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Caribbean Coast Mega-Tourism Project Causes Heated Dispute in Panama

Article Summary:

Six Senses, a luxury Thai hotel chain, has bought over 680 hectares of pristine beach front land in the protected territorial lands of the Ngobe Bugle in Panama. Panamanian officials are accused of pushing the purchase through various channels while the president of the Commission for Natural Resources Defense in the indigenous area, Fermina Serrano, said that “we will not allow the sale of these protected lands.”

Photo Credit: Prensa

Original Article Text From La Prensa via Google Translate:

A hotel ‘seven stars’ would be built on Nature Reserve

Six Senses is a luxury Thai hotel chain, exclusive and expanding. And Panama seems to be one of the few places in the world where there will be one of their enclosures. The venue is a set of white sand beaches and turquoise waters of the Ngobe Bugle region, located north of the Bocas del Toro province near Chiriqui.

It is about 685 acres, with 17 miles of beach, according to the investors-length which is the equivalent of the distance between Anton and Penonomé districts in the province of Cocle, although the ads talk about project 12 kilometers.

Canaveral Ecotourism Development in which it holds the official candidate for Congress in Costa Rica Antonio Alvarez Desanti-is the project promoter.

And it saves praise to describe the area where you would put your project: the landscape, rivers, lakes, forests and mangroves, tranquility and county exotic beaches in the Panamanian Caribbean, are part of the attractions ( see ad) .

“The visitor-promise-enjoy the turquoise Caribbean sea, beaches with palm trees and white sand, tropical forests, lush jungle and mangroves”.

The first stage of the construction of the hotel will exceed $ 40 million, said Alvarez Desanti, but said he has not yet quantified the final cost of the resort.

The 685 acres, which are part of the fifth wetland of international importance has Panama (Damani-Guariviara) – the Ecotourism Development Canaveral bought a paper transaction was $ 197,000, an average of 3 cents per square meter, although the Costa Rican political paid several million dollars, an amount that this newspaper was not authorized to disclose accurately, since one of the terms of the sales contract requires it.

Adriana Alvarez, daughter of political and Ecotourism Development vice president, said that although the hotel did not have “decorated with marble bathrooms and gold”, as often happens in a hotel of this category-seven stars, one night could cost approximately $ 500 thousand visitors.

He said he planned to place “special lights” that illuminate the spawning grounds of the turtles, so that tourists can see them. Some environmentalists consulted consider that this initiative can put in “danger” habitat.

Since the area where the hotel would be built is protected, your company looks to be ready next July the wetland management plan prepared by the National Environmental Authority (ANAM).

This would allow the employer to present its environmental impact study, once approved, start building the complex, to be located in Punta Coco, in Ngäbe Bugle.

The exclusive-tourism project that would use the traditional indigenous architecture of the area for the hotel-not unknown by Panamanian authorities.

The administrator of the Tourism Authority of Panama (ATP), Solomon Shamah, confirmed that “the beginning of the government,” he presented the proposal.

The official, who said he had forgotten the name of the investor, recalled that he mentioned hotels “high-level and low-impact, style cottages”.

Apparently not remember Shamah project Alvarez Desanti introduced him, said the official who “advised” to have “a very close relationship with the region” in a half-hour meeting held in September 2012.

Shamah said that “what I can say is that this issue should be treated directly with traditional authorities, who will have to ask the government, through decrees necessary, conducting this activity [tourist]“.

If realized this step, promoting the hotel could have financial support from the ATP, it would Shamah confirmed that “economic aid” to promote the work, but not for construction.

We give other “incentives” in Act 80 November 2012, including exempt import of materials and other benefits to any company that invests “$ 100,000″ in indigenous areas.

But while the Panamanian authorities seem pleased with the project, the hotel chain has suffered some setbacks.

One was in Colombia, where in 2011 wanted to build a hotel in Tayrona National Park Reserve-zone, but public pressure and indigenous prevented the government authorize the construction of the work.

Desanti Alvarez said he had “no interest in acquiring more land”, thus moving away from the more than 400 thousand hectares that remain in the hands of companies controlled by Evisilda Martinez, who sold it. Part of the land bordering their farms.

Martinez, in turn, acquired the properties in acquisitive prescription fast processes, whose rulings came in just four months (in 2010), when these processes typically last several years, even many.

Some 2 000 100 ha divided into 11 farms, were acquired by companies accounted for Martinez. Of these, the lawyer he sold 685 acres to Alvarez Desanti.

Land purchased by Martinez are part of the nearly 25 000 hectares of wetland-Guariviara Damani, in Ngäbe Bugle.

Also, some of these areas are part of the protected landscape island Escudo de Veraguas-Dego ( see sidebar ).

The president of the Commission for Natural Resources Defense in the indigenous area, Fermina Serrano, said that “we will not allow the sale of these protected lands.”

“For me, those who took these lands are thieves, so I join the struggle, whether to shed blood,” he said.

Act 10 of 1997, which created the region, indicating that the lands are collectively owned, so private ownership is prohibited. To be selling any of the existing farms [1914 to 1921], should be offered first to the region.

The only document that exists on an offer of option to purchase land in the region is Feliciano Baker, but this, at the time of the offer, still had no title to the land.

