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Nature Foundation Reports Massive Tilapia Fish Die Off in the Great Salt Pond

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Nature Foundation St. Maarten received reports of a massive fish die off in the channel between Great Salt Pond and Fresh Pond in Philipsburg. On Monday 25th of May, upon arrival at the location an estimated amount of 1000 Tilapia fish already died in the area and were floating in the channel at the Great Salt Pond. A decrease of oxygen levels in the pond water probably caused the massive fish die off. 

The Nature Foundation St. Maarten expects that the lack of oxygen in the water due to rising temperatures, absence of rainfall and an increase of salt concentrations caused the fish die off. In order to survive all fish, use their gills to extract oxygen from water helping them to breath. With a decrease in oxygen in the water, fish will struggle to survive and eventually die. Other factors that can affect the amount of oxygen in the water are lack of water movement, excess waste or certain chemical run-off into the pond. 

“The cause of death of the Tilapia fish may be a result of the dry weather and heat the island has been experiencing. The depth of the salt pond is 3 to 5 feet deep. Thus when the water level is low the heat penetrates, the saline level rises and the oxygen level decreases. Tilapia fish live mostly in murky fresh water ponds. Thus, as mentioned before when the oxygen level decrease and saline levels rise, the fish start migrating towards the Fresh Water Pond where more oxygen is available. The fishes only reach up until the floodgates located opposite the Illidge road roundabout. The floodgates are blocked off so that only a certain amount of fresh water from the fresh pond is let into Salt Pond daily via these gates, causing the fish to die at this location” explained Chief Ranger Etienne Lake. 

The Nature Foundation is also urging the community not to collect or consume the fish from this location. “The water quality is thought to be poor in the Great Salt Pond and it will be impossible to determine how long the fish has been dead. Consuming these Tilapia could affect your health. The incident has been reported to the involved government departments (VROMI), cleanups will be conducted as soon as possible as decomposing fish could cause serious smells and possibly affect the water quality and fish die off further” mentioned the Manager of the Nature Foundation Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern. The possibility of water quality testing is also being discussed and the Foundation will keep the public informed of any new information. 

A similar incident happened in the area in 2015 and 2013 when several tilapia die-offs occurred probably due to a theorized lack of oxygen in the water in the Great Salt Pond. The area of Great Salt Pond was used to produce salt for export off of St. Maarten in the past. The pond is also connected to the Rolondo Canal, which leads to Great Bay Harbor 

The combination of this incident and the rise of sargassum seaweed on the eastern beaches of St. Maarten are indicators that we have entered the summer season where higher temperatures and a lack of rainfall affect our environment. The Nature Foundation urges the community to stay vigilant in these times and ensure that they are not contributing to the waste water problem by allowing chemical or sewage run off to enter the natural waters of the island. Poor water quality dramatically affects the environment of St. Maarten. 

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NAGICO Insurances urges the population to be vigilant this Hurricane Season

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - NAGICO Insurances is encouraging the public to be vigilant this Hurricane Season and to implement precautionary measures as experts have warned that this year will be ‘an extremely active’ season, with at least eight hurricanes predicted and 17 named storms.

An average hurricane season usually has six hurricanes and 12 named storms. Research Scientist Phil Klotzbach, from the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University said, "In general, the consensus between seasonal hurricane forecasts this year is greater than it has been the past few years. The current Atlantic sea surface temperature setup is consistent with an active Atlantic hurricane season.”

The sea surface temperature is one of the ingredients that fuels hurricanes. The warmer the ocean, the more fuel available for the storms to tap into. “We are fully aware of the power of hurricanes and the devastation that can be caused by these severe weather systems. It is with this in mind that we would like to remind everyone of the value of preparation and the need to make sufficient time for it.”

“We are urging home and business owners to contact us if they want to check the status and revisit the adequacy of their policies, or if they require insurance or additional coverage for their assets. Remember, disasters do not prepare but you can.”

Hurricane season begins on June 1st and continues officially to November 30th. Covid-19 has already caused financial hardship, please do not take any chances. Be prepared. Follow NAGICO on Facebook and Instagram or visit us at www.nagico.com.

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8.2 MILLION GUILDERS PAID IN STIMULUS SUPPORT TO 352 COMPANIES

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Payments for the stimulus relief began on May 19th, thus far 352 companies have received support. SZV is contacting companies with missing documents and they ask that you expect their correspondence, they are allowing applicants to complete their applications.

