers came out that same day and cleared the blockage in the line - temporarily. The problem is that the primary sewer line running through this area under the street has collapsed. When the IDAAN comes out they run a sort of "Roto Rooter" kind of thing down the hole to clear the blockage. That works for awhile, but it doesn't last long. In this case they cleared the blockage on 17 January, and by Sunday, 29 January, just 12 days later, it was blocked again. This time it's been blocked for more than five days now. The hotel where the raw sewage is running notified the IDAAN seven times - and they still have not come out to even temporarily clear the blockage, much less actually do anything more substantial like tear up the street and actually replace the collapsed sewage line. I myself have personally notified Ministers - and nada. I guess they want the tourists to spend their dry season dodging balls of crap in the streets...

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Bridge Of The Americas Might Be Closed Due To Landslide

Infrastructure UpgradesThe Bridge of the Americas could be closed to vehicular traffic, after having suffered damages similar to what happened at the Centennial Bridge. This was announced on Thursday, 2 February 2012, by the Minister of Public Works, Federico Suarez, who said there was a landslide under the roadway near the Scenic Overlook. However, he said as work progresses, they will be able to determine if they will have to close the bridge. (Estrella)

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Panama City Mayor Meets With Garbage Czar - Improving Relations

Infrastructure UpgradesOn 15 February 2012 the Authority of Urban and Household Cleanliness of Panama (AAUD) will receive a fleet of 15 new garbage collection trucks, of the total of 99 they expect to receive by the end of March, announced the Administrator of the AAUD, Enrique Ho, during his first meeting with the new Mayor of Panama City Roxana Mendez. During their meeting Mendez and Ho outlined strategies to improve, between the two institutions, the garbage collection service in Panama City. For her part the Mayor said the public perception is that there is still work to do in some townships. Following the restoration of communications between the municipality and the AAUD, which had been cut at the time of the creation of the authority by former Mayor Bosco Ricardo Vallarino, Ho said he is "very happy" about the meeting and the efforts to improve the system. Enrique Ho said one of the problems facing AAUD is the lack of awareness of the population, which both institutions will be addressed in upcoming meetings. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: President Ricardo Martinelli took the responsibility for garbage collection away from the former Mayor of Panama City Bosco Vallarino, because the municipal government was receiving millions of dollars in budget, had more than 1,000 employees supposedly dedicated to garbage collection, but in reality they only had about a dozen working trucks, and they were simply not getting the job done. So, Martinelli simply created the new AAUD and assumed responsibility for garbage collection, taking it away from the municipality, in order to get the job done. Now that Bosco has resigned and the CD's Roxana Mendez in the new Mayor, there's been a "thawing" of the relationship between the Mayor's office and the AAUD. Go figure. The real news is that there will be 99 new garbage trucks running around within the next 45 days or so. That should go a long way towards making Panama City a cleaner place. And there's yet another accomplishment - but please, let's hold the adoring applause until it actually happens, eh?

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ACP Will Build A New Container Port in Corozal, Panama

Infrastructure UpgradesThe Panama Canal Authority (ACP) and the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) are contemplating the construction of a new container port in Corozal that would cost more than $500 million dollars. The port, which will be located in Corozal, on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal, would be 2.5 km long and would have the capacity to serve five Panamax ships, said Jorge Quijano, Vice President of the Department of Engineering and Administration of Programs for the Expansion of the Panama Canal. The terminal would be given in concession, but under the supervision of the ACP, which would make the investment in the infrastructure and then hire an expert in handling these operations, he said.

"The ACP may administer the estate, but not necessarily the port, and the concession would be granted to someone to administer the activity, with benefits that at the end go to the state," the official said. The construction of the pier will require dredging and land fills, for the structure to withstand the weight of the containers that are stacked in ports. Preliminary studies show that a port in this area would be profitable, because it will increase the transfer capacity in the Pacific area.