Jairo Attorney Sam said there was a “criminal conspiracy …”. He regretted the failure faster then judges granted by Manuel Garcia and Vilma Bryan to persons identified as residents in the area.

Other lawyers on the subject were surprised by the speed of the failures.

“These processes usually delay an eternity and a half. Only the notification to the owners [of the land at issue] takes too long, even for summonses, “said one of the respondents.

I also noticed that the processes were admitted the same day that were presented to First Circuit Court in Bocas del Toro, when this process usually takes over a month.

How investors land located?

According to Alvarez Desanti, the idea of ​​investing in Panama was one of its partners, counsel Alonso Arroyo, who made him see “opportunities” tourist.

Arroyo confirmed that from July 2009 the land spoke with American Jason Harris-of the real estate company Pan American Real Estate Group, who put him in touch with Martinez Evisilda to acquire land.

The negotiation was successful. The promise of sale contract was signed Martinez on January 30, 2010, and February 1 of that same year he signed Alvarez Desanti.

However, Evisilda Martinez did not own land. In fact, promised sale, even though they had not been instituted adverse possession processes by which she would buy the land then would sell Alvarez Desanti ( see facsimile ).

A month after closing the deal with Costa Rican politician, on March 1, 2010, Martinez filed the first of four processes of adverse possession on the farms that bind the lands as his three Indians requested.

The favorable ruling released on June 29 of that year, and three failures, just days after the first.

Alvarez Desanti society took possession of Ecotourism Development Canaveral on July 29, 2010, and the next day began to be transferred farms.

The underwriting process was made ​​society Martinelli Francis Patton, then a partner at Patton, Moreno & Ashvath, which did due diligence of land to Alvarez Desanti request.

According to the scriptures of the sale of the farms to society Canaveral Ecotourism Development at that time controlled by Evisilda Martínez-this $ 197,000 paid to the Indians for the 685 acres in the protected area.

In the Public Registry was evidence of the role that played Martinez as a buyer of the land. The scriptures show that the operation was among the beneficiaries of faults and Ecotourism Development Canaveral society.

Martinez managed to get in record time, according to lawyers consulted felt, 11 favorable decisions in a matter of months to get over 2000 acres of protected land.

Another question of this framework is the participation of Jason Harris, who declined to be interviewed.

Harris was part of partnerships with Evisilda Martinez and Carlos Morales Murga, Villamonte Anabelle’s cousin, the now former director of Land Titling, both linked to the scandal of John Hombrón.

The Indians are now warning that failure to take the appropriate legal action to recover the properties sold, in collaboration with the general congress Ño Kribo, will take the land where built the luxurious Six Senses.

In February 2009, three months before the election of the current government, pleaded Escudo de Veraguas Island, off the coast of the Ngäbe Bugle, a protected area under the category of “protected landscape”. Resolution AG-0095-2009 of the National Environmental Authority (ANAM) delineated a zone would comprise a marine and insular globe, ranging from the island to a portion of the Gulf of Mosquitos in Bocas del Toro, which are called “landscape Escudo de Veraguas island protected-Dego “.

This area was declared protected landscape because it became a breeding of plants and animals differ markedly from those found on land, highlight the document.

Among the animals that are mentioned are the pygmy three-toed sloth, unique in the world, endangered ( see photo ).

The company plans to tourist expeditions to the island Escudo de Veraguas, said Antonio Alvarez Desanti Costa Rican politician, president of the society Canaveral Ecotourism Development.

“The island Escudo de Veraguas is currently an area of ​​great scientific interest due to ecological or evolutionary traits unusual”, adds the resolution of the Anam. It is noted that the island and the sea surrounding it [adjacent to the wetland Damani-Guariviara] “should be protected.”

Four years later, this protected landscape and its components “are in danger”, according to environmentalists.

Ecotourism Development Company Canaveral promotes it through its Web site as one of the attractions that will have a new resort hotel that will house a “luxury” condos and properties for sale in Kusapín, in Ngäbe Bugle.

It is also touted a beach front part of the 685 acres owned Canaveral Ecotourism Development, the 2000 89 acres of protected lands that were sold between 2010 and 2011 corporations.

In the same electronic portal highlights other potential fifth wetland of international importance has Panama: Damani-Guariviara. It is noteworthy that in these areas is the “turtle reserve, coral cliffs,” and a channel known as Chenani or Mayani, built by the people and is used to transport food and patients, mainly. This is within the limits of a 220.2 acre farm now owned by The Development Land & Caribbean Ocean. The partnership was signed in February 2011, and this month the lands acquired seven hundredths square meter. The company was registered by Evisilda Martinez, the same lawyer who founded Ecotourism Development Canaveral.

The executive director of the Ramsar Regional Center for Training and Research on Wetlands in the Western Hemisphere (CREHO), Arturo Dominici, said it is worrying how protected areas are exploited without further controls. He said that the components of biodiversity that are are unique and could “be at risk”. “These are areas with fragile ecosystems in large quantity. We wetlands associated with reefs, mangroves and species that are endangered, and even the Indians are threatened, “he said. The category of internationally important wetland “must be respected,” said Dominici.

“The development at the site should be revised without affecting the unique ecosystems,” he added.

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From La Prensa

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