Judge dismisses lawsuit aimed at halting Tourism Co. integration into DDEC
By John McPhaul
Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC by its Spanish acronym) Secretary Manuel A. Laboy Rivera announced Sunday that the San Juan Superior Court ruled in favor of a motion for dismissal and in opposition to the preliminary injunction filed by DDEC and the Puerto Rico government after dismissing the lawsuit filed Popular Democratic Party Rep. Ángel Matos in an attempt to stop the process of integrating the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. into the DDEC.
The integration had been ordered under Law 141 of 2018, known as the Law for the Execution of the Reorganization Plan of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce.
“Since Law 141-2018 came into force, we have successfully integrated the Permit Management Office, the Trade and Export Company, the Industrial Development Company and the Industrial Tax Exemption Office, among others,” Laboy Rivera said. “The processes of transition are carried out as established by law and the Fiscal Plan, so that we can achieve the projected savings and efficiency of services. The opinion of the San Juan Superior Court validates the actions we have taken to comply and enforce the law in the transition process of the [Tourism Co.], as well as other government agencies.”
According to the ruling issued by judge Anthony Cuevas Ramos, “it seems clear to us that the Legislative Assembly, although it was interested in having some power to supervise the procedures for consolidating the government entities mentioned in the law, it delegates to the Secretary of the DDEC extensive powers to carry out any process that generates savings and efficiencies for such entities, in the same way that it has the power to carry out actions regarding the entities that are already attached to the DDEC.”
“It does not emerge from the law that the Legislative Assembly has the power to establish or confirm what actions the DDEC can carry out, but rather that such powers were delegated to the Secretary,” the ruling states. “The certification required by law is only a formal requirement so that, officially, the Legislative Assembly and the Governor are aware that the procedure has been completed.”
Laboy Rivera noted in a written statement that the judge’s opinion makes it clear that the DDEC has taken all the necessary steps to comply with the mandate to reorganize the economic development component of the island government.
“Understanding that the law is clear, it is not appropriate for this court to establish any limits to the powers of the DDEC to act as administrator of the DDEC for the purpose of generating savings and efficiencies,” reads the judicial document that will be available to the public soon on the DDEC Access to Information web page at: https://www.ddec.pr.gov/accessinfo/. “We must also express that the DDEC demonstrated that its action was not purely arbitrary, but that it consulted the Office of Administration and Transformation of Human Resources of the Government of Puerto Rico (OATRH) on the movements of personnel, to which the OATRH expressed that they are under the framework established by Law No. 141 of 2018.”
The DDEC secretary, who also chairs the Tourism Co. board of directors, said “as I have expressed on many occasions the work, benefits and rights of colleagues who now become part of our agency are protected according to Law 141 itself and should have no doubts or fears.”
“These changes are part of what is necessary and required to comply with the Fiscal Plan certified by the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico, with which we will continue working as a team in favor of the economic development of Puerto Rico,” Laboy Rivera said.