PDP lawmaker denounces ‘illegal’ integration of Tourism Co. into Economic Development Dept.
By John McPhaul
Rep. Ángel Matos García (District 40-Carolina), a member of the Tourism and Social Wellness Committee in the island House of Representatives, on Wednesday described as illegal the transfer of executive personnel from the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. to the Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC by its Spanish acronym), an action taken last Friday by DDEC Secretary Manuel Laboy.
Laboy justified the integration of the Tourism career employees into the DDEC under the provisions of Law 141 of 2018.
However, Matos García charged that Laboy’s action was carried out contrary to the law, since DDEC could not unilaterally begin a movement of personnel to dissolve the Tourism Co. without first notifying the Legislative Assembly, as well as the chief of staff through certification, that DDEC was ready to receive and integrate the Tourism Co.
“Under article 2.2 of the Reorganization Plan number 7 of Law 141 of 2018, it is clearly established and obliges the Secretary of the DDEC to certify to the Legislature that financially, as well as at the level of physical capacity, he has the authority to transfer these employees,” the legislator said. “At no time did the Legislature receive a certification, which violates the law.”
Matos García noted further that “[o]bviously the fiscal situation of the DDEC is not the best and it is not ready to receive the Tourism Company and the fiscal responsibilities of this agency.”
“It is a shame to see that yesterday [Tuesday], the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, created by Don Luis A. Ferré, was celebrated, when what they were actually celebrating was the last day of its existence,” he said. “The only thing that Secretary Laboy seeks with this illegal action is to make Tourism disappear, as part of the consolidation of agencies of this administration. We are evaluating with our attorneys the possibility of taking an appeal to Court to stop this taking by assault against the Tourism Company, since we are convinced that the law has not been complied with and the acquired rights of 15 and 20 years in more career positions, of employees who gave everything for the development of tourism in the country, are endangered.”
Matos García added that the current New Progressive Party administration has done two “unforgivable things” during its four-year term, including eliminating the Tourism Company, which “with so much sacrifice and commitment has fought for the island’s tourism industry.” He said it has also allowed the Destination Marketing Organization (DMO), which is in its third year with a bloated expense budget and only a performance ranging from extremely poor to mediocre to show for it. All the DMO has done, the minority lawmaker said, is spend exorbitantly on payroll and contracts, in disregard of the best interests of the Puerto Rico tourism industry.