All requests for COVID-19 Unemployment Support is being handled by the SMDF, they will have the applications for April and May reviewed and processed by June 5th. Eligible applicants would receive support in the amount of NAƒ 1150. Those that are unable to apply for COVID-19 Unemployment Support online, can apply at Social Services:

    • Mon-Friday 1-4 P.M.
    • Max 20 people a day.
    • Numbers will be distributed from 12:30 PM.
    • All persons must adhere to public health protocols, including social distancing.
    • Must have all documents on hand.

The application for Business Payroll Support has been extended to May 31st. The deadline for April payment for COVID-19 Unemployment and Income Support ended May 10th, 2020.

Existing businesses that have been affected by COVID-19 are also able to apply for bridge loans at Qredits.

Bridge loans have a grace period of six months and an interest rate of 2% for those six months. For all official information regarding the Sint Maarten Stimulus Support and Relief Program (SSRP), please visit the official website at www.ssrp.sx

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60 Recovered from COVID-19 and Only Two Active Cases

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Prime Minister and Chair of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Silveria Jacobs on Monday, May 25 gave an update to the general public as part of the process to keep the community of St. Maarten informed about the latest developments and the Government’s COVID-19 containment, mitigation and response measures.  

COVID-19 Update

Based on the latest available data provided by Collective Prevention Services (CPS) Epidemiologist Dr. Raissa Tjon-Kon-Fat, for today, May 25, 2020, as of 4:00 PM, there are 67 individuals in self-quarantine, and 4 individuals in self-isolation. To date, 444 persons have been tested, of which 77 were positive, 365 were negative, and one test is still pending.

Of the 77 positive cases, 60 have recovered. Notably, St. Maarten has had only one positive case in the last 27 days, and no new cases in the last 14 days. Furthermore, the Outbreak Management Team of the St. Maarten Medical Centre (SMMC) reports that there is one COVID-19 suspected patient currently admitted to SMMC’s Mobile Medical Pavilion. Presently, there are two active cases on St. Maarten. 

Additional Tests Arrive

As announced during Saturday’s EOC Press Conference, the additional tests have arrived on St. Maarten from The Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) in the Netherlands. Prime Minister Jacobs expressed her gratitude for the additional test to the RIVM.

Guidelines

Emergency Support Function 6 (ESF6), has reported that input on guidelines has been sent to Port St. Maarten, SXM Airport, and Maritime. ESF 10 has been developing an overview of all the guidelines, and inspections are being carried out by the Ministry of VSA. 

Several secondary school children in exam classes have resumed classes this week. Exam class students residing on the French side of the island were also able to cross the border to attend school. 

Prime Minister Jacobs stated, “I’d like to take the time out to congratulate centenarian Mrs. Floricia Brown-Baly on her milestone 100th birthday. St. Maarten has indeed come a long way from when we first got our first confirmed COVID-19 case.

“Although more challenges are approaching us, the lessons that we are learning as a country can only strengthen our administration, and empower us to be prepared continuously. I would also like to encourage the students who have to face exams in the coming months to focus on this along with your health and safety. On behalf of the Government St. Maarten, I wish you all the best and success as your return to school.” 

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Repeat offender arrested for Domestic Abuse

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - A typical domestic violence case begins when someone involved in a domestic dispute calls the police for assistance. On Monday morning the Sint Maarten Police Force (KPSM) were called to intervene in an escalated domestic situation, KPSM said in a statement on Monday evening.

Officers were directed to Dollison Drive where they were met by suspect R.A.R, who at the time, was attempting to cause bodily- harm to his former girlfriend. According to the information gathered, it was concluded that, although the suspect has a current restraining order against him, he was insistent on trying to contact the victim. When the victim refused to engage the suspect began to damage her property and threaten her life.

R.A.R was immediately arrested and remanded to the Philipsburg station where he is being held for further investigation.

The police are a key 24-hour agency for persons experiencing domestic violence. Being assaulted, sexually abused, threatened or harassed by someone you know or live with is just as much a crime as violence from a stranger, and is often more dangerous.

When the police have been called, our priority is the safety and well-being of you, and to protect everyone present from injury or further harm, the police said in its statement. The officer on scene’s role is to investigate or to arrest the suspect – not to mediate, counsel or allocate blame.