Through October 2011 last year 5.4 million Twenty Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) were moved through Panamanian ports, representing a growth of 18% over the same period in 2010, according to the Panama Maritime Authority. Most likely, Quijano said, is that the construction will take place in phases, first the dock, then the first container yard to the south and then the north, once the ACP offices that are currently in this location are moved. "What remains now is to finish the studies, to view the areas, the flow, how the containers are going to get out, as well as to determine the approximate cost of the investment, how it is going to be performed, who will manage it, how long it will take to develop; we are beginning to explore all these possibilities," he said. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: And poof, there's another government infrastructure project that's going to cost a half a billion dollars, just like that. All of the money will get spend on construction, services, manpower, fuel, logistics, contracting, etc., so practically all of the money will remain in Panama. This project will generate even more jobs. Recently the Minister of Public Works said on a television interview, when talking about all of the infrastructure projects the government is executing, that "we have even more projects that we would like to do, however the construction companies don't dare to place a bid for the projects, because there's not enough construction manpower left available to build them." Wow. Anyway, I guess they're going to import people to build this new port facility in Corozal. I simply love all of these infrastructure improvements, growth, and spending. It's keeping the economic engine running at full tilt - and all of the projects are good (great) for the country and it's people as a whole over the long term. In the image above I've marked where I think they intend to build this new port facility in Corozal. It's worth noting that the "waterfront" side as I've drawn in this image measures exactly 2.5 kilometers, starting from the boat ramp in Diablo and going towards the North, past the front of the existing buildings in Corozal, which are currently being used as offices for the ACP.

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Construction of "North - South Axis" Will Cost $200 Million Dollars

Infrastructure UpgradesThe overpass being built on Ave. Israel by the company Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas (FCC) will cost $200 million dollars and is estimated to be completed in late 2013. The Director of Special Projects of the Ministry of Public Works (MOP), Carlos Ho, said the project also includes a "fast track" that will cross the main intersection of 50th Street, via Brazil, via España, and Via Transístmica to Richard J. Alfaro. He explained this is part of the "North - South Axis Project" in Panama City, which will connect the Northern and Southern corridors through which circulate more than 60,000 cars daily, according to studies by this entity.

He explained Via Israel is going to sink and it will pass a roundabout at the existing street level. "This will eliminate the traffic lights and traffic will be more fluid to Calle 50, as well as to the center of the city, because they will be able to move in a more expeditious manner," said the official.

Roberto Roy, Secretary of the Metro, said projects like this help to improve the road infrastructure in the capital. "Building the new Metro subway system is not the only solution for better vehicular circulation, but also the arterial roads of the city," he said.

Ho added something similar will be done with Calle 50, they will sink the road a bit and construct margins that will lead to the roundabout at the intersection of Calle 50 and Via Brazil, from Via Israel. When asked if the pedestrian bridge will disappear that is currently located across from the vocational school Obaldía Isabel Herrera, Ho said this could be a possibility, but initial studies indicated there was no need for it to be relocated. "If necessary, the bridge will be removed for the safety of road users," he said. The Director of Special Projects of the MOP said these projects will not affect the halls of this campus, although he confirmed the school would lose 350 square meters of land. (Prensa)

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A "Fourth Bridge" Will Be Built Over The Panama Canal

Infrastructure UpgradesA fourth bridge over the Panama Canal, - with the third to be built by the Panama Canal Authority - will soon be tendered by the Government. The cost of the project is unknown and the "most logical position is close to Bridge of the Americas," said Public Works Minister, José Federico Suarez. The new structure should have "a higher road capacity - of 6 to 8 lanes - and for transportation, call it mass transit, like a short distance or suburban train, heavy rail, or bus line," said Suarez. The minister said the fourth bridge is a necessity, because in 10 years the population of West Panama will exceed one million. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: The existing infrastructure already can't handle the load. The "third bridge" is scheduled to be built on the Atlantic end of the Panama Canal. With the construction of the expanded Panama Canal the current method of driving over a swing bridge at the water level will no longer work. The government also wants to build a highway to connect Colon with Bocas del Toro on the Atlantic coast, to open all of that land up to development.

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New Plastic Manhole Covers Coming

Infrastructure UpgradesThe National Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (IDAAN) has a budget of half a million dollars for the acquisition of approximately 400 plastic manhole covers to replace the iron. Abilio Pittí, manager of IDAAN in the Metropolitan region, said the project aims to replace as many manhole covers as possible Panama City and San Miguelito. Pittí said the manhole covers are most often stolen in Panama City, San Miguelito, Tocumen, Las Mañanitas and Don Bosco. He said two or three manhole covers are stolen every day. According to IDAAN statistics in 2011 about 200 manhole covers were stolen from the sanitary sewer system. (Siglo)

Editor's Comment: The crack heads steal these things and sell them as scrap metal. The scrap metal buyers know they're not supposed to buy them, but they do anyway, and use them to fill the containers of metal they ship every day to China. These plastic manhole covers are supposed to remove the monetary motivation.

