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Bi-lateral talks with Bahamas to resume, UK gives green light to high-level TCI delegation

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#Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands – Thursday July 26, 2018 – A serious bi-lateral discussion between the Turks and Caicos and The Bahamas is on the horizon according to Premier, Hon Sharlene Robinson who today told media that the Governor has approved an official visit.

“On the matter of illegal migration, discussions with The Bahamas; the Governor this past week has issued the diplomatic note that would allow the high level TCI delegation to travel to The Bahamas to further this dialogue.  Persons would recall that The Bahamas had agreed to assist with the patrolling of our waters and a letter of entrustment was requested by myself and the UK Minister who has graciously agreed to allow for the exploratory talks.”

The idea of a stronger alliance between the Turks and Caicos and The Bahamas has been touted for years, including by the former Rufus Ewing Administration.

On Thursday, notes from the most recent Turks and Caicos Cabinet meeting reflected that the conversation is imminent between the two countries which share borders, waters, geography, history, family relations and more woefully, troubles brought by illegal fishing and illegal migration.

From the Cabinet report of July 25, 2018:  “The Hon. Premier reported that the TCI Government would commence talks soon with the Government of the Bahamas on possible co-operation to tackle the problem of illegal sloops from Haiti. The Hon. Premier also reported that she had received the report of the UK Border Force delegation who had been in TCI recently to carry out an assessment of TCI’s needs to combat illegal migration. The recommendations in the report were currently under consideration but were broadly in line with existing TCIG’s thinking and several were already being implemented.”

Peter Beckingham, former Governor TCI

In 2014, former governor Peter Beckingham travelled to The Bahamas where he met with the former Deputy Prime Minister, Philip Davis – acting Foreign Affairs Minister at the time.

The two leaders explained to media in July 2014 that policies were being formed to curb the issues with illegal migration from Haiti.

Philip Davis, former Deputy Prime Minister Bahamas

Mr. Beckingham, on behalf of the Turks and Caicos Islands, shared that:  “We have put in a number of measures to try and get a tighter grip on the problem of illegal migration,” he said. “It is costing human lives and it is costing our government money. So for those reasons and others we want to do more about it.  I can’t help feeling that if we can match up those two areas rather more there is an area for development. We believe that by meeting jointly with the government of Haiti there may be areas where we can exert some persuasion to encourage them to do more about the problem that they face and we face jointly. By showing that we are united in this enterprise and in this discussion we will underline the seriousness of this problem and the hope that we can do something about it.”

Soon the meeting of two nations became a tri-lateral caucus when it welcomed Haiti to the table.  The session was expected to stem the flow of illegal boats loaded with migrants fleeing Haiti.

Whatever ideas were discussed have never been publicized or implemented.  The meeting seems to have been a dud and the inundation of Haitians illegally to both the Turks and Caicos and The Bahamas in subsequent years has not waned.

During his Budget presentation in July 2018, Deputy Premier and Border Control Minister, Sean Astwood announced that illegal migration activity surged by nearly 300% in the past fiscal period for the Turks and Caicos Islands.

L-R: Jovenel Moise, Haitian President; Darren Henfield, Bahamas Foreign Affairs Minister and Hubert Minnis, Bahamas Prime Minister

“Mr. Speaker, the battles we faced as a ministry, as a government and as a country, in my mind, were unprecedented.  As a people, we endured the wrath of two major hurricanes and untold damages and displacements, and it appeared that our borders came under relentless attacks from the start of 2017.A total of 22 sloops and 1,335 persons were repatriated throughout the year. Mr. Speaker, this represents a 160% increase in sloops arrivals and a 270% increase in repatriations over the same period for 2016.Mr. Speaker, this was truly unprecedented.”

No date was given by Premier Robinson for the high-level, bi-lateral meeting in The Bahamas.

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Demolition coming as South Base to Undergo Testing for Asbestos

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Turks and Caicos, July 18th, 2024 – The Turks and Caicos Islands Government would like to advise the public of Grand Turk, that a consulting firm has been contracted to carry out testing of the buildings on the South Base Compound for the presence of asbestos.  A week of testing began Wednesday, July 10. This is to ensure compliance with health and safety regulations and to protect workers, residents, and the public from possible asbestos exposure risks once comprehensive works on the base commence.

This is the initial consultation necessary to determine the methodology for the demolition and disposal of derelict buildings in the assessed area.  It is believed that low-risk micro-fibres are present in some of the buildings, owing to the period of construction and the types of materials used during that era.  Testing will confirm whether asbestos is present and if so, at what levels.

As a precautionary measure, signs have been erected to advise the public to avoid entering any of the dilapidated structures; as building materials containing asbestos, if disturbed, can release tiny asbestos fibres into the air.  Currently only the consultants are authorised to traverse the buildings until further notice.

