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Formentera asks Govern Balear for accord on tourism spending

Illetes Alfredo-Montero webEarlier today, the Formentera Council's office of tourism sent a letter to the Govern Balear urging «the start of a negotiation process to turn the transfer of authority on tourism promotions into a reality». With the negotiations on that transfer expected to continue beyond the first semester of 2016, In the missive, Formentera's tourism councillor suggested signing «an interim agreement to enable the local tourism advisory board» — el Patronat de Turisme de Formentera — «to assume responsibility of tourism spending».

In a letter addressed to regional tourism minister Biel Barceló, Councillor Alejandra Ferrer describes the Patronat's work in recent years with the entirety of the public and private sectors of Formentera. «In particular», she wrote, «the board has focused on defining and improving the image of our island. In addition to developing a multi-pronged approach to marketing Formentera's particular brand of tourism to different sectors, they have succeeded in at once establishing the loyalty of the Italian market and diversifying our business by incorporating both the national and German markets». Proof of their efforts' success, Ferrer points out, are the unwavering high occupancy rates even throughout the economic crisis.

In the letter, Councillor Ferrer noted the previous Govern Balear administration's refusal to reimburse the Formentera Council's 2011 spending on tourism promotions — and their refusal to reimburse spending over the four years that followed (2012-2015) — despite the Palma government's signing of an agreement to that effect. Now, after Formentera's rejection of the previous administration's proposal to fund a tourism promotion transfer on the grounds that it was too meagre, Councillor Ferrer is requesting a return to the negotiation table «in order to hammer out a plan that truly complies with the text of the Balearic statute of autonomy and represents the consensus of all the regional island councils, while at the same time covering our tourism promotion costs».

Court rules in favour of CiF, calls on Telefònica to pay damages

foto consell premsaThe legal offices of the Formentera Council have announced the administration will receive 6,000 euros in damages from the Telefònica company for a four-month delay in provision of services. On 30 September the second court of Palma dismissed an administrative appeal lodged in contentious court by Telefònica which took issue with a ruling of the Formentera Council’s government commission. As head of CiF legal services Àngel Navarro explained, the commission had ruled in favour of serving Telefònica – the company awarded the contract to provide the Council's telecom services – with two 3,000-euro fines for infractions classified molt greus (‘very serious’). The court found Telefònica had indeed failed to comply with the timeline established in the contract signed by the two parties.

The contract was made official on the first of September 2014, from which time Telefònica had two months – or until the beginning of November – to fully implement telecom services. Those services were ultimately not in place until six months after the contract’s signing. The court sentence states that failure caused the Council damages that were «evident and unquestionable damages». In the same ruling, Telefònica is ordered to bear the legal expenses – up to a màximum of 1,500 euros – occasioned by the process. According to the Council’s legal services, the ruling is binding and cannot be appealed.

Farmland reserve swells to more than 100 hectares

rp cens terresThe councillor of rural affairs, Bartomeu Escandell, explained today that after six months in operation, the Cens de Terres de Cultiu programme (roughly translated as 'farmland reserve') has acquired 105 hectares for cultivation this winter by the Formentera farmers' collective. Escandell thanked Formentera residents for participating by donating their unused land, which will now serve for the further beautification of the Formentera countryside and —quite literally— bear the fruits that will revive the primary sector of the local economy.

The councillor encouraged other owners of unused plots to cede them for tilling by the farmers' cooperative. He noted that donated plots typically remain in the cooperative's possession for a period of three to five years and that, in addition to being cost-free for the owners, the process results in material returns — «including money saved on maintenance costs, improvements to the land and discounts on products and services from the cooperative».

Developing the agricultural sector
Councillor Escandell emphasised the goal of the cooperative is to «provide local products for the farmers' market, streamline the revival of Formentera's primary sector and supply the service sector». In 2015, the Formentera Council put forward €95,000 to fund the start of activity at the cooperative. The group also required an investment of €590,000 — a third of the money came from the Leader programme and the rest were provided by the Formentera Council — to fund construction of the group's warehouse space, which Escandell announced would be ready before year end.

For his part, Carlos Marí, the cooperative's head manager, explained that 46 property owners have signed up for the reserve, with the 105 hectares of donated land coming from a total of 68 different plots. Mr Marí explained that the cooperative is currently getting the land ready for sowing operations in November and December. According to the group's head, plans are to sow mostly local flora, including barley and wheat. He confided: «The objective is to supply local stockbreeders with the feed they currently must buy from non-local sources», thus reaching self-sufficiency for the island's livestock animal feed.

Formentera fire brigade called into duty 27 times in 2015

RP bombers premsaPresidential cabinet councillor Bartomeu Escandell and chief of the fire brigade (els Bombers de Formentera) Iván Marí stood before members of the press today to report on the brigade’s work this year since January. As Escandell highlighted, the work of Formentera’s local firefighters deserves all the more merit this year because «despite the unusually dry weather, we were able to avert any major fires». The councillor also extended his thanks to the Ibanat (Institut Balear de la Natura), local civil protection services, the Guárdia Civil and the Formentera local police, as well as the island’s water transport companies for allowing the brigade to use their fleets at different times throughout the year.

Councillor Escandell reminded reporters of the Formentera Council’s collaboration on wildfire risk awareness campaigns devised to teach the «little steps that people can take – not throwing cigarette butts out the window – to prevent tragedies from happening in our region». The Council also takes part in other outreach campaigns, explained Escandell, like one last year that expounded the importance of creating barriers to stop flames from spreading around houses that border Formentera’s heavily-wooded areas.

A hectare of scorched land
For his part, brigade chief Marí reported that from the start of the year until 30 September his firefighters have been called into duty 102 times, five more than the same period last year. Of those incidents, 27 were fires. Seventeen of the fires were in areas of shrubbery or other vegetation – a common occurrence, he assured, during a year «made especially dangerous by the dry spell».

The brigade predicts this year nearly one hectare of land has been burned, with blazes in the majority of those incidents caused by still-lit cigarette ends. Marí called Formentera’s recent rains «a welcome change», but asserted: «We need to remain vigilant. The wildfire risk on the island is always there».

Special vigilance in Es Ram area
Among the firefighters’ different calls to duty this summer, especially harrowing was the trio of wildfires that swept through the same area of Es Ram in mid and late July. In consequence, the brigade coordinated regular passes through that part of the island throughout the summer, splitting the work between the Bombers, Protecció Civil (civil protection services) and Ibanat crews.

Els Bombers de Formentera comprise four staff members: two full-time, one part-time and a fourth who is on-call. They have a fleet of vehicles which consists of a pickup truck and two fire engines – as Councillor Escandell notes, «the Council opted for rapid-response – and not especially large – vehicles in its goal for effective fire control». He reminded the audience at the press conference that, barring any changes, the official high-risk period of the summer season will end 15 October. Pursuant to the municipal code, after that date controlled fires will once again be permitted.

Firefighters bring under control 150-sq.-metre blaze in Es Brolls

Incendi Es BrollsThe Formentera fire brigade classified as “under control” a wildfire that broke out next to a eight-metre-long motor home and its neighbouring patio. Before being put out, the flames had burned through a total of 150 square metres, nine of which were laden with Savina junipers.

Notice of the fire came at 10:54 in the evening from an off-shoot of the Es Brolls country road in Sant Ferran and by one in the morning firefighters declared the blaze under control. Brigade members, who declared the cause of the incident to be unknown, highlighted that no injuries were reported. At the scene of the emergency were three Formentera firefighters, members of the local police, civil protection forces, the Guárdia Civil and Ibanat.

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