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TBM "Marta" Starts Digging New Subway Tunnel in Panama City

Infrastructure UpgradesAccompanied by the First Lady, Marta Linares, President Ricardo Martinelli today activated Tunnel Boring Machine "Marta", thus kicking off the work of this powerful machine in Albrook, at the "Southern Trench" of the Metro Line 1. The TBM named "Marta" by president Martinelli in honor of the first lady, was activated at a ceremony where there was no shortage of applause from the audience. The participants, among whom were several ministers, officials of the Secretariat of the Metro, protected themselves with helmets and vests. President Ricardo Martinelli said with the new Metro subway system, public transportation will change in Panama and allow citizens to move from one end of the city to the other in 23 minutes. He said before the end of his term in office the second line of the Metro system will have been tendered. The TBM Marta is the first of two acquired by Panama to dig the tunnel for the Metro. The TBM has a diameter of 9.77 meters and 100 meters long, the size of a 37-story building, will dig 24 hours six days a week. It will be operated by 16 people in three shifts. The TBM Marta will dig the first 4 km underground section of Metro Line One of Panama, from Albrook to the new subway station at the El Carmen church on Via España. There it will meet up with the other TBM, "Carolina", that will be doing the same work but coming from the Northern Trench (Transístmica , across from Plaza Agora). Roberto Roy, director of the Secretariat of Metro, said the TBM Marta will progress by digging through the earth and rock, and placing concrete rings, building the tunnel. The tunnel has a cost between $30 and $40 million dollars. (TVN)
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Twelve New Boarding Gates Added To Tocumen International Airport (Expansion)

Infrastructure UpgradesThe newly constructed "North Concourse" at the Tocumen International Airport has been formally inaugurated. Built at a cost of $100 million dollars, this project was part of the overall plan to expand and remodel the primary international air terminal in the Republic of Panama. This concourse, which adds twelve new gates, will allow for a 50% increase in passenger traffic, to position the Tocumen International Airport as one of the most modern in the region. The airport expansion and remodeling program responds to the increased demand of visitors who come to Panama. At the inauguration, President Ricardo Martinelli said with the completion of the project the airport is now first class. He rejoiced in the expansion because it will result in an increase in the number of planes arriving in Panama, which has become a real hub. With the addition of this new concourse, the Tocumen International Airport now has 34 boarding gates. (Telemetro)



Editor's Comment: The second overhead photo shows the project when it was still under construction, just so you can orient yourself with the position and location, in relation to the existing older gates. Go through security, hang a left, and stick to the left as you head all the way out. Interestingly, in this image you can see how the other existing gates are "jammed" with aircraft traffic.

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Via España Will Be Partially Closed For 18 Months Due To Subway Station Construction

Infrastructure UpgradesThe construction of the new subway station near the El Carmen church in Panama City started yesterday with the closing of 180 meters of roadway between the Delta Bank and the Felix B. Maduro department store. This section of the road will be closed for the next 18 months. Unlike the rest of the underground stations that are being built as part of the new Metro subway system in Panama, the construction of the subway station near the El Carmen church will take more than 12 months, because this is the point where the two Tunnel Boring Machines - "Marta" and "Carolina" - that are being used to dig the subway tunnels will be dismantled, so construction here will take more time.

This will be the last underground subway station to be built by the Line 1 Consortium, made ​​up of the companies Norberto Odebrecht y Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas (FCC), because the structure of the Curundú station on Avenue Omar Torrijos will only be formed for future construction. Agustin Arias, chief adviser of Engineering of the Secretary of the Metro, said the decision came due to the fact that they will have to wait for the Cold Chain moves the old Produce Market to the old Antenna Field at Chivo Chivo.

El Carmen Church Station - The Largest: The subway station at the El Carmen Church will be the largest of the Metro subway system. According to Arias, it will have four accesses, due to the volume of passengers who move to the area of Via España. About fifteen businesses have been affected by the construction of the station, and their owners will be compensated, said Arias.