Residents of Grand Turk have for years demanded that Governments address the unsightly area. The requests were mainly in relation to the aesthetics of the buildings. However, the interventions were deferred at various times for varying reasons.

The South Base is a huge compound, by island standards, with an area containing over twenty-one (21) building sites. It was formerly used as a United States Government base, and then as administrative offices by the Turks and Caicos Islands Government. Some of the structures were renovated and are in acceptable condition, whilst others were destroyed over the years by hurricanes and normal wear and tear. 

The South Base, which has mostly been left as a decrepit and ghostly development of obsolete structures is finally being remedied. The area, which is a main thoroughfare for tourism and commerce when cleaned up, will provide space for numerous governmental and civilian uses.

Residents of Grand Turk sharing the optimism of a prospective demolition should adhere to this notification and any precautionary warnings erected for their health, safety, and well-being.

Subsequent phases of the works will be published via a public tendering.

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FortisTCI makes a case for Rate Increase in Media Meeting

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Ruth Gardiner Forbes, President and Chief Executive Officer of FortisTCI

Garfield Ekon

Staff Writer

 

Turks and Caicos, July 17, 2024 – President and Chief Executive Officer of FortisTCI, Ruth Gardiner Forbes says it is very necessary for the company to be granted the 6% increase that it has requested, because it has absorbed many costs in previous years.

Devon Cox FortisTCI

The company is the main electricity provided in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), and the CEO shared that the rate adjustment will aid FortisTCI in meeting the demands of an expanding economy, and growing costs to operate.

If granted, the proposed 6% increase in electricity rate, would mean that an additional $2 to $15 per month for the majority of residential customers, explained Forbes.

While addressing a recent media event, the CEO stressed that “this rate increase is necessary, and we have had to make a lot of investments to keep up with the growth,” she said.

Adding that several factors contribute to the need for increased rates, including cybersecurity risks, wildfire risks, supply chain challenges, and evolving regulatory requirements, she said “this is one of the most difficult things that we have to do, is go to our customers and ask for an increase every year.”

She said the existing circumstances have forced the company to seek the proposed adjustment, and that the rate increase is necessary, as “we have to make the application because amidst all this growth, we have had to make a lot of investments to keep up with the growth,” she told the forum.

The CEO reasoned that given the importance of retaining reliable service, it is not plausible for the TCI to have a headline that says “we are experiencing blackouts,” and the company does not receive a guaranteed 17.5% return, although the rate is allowable by contract, the average return on rate base for the past five years was 3.9%, with the highest being 5.1%.

FortisTCI Execs

The company’s Director of Energy Production, Alvejes Desir, gave details of the impact of the depth of the water at the port on fuel supply costs, adding that limited depth restricts the size of ships that can deliver fuel, leading to increased transportation costs.

He said FortisTCI has made significant investments in renewable energy sources, aligning with the Resilient National Energy Transition Strategy (R-NETS) approved by the Turks and Caicos Islands Government.

The company recently installed a new dual-fuel generating unit capable of using natural gas, a lower-carbon energy source, and is awaiting the Governor’s appointment of an independent inquirer to review the reasonableness of its proposal for a rate hike.

It has also requested the appointment of an independent inquirer to review the reasonableness of its application, a process that was also followed in a previous rate dispute in 2017.

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“Airside Walkway Canopy at Howard Hamilton International Airport Progressing Smoothly”  

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Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands –The Turks and Caicos Islands Airports Authority (TCIAA) is pleased to provide an update on the construction of the Airside Walkway Canopy at Howard Hamilton International Airport. This project, which commenced on May 15, 2024, is led by Facilities Manager Kirkley Williams, and involves a dedicated team of 10 skilled workers.

The construction of the Airside Walkway Canopy is progressing smoothly and is on schedule for completion by August 13, 2024. The organization is highly satisfied with both the progress and the quality of work being done.

Key Features of the Walkway Canopy Include:

  • Isolated concrete columns and beams
  • Interior block and concrete walls
  • Timber roof structure covered with plywood, peel and seal membrane, and metal standing seam

The primary objective of the Airside Walkway Canopy project is to facilitate quicker aircraft turnaround times, significantly enhancing operational efficiency at the airport. Additionally, the new walkway will provide a more comfortable environment for passengers, improving their overall airport experience.

Despite the challenges faced during construction, such as working during ongoing airport operations and night shifts, the team has successfully managed to maintain progress without compromising safety or quality.

“We are committed to creating a more efficient and comfortable airport experience for our passengers,” said Facilities Manager, Kirkley Williams. “The Airside Walkway Canopy reflects our mission to enhancing our facilities and services.”

The project also incorporates sustainable and eco-friendly features, aligning with TCIAA’s commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainability.

The TCIAA looks forward to the completion of the Airside Walkway Canopy and the positive impact it will have on both passengers and airport operations.

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