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In 2017 promoting tourism will become responsibility of island councils

foto roda de premsa conferencia presidentsThis morning, Balearic Islands president Francina Armengol chaired a meeting of the island council presidents —dubbed la Conferència de Presidents (“the Presidents' Conference”)— which was held on Formentera. Besides Armengol, the conference was attended by Gabriel Barceló, the Govern's vice president and minister of innovation, research and tourism, and the presidents of the island councils: Jaume Ferrer, of Formentera, Miquel Ensenyat, of Mallorca, Maite Salord, of Menorca and Vicente Torres of Eivissa. The gathering took place at 10.30am in the plenary hall of the Formentera Council (CiF). Other Govern Balear officials in attendance included Pilar Costa, the minister of the president's office in Palma, and Josep Enric Claverol, head of administrative relations.

Afterward President Armengol spoke about one of the agreements made during the morning talks — “over the course of 2017 authority on issues affecting tourism promotion will be transferred to the island councils”. Speaking about the change, CiF president Ferrer said “the sooner the better”, while still insisting that the transfer of authority should be accompanied by “the greatest amount of funding possible”. Ferrer also expressed his hope that the mistakes made during the last legislative session —which ultimately meant an earlier attempt at a similar overhaul was rejected by every council but Eivissa's— not be repeated.

Armengol clarified her stance that “with regard to island residents, the money that comes to the Balearics from the central government is wholly insufficient” and said that the regional government had yet to receive information about the spending cap or the deficit. Armengol said a budget would be drawn up supposing a 0.5% deficit and pledged to continue funding “priority areas like healthcare, education and social services”. As well, she vowed to “try to improve funding received by the island councils in 2017”. In the words of President Ferrer, “knowing what the regional budgets are going to look like is extremely important to drafting each individual island's budget”. He also called the Govern president's announcement a good thing, saying it would allow the island councils to increase their own spending in turn.

The Presidents' Conference is convened on a rotational basis on each of the islands. Today's was the third of this legislative sitting and the first this term to be held in Formentera.

Formentera salutes local police force

foto diada policia localEarlier today, Formentera's local law enforcement paid tribute to its patron saint, the guardian angel. At 12 noon, the entire police force attended mass at the Sant Francesc church. CiF president Jaume Ferrer, Bartomeu Escandell, the councillor to the president's office, as well as other local figures like Formentera's parliamentary representative in Palma, Sílvia Tur, and representatives of emergency response services like the Guardia Civil and civil protection services, were all present at the ceremony.

Near 1.00pm hors-d'oeuvres were served at Hotel Es Marès to show appreciation for the work of the local police. President Ferrer highlighted the force's hard work ethic in what he called “an especially difficult year”, referring to the Govern Balear's blocking of new recruits. “Our forces of law and order have made every effort to maintain safety and tranquility on the island”, he said.

Councillor Escandell, who is also head of Formentera's local police, spoke about the creation of a patrol crew by the CiF. Escandell said the Council's additional patrol staff “helped complement the work that until now had been left entirely to the police”. Thanks to the police and the inspection service, he added, a change has occurred in the types of tourists that visit Formentera, which Escandell said displayed “increasingly respectful behaviour”.

Formentera pushes for additional control of pine processionary

foto ple setembre 2016In plenary session today members of the Formentera Council voted unanimously to instate new measures to ensure enhanced control of the processionary pine caterpillar on Formentera. The move, explained CiF environment councillor Daisee Aguilera, would entail urging the Govern's environment ministry to push ahead in its current use of pheromone traps to curb Formentera's processionary pine numbers.

Aguilera said that the spike in captures of butterflies was behind the Council's call. Focusing on the hardest hit areas of the island, the administration hopes the Govern will push ahead with a phytosanitary treatment which includes use of an all-terrain vehicle in 2016 to distribute the biological agent Bacillus thuringiensis. Crews will also continue destroying processionary nests by hand and gunfire.

Finally, the CiF councillor asked the Govern for swift action in the process of issuing permits for aerial spraying of the Bacillus thuringiensis bio-agent. The decision has been backed by the environmental arm of the island's league of local association reps, Consell d'Entitats. As Aguilera noted, “this particular agent is biological and doesn't affect flora and fauna, unlike the chemical agent —diflubenzuron— that the previous administration of the Govern intended to use in 2014. Diflubenzuron did have effects on plant and animal life, which is why it was opposed by Formentera as a whole”. The councillor heralded the productive kinship that exists between the current Balearic and Formentera administrations in tackling the pest.

The Formentera Council has taken another step toward protecting the Mediterranean Sea from oil prospections, requesting the processing of a document on exploratory drilling ("Sondejos exploratoris des de la plataforma Casablanca: Rodaballo promogut per REPSOL"). Members of the plenary recognised and thanked Aliança Mar Blava for the group's tireless work.

Additionally, attendees of the plenary adopted a joint motion presented by the PSOE and GxF. The motion received support from the entire house with the exception of the PP, and was aimed at backing a campaign for women's right to safe abortions.

Statement before the plenary
The Council's infrastructure, transport and IT councillor, Rafael González, appeared before plenary members to discuss his offices' work until today and projects on the horizon this legislative session. The councillor delineated the goal he said will underpin initiatives in all three areas: “To make Formentera more sustainable and ensure a high quality of life for residents”.

In the area of transport, González invoked the island's recently debuted network of nature trails —dubbed the Rutes Verdes— which provide walkers and cyclists a means to easily and safely move about the island whilst enjoying the natural surroundings. He also spoke about the ongoing task of promoting electric vehicles on Formentera.

As for infrastructure projects, the councillor underscored the completion of the public works project along the es Pujols street carrer Aigua Dolça as well as the start of urbanising works on the road which leads to the Formentera Farmers' Co-operative and the household waste drop-off centre, la Deixalleria. Moreover, he pointed to the upcoming transformation of es Pujols' town centre and waterfront promenade, a new pump for the town and a bid to pedestrianise the northern stretch of carrer Fonoll Marí.

The councillor also spoke about the importance of listening to and complying with the voice of the people. Hence, he announced his offices would set aside €250,000 for what he called “participative budgets” during the current legislative session.

Lastly, González promised the Office of New Technologies would also work to “make things easier for residents by making it possible to do more administrative formalities online” and “facilitate access to online information about the Council and activities in leisure and tourism”.

Govern pledges to lead reforesting charge in wake of Espalmador blaze

foto visita zona afectada espalmadorThree representatives of the Formentera Council (CiF), president Jaume Ferrer, president's office chair Bartomeu Escandell and environment councillor Daisee Aguilera, took a trip this morning with Govern Balear minister of environment Vicenç Vidal Matas to the area of Espalmador damaged by fire on August 13.

The reforestation plan, explained the Palma minister, will first entail cordoning off the affected area for safety reasons and to prevent visits to the site. Second, the plan envisions pruning and shredding of the burnt vegetation before ultimately reseeding with juniper seeds. Finally, Vidal invoked an outreach campaign to stem future negligent acts like the one that caused the recent blaze.

For his part, the Council president thanked the environment minister for his visit, which followed an earlier request made by CiF plenary members in view of “the need to return the site to its natural state”. President Ferrer asked that the planned work begin as soon as possible.

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