The disarticulation in planning and execution revealed in the initiative for Ceiba to become the transfer point to Vieques and Culebra has to move Puerto Rican authorities to firmly commit to end improvisation and lack of rigor in public management.
Unfortunately, using the Ceiba terminal as a route to the island municipalities, without the required permits, reflects the government's habit of precipitating works even though the necessary conditions for its proper use have not been established. This situation demonstrates the importance of following the due process of law.
The victims of poor execution are the people who are supposed to be served and, in this particular case, also the economic activity as result of tourism. Faults surrounding operations of the Ceiba terminal –currently supposed to be the connexion with Culebra and Vieques- should be, without a doubt, corrected.
But experience must also serve as a laboratory to identify and transform the government inefficiency that complicates problems rather than solving them. For reconstruction, public authorities must test guiding principles to successfully and sustainably achieve the island´s development.
Five months after opening the facilities, they raise questions that must transparently be addressed without delay. The U.S .Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has revealed that the terminal does not comply with the Clean Water Act, a breach the government would have been warned before the opening.
Failure to comply with federal regulations brings risks of fines, civil and criminal lawsuits, and even possible loss of federal funds. Puerto Rico has the duty to avoid such risks. Failure to comply with environmental laws and regulations also has a potential impact on marine flora and fauna.
Amid these questions, the government has also failed to demonstrate that it has the necessary state permits for the construction and use of the structure.
This is just the latest point in a series of circumstances that points to the lack of an orderly transition of critical facilities. The Ceiba terminal is the hub to provide basic services to the residents of Vieques and Culebra. It is also a point of contact and, therefore, the letter of introduction for tourists.
Although the short route from Ceiba has been a consistent claim by neighbors from these island municipalities, since its transfer to that municipality, there was a lack of communication and effective coordination to consider the social and economic dynamics based in the port of Fajardo.
In Ceiba, facilities remain incomplete, without a waiting room, and with portable toilets and not completely paved, that is, potentially unsafe areas for the public. EPA inspections reveal that soil is exposed to rain, with no stabilization or controls to establish perimeters or manage erosion or sediments. Construction debris is exposed, without measures to prevent pollution and discharges into the sea.
Puerto Rico has to overcome these problems in infrastructure and in the government culture.
More than $400 million from federal reconstruction funds were allocated to planning processes, which are the first step in the development of beneficial and long-lasting projects. The experience in Ceiba should enable us, through rigorous planning and compliance with processes, to model the best practices that integrate social and environmental ecosystems in the construction of works and development generation.
This experience should serve for Puerto Rico to demonstrate its capacity and credibility to efficiently and transparently handle millions in federal reconstruction funds for projects that are necessary to boost the Puerto Rican economy.