Seven private-sector organizations representing most sectors of Puerto Rico’s economy have banded together to educate on the importance of hurricane preparedness, just a few days before the start of this year’s storm season.
The goal is to inform the public on the steps they should take to be ready to face an emergency or an atmospheric catastrophe.
The agreement addresses the need to have emergency management and business continuity plans in place, consumer educational on the importance of having a family emergency plan, the proper way to respond to an emergency, guide municipalities to prepare their town’s retail businesses so they have high levels of inventory available.
During a news conference, representatives from the trade groups as well as the Puerto Rico Association of Emergency Managers and Security Professionals (AMEPS for its initials in Spanish,) also continued to lobby for the elimination of the so-called “inventory tax,” which they claim hinders their ability to keep higher quantities of goods in stock locally.
Nazario Lugo, president of AMEPS and past director of the State Emergency and Disaster Management Agency, said, “not learning from past experiences and emergencies is increasing the risks of a national security crisis on the island, For that reason, we’re focused on educating the public and the government and urging them to take proactive and preventive action in a coordinated and accurate manner.”
“The issue of eliminating the inventory tax is critical to be prepared for another emergency, since it not only impacts food and water, but all supplies that agencies, municipalities and first responders should have stored,” he said.
The agreement was signed by the Puerto Rico Retail Trade Association, the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce, the Puerto Rico Products Association, the Puerto Rico Builders Association, the Association of Construction Materials Merchants, the Chamber of Marketing, Industry and Food Distribution (MIDA) and the Puerto Rico Auto Dealers Association.
Iván Báez, president of the Puerto Rico Retail Trade Association, stressed the importance of creating this “common front of knowledgeable voices” in emergency and industry management.
“Our wish is that our island does not face an emergency like [Hurricane] María without adequate preparation,” he said.
“A fundamental aspect is that businesses and industries can be supplied with everything necessary, so that if a difficult situation occurs, we can meet everyone’s needs, while making our points-of-sale channels for citizen education. Our call again to the government is to eliminate this nefarious tax once and for all,” said Báez.
Meanwhile, Chamber of Commerce President Kenneth Rivera said, “It is unbelievable that two years after the hurricanes, this tax has not been eliminated. This imposition has gone from being a bad tax to being an obstacle to the security of the people.”
During the news conference, representatives from the association warned about the need to maintain enough inventories of essential goods to meet islandwide demand. Citing official statistics, the speakers said Puerto Rico has inventory for less than 20 days.
In addition, according to a study by Professional Market Research, out-of-stock levels on store shelves remain at more than 20%, when it should be 8% or less.
So the groups vowed to continue to work for the elimination of the tax on inventories, recognizing that the geographical nature of the island requires a fiscal framework that does not punish having and stocking up on supplies to face any natural disaster or catastrophic emergency.
AMEPS leader Nazario said the organization will contribute its expertise so that stores and industries complete their emergency management plans in time for this upcoming hurricane season that runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.