House majority leader: Pending cruise docks PPP is ‘theft of the century’
By The Star Staff
House Majority Leader Ángel Matos García called the privatization of the cruise ship docks in San Juan through a public-private partnership with Global Port Holdings the “theft of the century,” arguing that it is a transaction plagued with irregularities that will leave hundreds of Ports Authority workers jobless.
Matos García said that this week the Port Authority and the Public-Private Partnerships Authority (P3A) will announce the delivery of over $4 billion in public facilities for only $75 million over 30 years, in a transaction conducted behind the backs of the people of Puerto Rico.
“This transaction began in 2017 with an unsolicited proposal by Global and its lobbyists in Puerto Rico, whose names are still unknown,” the lawmaker said. “It was an unsolicited offer by the Ports Authority; however, in conjunction with the … Public-Private Partnerships [Authority], they intend to privatize all the docks in the San Juan area, including docks 1, 3 and 4, the Pan-American dock and the Piers 11, 12, 13 and 14, leaving jobless hundreds of Port Authority employees. None of these employees has a job guarantee in the contract that will be presented to the country this week.”
“It is incredible that the Ports Authority betrays its entire workforce in a contract that does not obligate Global Holdings or the San Juan Port to hire even one employee from the Ports Authority,” Matos García said. “And to top it all off, the contract proposes an annual payment of $50,000 per year to the pension fund of the employees of the Ports Authority.”
Although this week the P3A is expected to announce the complete privatization of the cruise ship docks in San Juan to the private entity for the maintenance and operation of the facilities, the construction work on some of the docks that will be privatized will continue to be paid for with public funds from the central government, Matos García pointed out.
He questioned the reasons why the private partner “is allowed to disregard 2,025 Port Authority employees with up to 30 years of service, who will be thrown out in the street.”
“Worse yet, there is no commitment from the executive director, Mr. Joel Pizá, to his employees,” Matos García said. “High treason is being committed when only $50,000 is allocated to the Ports Employees Pension Trust, a public facility transaction estimated to be worth $3-4 billion. It is being privatized to a company with poor experience in the management of port facilities around the world.”
He questioned why “billions in infrastructure is being exchanged for only $75 million in a contract that is rumored to be for 30 years, with an extension of five additional years.”
“And on top of that the private partner is only required to attract two million cruise ship passengers,” the legislator said. “There is a period from May to October, in which Puerto Rico does not have a single cruise ship with a base port on the island.”
“This is a scandal that will be investigated immediately if confirmed this week,” Matos García said. “Through a process of public hearings, we will seek amendments to the Public-Private Partnership Law, to seek better performance when renting port facilities to tourist carrier organizations. The time has come for the people of Puerto Rico in general to take to the streets and defend the tourism industry in Puerto Rico, since all the docks are being given away to private companies with poor abilities and inexperience. In addition, the executive director of Ports must tell the country the name of the lobbyist who visited his office twice and three times in meetings outside the Ports Authority. Puerto Rico demands transparency and justice. Let the government know that we will take our complaints to Congress and the federal authorities.”