On Monday, 23 January 2012, the TBM "Marta" begins the underground excavation of the Metro subway system tunnels in Panama City. (Siglo)

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ATLAPA Will Be Sold, New Convention Center Built on Amador

Infrastructure UpgradesThe Minister of Tourism, Solomon Shamah, today announced he has initiated the process to sell the ATLAPA convention center. Shamah said the price for ATLAPA is considerable and he hopes the proceeds from the sale will finance the construction of a new and modern convection center that will be built on a parcel of land that today was transferred to the Tourism Authority from the Administrative Unit of the Reverted Properties of the Ministry of Economy and Finance. Shamah said he would disclose the bids made for the sale of ATLAPA and the tender for the construction of the new convention center. Shamah estimated that construction of the new convention center would cost $350 million dollars. The land that was handed to the Tourism Authority today is located behind the Figali Convention Center on Amador and has a value of approximately $ 250 million dollars. (TVN)
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Panama City Mayor Asks the MOP To Turn Over The Coastal Strip

Infrastructure UpgradesPanama City Mayor Roxana Mendez said Wednesday she believes there is a better relationship between the municipality and the Ministry of Public Works, after the departure of Bosco Vallarino. In that sense, she would ask the MOP to handover of the Cinta Costera, because City Hall should be in charge of all of the green areas of the district. She said the capital's municipality handles at least 300 parks and 15 sports facilities. She said she remains concerned about some cemeteries, and although the city is no longer responsible for garbage collection, they plan to conduct a campaign to create a culture of recycling that helps maintain a clean city. (Estrella)

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Raw Sewage in Panama City Tourist District

Infrastructure Upgrades By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - A problem has been lurking under D Street in El Cangrejo for many years. The primary sewer line running under the street collapsed several years ago. About every two to three months the line gets blocked and raw sewage begins overflowing onto the surrounding street. The raw sewage then runs into the rainwater drains and eventually ends up in the Bay of Panama, which is all around bad.

Ground Zero For Tourist District: There are many hotels in this area - including the El Panama, Continental, Veneto, Torres de Alba, Las Vegas, Victoria, Metro Hotel, Coral Suites, Suites Ambassador, Marbella, Toscana Inn, and the Grenada - all within one block. There are also many rental car businesses, restaurants, and other establishments catering to the tourists. So, when the sewer pipe gets clogged, these thousands of tourists find themselves on their dream vacation in Panama, having to hop, skip and jump over piles of human feces and reams of dirty used toilet paper running down the street in front of their hotel. When the IDAAN finally comes (it always takes them at least five days to get a crew to look at the problem) they just punch out the blockage and go away. Sooner or later the sewer line gets clogged again, and it's back to "Shit River in El Cangrejo." Eventually the government should probably dig up the street and replace the entire sewage pipe because the one that's down there now is completely collapsed. There are similar situations in different neighborhoods all over town. Crumbling infrastructure. But this one really stinks. Check out the video. You'll like it. No shit.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Contractor Collecting $100 Million Dollars Owed to IDAAN (User Debt)

Infrastructure UpgradesThe company Inassa Panamá S. A., working on contract for the National Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (IDAAN) since August 2011 as a bill collector for outstanding debts, has managed to collect $8 million dollars from customers in the Western part of the province of Panama, Panama City, and Colon who owe money to the institution. Users in these areas owe the IDAAN a total of about $97 million dollars, and these sectors represent about 90% of the total amount of money owed to the IDAAN. Rolando Bocanegra, IDAAN Marketing Director, said when they took over and started their administration after the election of president Ricardo Martinelli, the IDAAN had a total outstanding debt on the books of more than $120 million dollars, and of that they have been able to recover about $20 million in the last 18 months.

According to their contract, the company Inassa Panamá S. A. must collect at least $1.8 million dollars of the outstanding debt every month, as a quota, according to Bocanegra. If they fail to reach this goal they would be in effect defaulting on the agreement in the contract, and the company must pay a percentage of the debt, based on what was left to be collected, the official said. He noted in 36 month contract, INASSA must collect at least $45 million dollars of the existing delinquency. Delinquencies at the IDAAN are very active, because the cumulative amount is $100 million dollars, a figure which remains constant, Bocanegra said.

