The San Juan Daily Star
Permits still in force despite high court ruling, officials say
By John McPhaul
The permits portal of the Office of Permit Management (OGPe by its Spanish initials) is open despite Wednesday’s Puerto Rico Supreme Court ruling nullifying Joint Permit Regulation 2020, a ruling which won’t go into effect until it is final, Economic Development and Commerce Secretary Manuel Cidre Miranda and Planning Board President Julio Lassús Ruiz said Thursday.
“The permits portal is open and ready to continue receiving requests that users have to submit, as usual,” Cidre Miranda said. “Therefore, you can be sure that our services will not be affected in any way. The Government of Puerto Rico continues to work on a new Joint Regulation and will ensure the continuity of economic development.”
“Therefore, as long as the judgment does not become firm and final, any application will be evaluated within the regulatory framework of the Joint Regulations 2020, which remains in force until all legal remedies are exhausted,” he added.
Rep. Jesús Manuel Ortiz González said Thursday that he was under the impression that the permit approval process will stop because of the high court’s decision to nullify Joint Resolution 2020.
Ortiz González asked the permits office to offer an immediate solution so that the situation does not occur again in case the court declares the regulations in dispute null and void again.
“The stalemate in the granting of permits is not acceptable and cannot be an option to which the agencies concerned resort, since it is a major problem that requires immediate solutions,” Ortiz González said. “The blockage in the permitting undoubtedly affects the economy of the island and its economic development. It is not permissible that the permits be stopped and that what happened yesterday happens again, in which approximately 200,000 permit procedures were left in uncertainty. That cannot happen again.”
On Wednesday, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court declared the Joint Permit Regulation of 2020 null and void, apparently placing thousands of permits in limbo.
But Lassús Ruiz said the permits issued would remain in force.
“We are ruled by Joint Regulation 2020 and the permits issued under this rule of law are not in controversy,” he said.
Ortiz González added that soon he will be summoning the agencies involved to public hearings to deepen the inquiry into the issue and to prevent the situation from recurring.
Also on Thursday, Cidre Miranda announced the resignation of María Cintón as auxiliary secretary of OGPe. Taking her place will be OGPe legal adviser Félix Rivera.
Industrialists Association President Eric Santiago Justiniano said of the resignation that “this situation can throw us into a ‘legal limbo’ with the construction projects authorized for the past 27 months, so we could be on the cusp of a legal battle in which the country’s economy could be affected.”
“Puerto Rico is in a complicated situation to maintain its attractiveness as a place to do business and promote entrepreneurship to achieve urgent economic sustainability,” Justiniano said in a press release. “It is urgent that Puerto Rico have a Permits Regulation that facilitates the use of federal funds toward reconstruction. A Regulation that guarantees the investment of thousands and thousands of young entrepreneurs, SMEs [small and midsize enterprises] that fight for their economic subsistence.”