If you or someone you know needs immediate assistance in an abusive situation, please do not hesitate to contact the Sint Maarten Police Force at 911 or (721) 542- 2222. If you do not require immediate assistance but need help leaving a situation that is no longer conducive to you or those around you, please contact the Mental Health Foundation at (721) 542-1677 or Safe Haven at (721) 523-6400 as they can also provide other alternative options for assistance. (KPSM)

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Holland hasn’t subscribed to the 2019 bond prompting the Ministry of Finance to send Reminder Letter

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Country of Sint Maarten has made preparations in the past year to finance part of its capital expenditure by issuing a public bond for an amount of NAƒ 40 million. The Kingdom Act Financial Supervision Curacao and Sint Maarten (Kingdom Act) regulates the supervision of the public finances of the Country Sint Maarten and the Country Curacao.

As usual, prior advice was obtained from the Board of Financial Support (Cft). In its letter dated 2 September 2019, the Cft advised positively on this bond to cover capital expenditure. 

According to the Kingdom Act, Sint Maarten can finance its expenditure on the ‘kapitaaldienst’ by issuing a bond, once the relevant conditions are met. Sint Maarten sent their issuance of a bond to be subscribed to by The Netherlands in October 2019.

When all of the conditions are met, it is not a matter of The Netherlands agreeing or not but “subscribing”.  The Netherland’s Ministry of Finance has no discretionary or decisive role in the current subscription process, they are only obligated to subscribe. 

The issuing of the bond has been made public. Although the Cft has advised positively on the issuance of the bond, The Netherlands has not yet subscribed to this bond. It is clear that the actions of The Netherlands are not in accordance with the Kingdom Act and violate the agreements found in the Kingdom Act agrees upon by all Kingdom partners. 

St. Maarten’s Ministry of Finance has sent another letter reminding The Netherlands to subscribe.

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RVO & COCI Webinar on Export-Ready Opportunities A Great Success

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) and the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce & Industry (COCI) May 20 webinar about being export ready was a great success President of the Supervisory Board of COCI Benjamin Ortega said on Sunday.

More than 58 companies and persons from the business community registered for the online seminar.  There were also 30+ persons in attendance.

The registered businesses received a wealth of information on what export and being export ready entailed and what instruments have been designed to assist entrepreneurs.

The webinar also covered support in the form of coaching for companies. RVO explained in details the history of this service to the entire Dutch Kingdom and now in particular St. Maarten.

There are many opportunities that St. Maarten is not taking advantage of because the island has been mainly considering imports into the country as a way of income. After COVID-19, things have been put more into perspective, and it is becoming more and more apparent and clear that as a country St. Maarten is in need of diversification of its income.

St. Maarten is already considered a hub in the North Eastern Caribbean, and this puts the island in a better position to start looking within at its very own made in St. Maarten products, and to provide these to the world through export opportunities which means you need to be export ready.

COCI and RVO are asking those that have experience in exporting to other markets and countries, whether its products, services or goods, to become a coach for other entrepreneurs. If you are an export leader or have many years of experience in export, then you too can become a coach to assist other local companies to become export ready. 

Speaking during the webinar Nalia Muriel from SXM Cosmetics spoke about her experience in becoming export ready. This was considered an added value as those viewing could here first hand the experiences of a local entrepreneur on her challenges and successes in becoming an export ready business from a St. Maarten perspective. Muriel also gave helpful tips for banking and online payments as well.

During the webinar many detailed questions were posted regarding shipping too and from St. Maarten and online payment availability and possibilities.

President Ortega explained of ongoing deliberations with local financial institutions and the Central Bank of Curacao and St. Maarten, and within short more information will be made available.

These questions and many more matters relating to being export ready, shipping and online payments will be highlighted in the very near future.

If you wish to receive updates on future webinars organized by RVO and COCI relating to this topic and the other related matters, please send an email to confirm your request.

For more information on becoming export ready, send your question or inquiry to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The webinar slides and discussions can be followed by clicking on the following link:

2020-05-20 16.06 SXM Export Webinar.mp4

If you would like the slides of the May 20 webinar, please send COCI your request at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and it will be emailed to you.

The St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry Management and Board, would like to thank the entire RVO Team for putting this webinar together, and making the various instruments available to the St. Maarten business community. 

The Chamber would also like to express its gratitude to Nalia Muriel for sharing her  experiences as a local export leader on the island. 

The webinar was an opportunity for the Sint Maarten business community, RVO and COCI to provide information about the various instruments and programs that can benefit the country over the mid to long-term.

The webinar’s aim was to improve opportunities for entrepreneurs by strengthening their position and helping them realize their international ambitions by learning how to access funding, networking, know-how and compliance with laws and regulations.

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has made various instruments available to companies in Sint Maarten since January 1, 2018. 