According to the official, the responsibility of collecting payments for the rest of the provinces corresponds to the IDAAN. According to statistics from the institution, the province of Chiriqui is one that reflects the highest rate of default, with $6 million outstanding. Cocle province has the lowest figure, with $1.4 million dollars in arrears.

Culture of not paying - Juan Antonio Ducruet, former director of IDAAN, Panamanians should give more importance to the payment of water bills, and to cancel the monthly bills in a timely manner. He thinks the cost of water is not consistent with reality. Meaning, water should cost more, so that people would value the resource. Ducruet told El Siglo that the government should do 'sincere subsidies', or subsidize the provision of water to those who truly need it. (El Siglo)

Editor's Comment: The only way to get these people to go pay their water bill is by turning off the water. That "forces" them to make the payments. And that's what this contractor is doing - twisting arms and making people pay. IDAAN "outsourced" this contract and the job is getting done. That's the headline. This $100 million dollars in outstanding debt didn't occur overnight. And meanwhile the PRD and the Panameñistas want to bitch and moan and complain about the water service in the country, however they mismanaged it while they were in power. I bet the IDAAN could do some pretty impressive improvements and upgrades if they only had the money they are owed - for water already delivered. So, in the "Panama government as business model" of doing things, "make them pay their damn bills" is job #1. You can't do good things for the country if you ain't getting paid for the services you're providing.

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Martinelli Promises To Connect Isla Colon With Mainland in Bocas del Toro

Infrastructure UpgradesPresident Ricardo Martinelli said he plans to connect the mainland of Bocas del Toro with Isla Colon, and he will promote Bocas del Toro and position it as the number one tourist destination in the country. Martinelli's statements came on a tour of Changuinola in the province of Bocas del Toro, accompanied by the Minister of Housing José Domingo Aria, and local people. In other major announcements for the community, Martinelli said he would continue to invest in road projects, apart from those already made, and he will be responsible for promoting Bocas del Toro as the number one tourist destination in the country. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: Hmmm. There's really a couple of ways you could connect Isla Colon with the mainland via a roadway. The first would be to punch a road from Changuinola down towards the point that's closest to the North West corner of Isla Colon. There, the stretch of water from the mainland to the island is .91 miles which could be covered with a combination of landfill and a bridge. Or the other option (which I think is better) would be to punch a road out through Aguacate all the way to Loma Partida - that's still on the mainland the whole way. The stretch at Loma Partida is tiny - .07 miles - and that gets you on Isla Popa. From there, there's a shallow water gap of .85 miles from the Northern most end of Isla Popa to the Southern most end of Bastimentos. From there it's another 1 mile gap over the channel to Carenero, and from there a short .14 mile stretch to downtown Isla Colon. I like the route through all of the islands personally, because roads open up areas to development. Punching a road through and building these bridges would double, triple, or quadruple land values, literally overnight. There's all kinds of places that look like paradise on the surface, but then you realize you have to first fly to Isla Colon and then ride in a boat 45 minutes to reach "Wild Bill's" house in Aguacate, for example. Imagine if you could drive to Isla Colon in a car from Panama City? Trucks could come in easier and the cost of everything would drop (because right now it all has to come in on boats and barges). The "Northern Route" would be cheaper, faster, and easier - so that's what they most likely would do first. The "Southern Route" through the islands would take more time and cost more money, so chances are slim on that one. But, I think it would be a better deal for the long term strategic development of Bocas del Toro.

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Subway Construction Ties Up Traffic on Via España in Panama City

Infrastructure UpgradesBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Work continues on the new underground Metro subway system being constructed in Panama City. The government of Panama is spending more than $1 billion dollars to build just the first line of this new public transportation system. This will be the first time there has ever been a subway system in Panama. A long section of the new line will run right under Via España, one of the major arteries for traffic that passes through the middle of the city. Yesterday morning traffic on Via España was squeezed down from the normal four lanes to just two - in order to allow construction workers to begin to relocate underground utilities such as electrical and communications lines. There will also be a subway station constructed right in this area. While Tunnel Boring Machines (TBM) will dig the majority of the tunnels through which the trains will pass, the subway stations will be built from the surface, down. This construction will be going on for at least the next two years, and as soon as they finish the work on "Line One" of the new Metro system, I'm sure they will hop right in to "Line Two" (wherever that will go.) Anyway, the bottom line for all of this is even worse traffic in downtown Panama City right now. Hopefully after biting the bullet for a couple of years the new Metro system will take some of the pressure off of the roadways. Every person who rides a train will be getting to the same destinations, but they won't be using a surface vehicle to get there. So, one can only hope. These kinds of very large public works projects are a big part of what's driving the Panamanian economy forward, the strongest and fastest growing in Latin America.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Repair Work Programmed For Bridge of the Americas Suspended

