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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Senate holds roundtable on drownings

The discussion was attended by the secretary of DNER, Anaís Rodríguez Vega; the commissioner of the Bureau of NMEAD, Nino Correa Filomeno; and the president of the PRHTA, Clarisa Jimenez.

By The Star Staff

As part of an initiative by the chairman of the Committee on Education, Tourism and Culture, Ada García Montes, the Puerto Rico Senate held a roundtable discussion Friday with several heads of agencies with a view to creating legislation to prevent drowning deaths on the country’s beaches.

“We convened several agencies and organizations to sit down to exchange information on measures that can be implemented in order to prevent people from drowning on the country’s beaches. This decision arises after the analysis of Senate Bill 762 in the face of the discrepancy between the agencies and other entities on how to address the issue,” said García Montes.

Senate Bill 762, authored by Senator Nitza Morán Trinidad, seeks to amend Article 4 of Act No. 10 of June 18, 1970, as amended, known as the “Law of the Office of Tourism of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce of the Government of Puerto Rico,” with the purpose of requiring that all lodgings and inns located in front of the beach or the sea, provide information to visitors about sea and weather conditions and have lifeguards during daylight hours; and make technical corrections.

The discussion was attended by the Secretary of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER), Anaís Rodríguez Vega; the commissioner of the Bureau of Emergency Management and Disaster Administration (NMEAD), Nino Correa Filomeno; and the president of the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association, Clarisa Jimenez.

“It’s a potential danger that you don’t see, but it’s there,” said NMEAD Commissioner Correa Filomeno, who referred to the strong ocean currents that are currently being recorded on the north coast of Puerto Rico and which have caused an increase in drownings of people, mostly tourists, on the country’s beaches.

For her part, the secretary of the DNER said that “the statistics are there and Nino Correa can confirm it, most of the drownings are tourists.” Rodríguez Vega explained that the hotel sector has let it be known that signs that communicate that certain coastal bodies of water are not suitable for bathers make their areas ugly, so they remove them.

However, the president of the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association responded to Rodríguez Vega that during his presidential tenure at the agency she was not aware of these claims. “It bothers whoever it bothers, but it is the only solution to inform those who visit the beaches,” Jimenez added to the table, who also said that regulated hotels, as well as those under their command, receive information through email bulletins and also by hotel staff.

During the dialogue, Senator Morán Trinidad expressed concern regarding unregulated accommodations where tourists may not receive information about inclement weather in the country.

Currently in Puerto Rico there are 154 endorsed lodgings, which comply with all the regulations and permits of the Tourism Company, while over 2,000 lodgings around the island are unregulated.

As a result of the unfortunate drowning deaths and misinformation, the NMEAD commissioner shared that, in collaboration with several agencies, an alert is being developed, similar to those received when a person is reported missing, which will inform all people within the coastal danger district about the maritime conditions at the site. This alert would reach any mobile device within the danger radar, regardless of whether the person is a tourist or a resident.

“It is the government’s responsibility to prevent people from drowning on the country’s public beaches, therefore, I am hopeful that this communication exercise will result in identifying a real alternative to address the problem. With this, I also hope to achieve the creation of legislation that is endorsed by the parties,” García Montes concluded.

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