The Netherlands Enterprise Agency is a Dutch government organization which operates under the auspices of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy that stimulates entrepreneurs in sustainable, agricultural, innovative and international business.  

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Council of Ministers dialogue on Dutch loan conditions with Unions

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Late Friday afternoon into evening, May 22, 2020, the Council of Ministers (COM) met with the unified unions of St. Maarten in order to clarify the proposal made by the Dutch Government and approved by the Kingdom Council on May 15, 2020, related to the much-publicized 12.5% personnel cost-cutting condition and other conditions within the Dutch COVID-19 support proposal which will negatively affect civil servants.

The unions represented workers in the private and public sectors namely, WITU, WICSU-PSU, ABVO-SXM, NAPB. The meeting was chaired by the CCSU. This as a result of union representatives seeking an audience earlier in the day with Prime Minister Jacobs, Finance Minister Irion, and Labour Minister Panneflek.

Prime Minister Jacobs provided an update on the events leading up to the proposal, while Minister Irion explained St. Maarten’s financial situation, exposing the need for the government to make budget cuts. The government had attempted to do such a few weeks before, however, it was clear from the response that the unions were vehemently against it. While this is definitely a last resort, and one not taken lightly by the government of St. Maarten, it was necessary to secure funding for our SSRP.

“The SSRP provides temporary financial support for three months including April, May, and June 2020, for the un- and underemployed due to COVID-19. The plan provides payroll support for businesses and support for entrepreneurs. The unemployed created and commenced this week out of government coffers. The harsh reality is that it would be unlikely to fulfill the obligations to the SSRP without taking the loan proposed by the Netherlands.” stated Minister Irion.

It was agreed after much deliberation that the government would provide the Unions with a written overview of the conditions as provided by the Dutch in writing over the weekend. Furthermore, Finance Minister Irion would prepare a revised proposal taking the current situation at hand, while Prime Minister Jacobs would ensure that the Unions would also be updated on the Pension Reform law and any other aspect of the loan proposal which had an impact on civil servants.

The government will continue to meet with all stakeholders in the coming days and weeks, including its employees, as well as government-owned companies, ZBOs and other subsidized entities to inform, dialogue and involve them in the planning moving forward as they strive to get financial assistance to the most vulnerable. “Government is seeking understanding and a sense of community from all the stakeholders mentioned to join forces with us to assist the most vulnerable in our society,“ stated Prime Minister Jacobs in an invited comment.

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SMMC staff extinguish small fire in bathroom

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - Due to the swift action of St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) staff, a small fire in a public restroom in the Obstetrics-Gynecology (OB/GYN) Department was quickly extinguished on Saturday morning.

On Saturday morning, an exhaust fan located in a public restroom at the OB/GYN department caught fire which caused smoke to develop in the immediate surroundings. The fire was quickly controlled through swift action taken by SMMC staff who used the fire extinguishers on site.

The Fire Department was called in who inspected the area and left after confirming that areas were secured and without threat of recurrence because the fire source was contained. A complete check of the electrical circuit was performed and declared safe by SMMC’s Head of Facilities.

The smoke development affected one patient who suffers from asthma and was treated with minor symptoms. The smoke also affected room 8 and 9 which were evacuated and remain unoccupied until cleaning is completed and will be fully inspected before they will be given the all clear.

On behalf of SMMC Board of Directors, Medical Director Dr. Felix Holiday stated: “We are grateful for the swift action taken by our staff members to extinguish the fire and that no staff or patients were hurt in the process. All necessary checks have been performed by both the Fire Department and our own Facilities Department to ensure no recurrence can take place”.

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Yogesh Commercial Complex donates food boxes to those in need

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) – Yogesh Commercial Complex (YCC) donated 50 food boxes to needful persons in the community, YCC said in a statement on Thursday.

Yogesh Commercial Complex, along with the K1 Britannia Foundation put together donation boxes filled with essential food items and distributed it among the most vulnerable in the community.

These names are based on requests from people who are in vulnerable situations or who may have lost their jobs. These people sometimes contact the government who refer them to K1 Britannia, or they send their request to the foundation directly. 

As this is a difficult time in need of solidarity, we must come together to continue these efforts to assist those in need. We can come together as one island and one people to climb out of this, the YCC statement further explained. 

Yogesh Commercial Complex thanks K1 Britannia foundation for their assistance without whom this wouldn't have been possible and hope to inspire more of the community to come forward and help wherever possible the most vulnerable who currently needs our help.

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