Infrastructure Upgrades Public Works Minister Federico Suarez said on Tuesday January 10 for the moment the work planned for the Bridge of the Americas will be suspended. Suarez announced that the contract for rehabilitation of the bridge of the Americas will continue its route, with menial jobs that do not affect traffic flow in this sector of the city. This is how they will do the work on one of the entrances to the bridge where there was a collapse in December 2010. Therefore, there will be a partial closure, which will be announced shortly. Earlier Suarez said on TVN News "the best access path to the capital city for the next months or years is the Centennial Bridge." (Prensa)
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MOP and ATTT Suspend Bridge of the Americas Rehabilitation Project

Infrastructure UpgradesThe Ministry of Public Works reported Thursday that the rehabilitation and improvement of the Bridge of the Americas will be rescheduled for January 10. That is, all four lanes of the bridge will be open to the public until the date indicated above, when work will resume. The measure has been taken so that the entity, in conjunction with the Transit Authority and Land Transport (ATTT), can start new traffic management logistics, helping to mitigate as much as possible the damages generated by implementing a project of this magnitude. The director of the ATTT, Jorge Ricardo Fabrega, said they also decided to suspend the project because they failed to take into account the 7,000 employees who now work at the former Howard Air Force Base. He said they will hold meetings with the companies located in that area, so they are not adversely affected by the partial closure of the bridge.

The Ministry of Public Works will be reporting in the coming days on the logistics and traffic management will be running at the Bridge of the Americas, starting from January 10. The Rehabilitation Project of the Bridge of the Americas includes the replacement of all cement slabs and pavement structures, and the renovation and improvement of the conditions of the metal structure that supports the roadway. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: The closure of the bridge causes chaos. They first tried to have just one land running in each direction. Then they tried to have two lanes running towards the city in the morning, and two lanes running away from the city in the afternoon. However the 7,000+ workers on Howard have to travel in the other direction, opposite from the majority of the people who want to get into the city in the morning and out of the city at the end of the work day. Anyway, they called a time-out while they figure out what to do. And I really like the fact that they were smart enough to call "whoa", admit their mistake, and start over with a fresh set of eyes.

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Damage To 10-Inch Water Main Knocks Out Water To Punta Pacifica in Panama City

Infrastructure Upgrades The National Institute of Water and Sewerage (Idaan) confirmed on Wednesday morning, 4 January 2012, that the failure of a connecting ring on a 10" water main pipe caused the suspension of water service in the area of ​​Punta Pacifica. First it was reported the damage was in a 16-inch pipe, but then later they specified that in fact the damage was to the 10-inch pipe. However, the IDAAN said they don't know what caused the damage, nor how long it would take to make the necessary repairs. The damage is located at the roundabout near the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower. The water circuit was closed to allow the IDAAN crew to begin repair work. On Tuesday, 3 January 2012, there was a repair performed on a 16-inch water main in another area of ​​Punta Pacifica. The first repair was planned for January 2, but later reported that the work would take place on January 3. On Tuesday afternoon the scheduled repairs were completed and water service was restored in Punta Pacifica, but then it was again suspended this morning due to the new damage to the collar of the 10-inch pipe. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: IDAAN is getting much better at letting people know what happened, why the water service went out, and what they are doing to make repairs. They have learned their lessons from the two "turbidity" issues that happened during the rainy season.

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Bridge Of The Americas Down To Two Lanes - For Two Years

Infrastructure Upgrades Starting today, Tuesday, 3 January 2012, two lanes of the Bridge of the Americas will be closed for two years, said the Land Transit and Transportation Authority (ATTT). The two panels will be closed due to repair work on the infrastructure of the bridge. The work will be done by the company MSM Global at a cost of $80.7 million dollars. The work will be divided into two phases. In the first, which begins Tuesday, the Southern side of the bridge - from the interior towards the capital - will be opened with one lane going towards the city and another going towards the interior. Meanwhile the Northern side - from Panama City towards the interior - will be closed in order to replace the underlying cement slab of the roadway, said the ATTT. Each phase will last one year, they request patience from drivers.

