Starting today, thousands of truckers turned off their vehicles as a pressure mechanism for the Financial Oversight and Management Board (FOMB) to allow the regulations of the Bureau of Transportation and Other Public Services (NTSP, Spanish initials), which includes tariff adjustments for the transportation of merchandise in Puerto Rico.
However, last night FOMB's main legal advisor, Jaime A. El Koury, sent a letter in which they announced that, after an analysis, they reached the conclusion that the review carried out by the NTSP does not comply with "legal parameters" and with the certified tax plan.
In this way, the transport of essential merchandise around the island was interrupted, and according to the announcement, the only transport to which truckers will allow will be to access hospitals and health services. Truckers have been fighting for months to get the rates approved by the NTSP.
Víctor Rodríguez, coordinator of the Broad Front of Truckers, affirmed that the strike continues and that they will stop the transport of food, gasoline, and other essential items until the Oversight Board gives in to their claims. “Well tomorrow (today) the permanent assembly will begin. Everyone is calling us and the services are going to stop throughout the island," he said in a telephone call with THE WEEKLY JOURNAL.
The truckers are expected to hold a press conference today at 10:00 a.m. on Kennedy Ave. in San Juan to explain the next steps to take.
"There we are going to put up some tents and some things there, but we told the people to leave the trucks at their homes and in the workshops so that there is no possibility of heavy traffic and not to disturb the people. We already agreed with the Police and asked them to call the Secretary of the Department of Justice (Domingo Emanuelli) to coordinate the transport of medicines and diesel to hospitals and anything that the hospitals need," Rodríguez affirmed.
Proposal represents an additional $45 million a year for households and businesses
"The rest unfortunately will not come out. The transportation of gasoline is also apparently going to stop to avoid problems. They also have a fee claim that we got for them. Things are looking very good and the Board is concerned," he added.
Rodríguez said they did not contemplate postponing the strike and that they will give way to the permanent assembly that had been announced by truckers on July 14. The new rate system would reportedly protect more than 40,000 NTSP licensees. "The board has to tell the truth and that it has no jurisdiction over truckers' rates because the rates are approved and the government is defending them," he said.
He affirmed that "everything that happens in Puerto Rico starting tomorrow is the Board's fault."
Rates 'Noncompliant' With the Fiscal Plan
El Koury sent a letter to the president of the NTSP, Jaime La Fuente, in which he indicates that the rate review does not comply with the approved fiscal plan. “The Oversight Board believes that the adoption of the proposed regulation is noncompliant with the fiscal plan. Specifically, it appears that the process used by the NTSP did not comply with the requirements of the Uniform Administrative Procedure Act (LPAU)," the letter reads.
The legal advisor listed a series of instances in which the regulation, in his opinion, is noncompliant with the LPAU and the fiscal plan. "Because the proposed regulation does not comply with the fiscal plan, the board cannot approve its implementation at this time, particularly with respect to private contracts," he said.
In addition, he indicated that work could be done on the next fiscal plan that allows compliance with the proposed regulation, including the appropriate increase in rates that excludes private contracts.
Carlos Rodríguez, another spokesman for the truckers' front, reiterated that the Board has no influence on the rate system. "We are private entities that provide a service that operates with a rate system that is there to ensure a fair balance," he argued
For his part, president of the NTSP was surprised by the letter from FOMB's legal advisor and stated that he learned of the decision on a television program he attended last night.
“Right now all I can say is that I haven't seen the letter. I don't know what our position will be until we see the letter and analyze it. Likewise, we must see the options we have and take a direction," he said, adding that he will request a meeting with FOMB.