Trucks: Cargo trucks in excess of ten tons and refrigerated vehicles should use the Centennial Bridge. One study found more than 60,000 vehicles use the bridge every day. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Wow. The Bridge of the Americas will be down to two lanes only, for two years. That's not good. Avoid this bridge if at all possible. The backups are going to be horrendous - especially in the first few days until people figure it out.

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Construction On The New Metro Subway System in Panama 23% Completed

Infrastructure UpgradesThe work to build the new subway system in Panama which started this year is 23% completed, and the established time schedule is being met, said the Executive Secretary of the Panama Metro, Roberto Roy, at a press conference today. Roy also said currently they are in the process of assembling the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) "Marta", and the second TBM "Carolina" arrived in Panama two weeks ago. These two TBM's will be used to dig the tunnel of the subway system, and tunneling is expected to begin in January 2012 once the machines are assembled.

The new Metro subway system in Panama will have eleven stations between the Los Andes shopping center and Albrook. The most advanced so far is the underground subway station being built at the 5 de Mayo Plaza. Meanwhile, the highest station will be the one on the bridge at San Miguelito, at a height of 15 meters. Roy explained that some of the elevated stations will be six meters above the ground, and that some will be at road level but still one meter above the ground to prevent flooding during the rainy season.

It is known there a fund of $428 million dollars to pay for the construction of the parts of the project that were not included in the main contract, such as for escalators and elevators among others, that will be built by whatever local company that wins the bid. In addition another $10 million dollars has been set aside for compensation for the businesses that have been affected by the construction of the metro. There are currently 2,386 people working to build the new Metro subway system in Panama. (Panama America)

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Work Starts On New International Airport in Rio Hato

Infrastructure UpgradesWith the start of the construction of the Scarlett Martinez International Airport in the central provinces, and the site of the former Rio Hato runway in Anton, the people who live in the province of Cocle expect there will be more jobs available. Edgar Sanchez, a resident of Penonomé, said this multi million dollar project will bring jobs, and they only ask that the majority of the manpower be hired from the province of Cocle, especially in Rio Hato, Anton - an are that has been hard hit economically speaking. Sanchez said for them this airport is very important because it brings development to the region and the central area of the country. The project design and construction of a tunnel, whose cost exceeds $52 million dollars, is expected to be completed in 2012, and it will improve the situation of many families in the central provinces with access to employment. Fernando Nuñez Fabrega, the Governor of Cocle, said work on the project started a few weeks ago, which should not be delayed, because the very important part of the project - the runway - was already built a long time ago as the Rio Hato airfield. However, the governor said there will be more work and development for Cocle and the central provinces. Nuñez Fabrega said "they are going to bring a Tunnel Boring Machine so there won't be any problems with traffic on the Inter American Highway, and there will be less difficulties in Rio Hato compared to the work being done in Panama City. What we want is that the international airport project be ready as soon as possible." It is expected manpower will be hired for the construction of the tunnel and the rehabilitation of the runway in Rio Hato, where notice to proceed was given by Ricardo Martinelli, President of the Republic, in September. (Dia a Dia)

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"Low Cost Housing Solutions" Delivered in Natá

Infrastructure Upgrades Approximately 256 low-income families benefited in Cocle with the delivery of houses built by the Ministry of Housing and Land Management (Miviot) in the Casa del Pueblo in Nata yesterday. The total cost of the project was $554,960 dollars, funds from the programs "Basic Unit," "Floor and Roof," "Social Interest," "Housing Improvement," "Parvis," and "Social Interest," and loans for the construction materials. Families benefiting from the program reside in the areas of El Roble, Los Barrios Unidos, Natá, Coclé, Chiguirí Arriba, El Copé, Cabuya, El Valle, Río Hato, El Potrero, Toabré, San Juan de Dios, Penonomé, Olá, La Pintada and Tulú. On the other hand, Noriel Salerno, the Deputy in the National Assembly from Circuit 2-4 (Aguadulce), said some projects that were delivered, as in the case of his district, had suffered from administration problems, so a delay had occurred. Meanwhile, Minister Jose Domingo Arias said the delivery of these benefits is a serious issue that must be managed responsibly. He said when he assumed control of the Ministry they found a stack of papers and files that had not been properly managed, so they streamlined the process (and now the houses have been delivered.) (Mi Diario)

Editor's Comment: Right at the very end of the administration of Martin Torrijos, once it had become apparent that Ricardo Martinelli was going to win the election in 2009, I was called in to investigate the mismanagement of some of these contracts. It turned out there was a ring of conspirators consisting of government employees and construction contractors who were in collusion to extract as much money as possible from these projects without actually building them, then they would run away, close the company, and make like nothing happened. Corrupt government inspectors would sign documents saying the project had been 75% completed (for example) when in reality almost nothing had been done. Based on those signatures, the corrupt contractors could then ask the government to give them more and more money, supposedly to continue with the construction of the houses. In fact, they just got as much money as they could and then they ran away. This is the "stack of papers" the new government found when they took over. I doubt anyone ever investigated all of that crap, filed complaints, got people arrested, etc. And the names of these towns where these houses were built are some of the same projects I investigated back in early 2009. Glad to see they finally got built and delivered. And if you do the math, these "low cost housing solutions" for very poor people end up costing $2,167 per house. They are very simple - a floor, four walls, a roof, two small bedrooms, kitchen, and a living room / dining room space, on a small plot of land, usually about 300 meters or so. Very basic, but better than an improvised shack.

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Street Will Be Closed Near Via España Due To Metro Subway Station Construction Near El Carmen Church

Infrastructure UpgradesThe Secretariat of the Panama Metro said that starting tomorrow, Thursday, 22 December 2011, they will proceed to close the intersection of the streets Aquilino de la Guardia with Vía España (in front of the Gardens of the Hotel El Panama) due to the construction of the El Carmen Church stop on the new underground Metro Subway system in Panama City. The intersection will be closed for at least a year, and they have to move and re-position utilities such as electricity and water mains, as well as build a work camp that will be used during the construction of the Metro station. It should be noted that on Via España there will be a similar detour due to the construction of the Via Argentina Metro station (near the Piex store) scheduled for January next year, and which formally marked the work of the station at the El Carmen Church. Drivers of cars using Via España who need to access Aquilino de la Guardia Street should go straight and turn to the left on Ave. Frederico Boyd, and then turn left again to get to this street. Then they can turn left to go as far as Calle 52 and to reach Aquilino de la Guardia Street. Right now this street is one way (towards Calle 50) but due to this closing that will be changed to make it two directions, so that cars can go in the direction towards Via España to get to their destinations. (Panama America)

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Parts of Bella Vista Without Water Tomorrow Due To Work On Subway

Infrastructure UpgradesResidents and businesses located between 38th and 40th Streets of Bella Vista will be without water tomorrow for about 8 hours, informed the Secretariat of the Metro. In a press release they reported water service in this area will be turned off from 8:00 am until 4:00 pm due to a need to relocate a 6" water main (see map). This work is required as part of the relocation of utilities made necessary due to the construction of the new Metro subway system in Panama City. Because the Hospital Nacional is located in this sector, the Secretary of the Metro said the hospital will be supplied with water tanker trucks as necessary. For their part, the head of the Metropolitan office of the Water and Sewage Institute (IDAAN) Abilio Pittí said this job will be done quickly so therefore there is no need to use tanker trucks to supply residents in the affected area, despite the fact there are several high rises in the area. He said every day they make between 40 to 60 similar repairs throughout the city to the water supply system, and the only thing different about this one is that it is part of the project to build the new Metro subway system.

Luis Carlos Salerno, a consultant to the Secretariat of the Metro, said with this relocation operation and the placement of new pipes, the water system of the capital city will have a modern infrastructure, long lasting, with more control of drinking water and maintenance, but he did not specify the number of interconnections that will be made this year due to the work being done to build the subway system. This is the second interconnecting operation being done this month. The first was done on 4 December between Via Transistmica and Ave. 12 de Octubre. That effort lasted 10 hours longer than planned by the Secretariat of the Metro. (Prensa)

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