Help Help Help for the Residents of Playa Las Lajas

I just received this email and would like to ask the assistance of anyone that can provide contact information for Ruben Blades or other assistance for the residents of Playa Las Lajas because of the recent problems with the river San Felix.

It is sad that the officials of this area have such little concern for those people that are in trouble and are basically turning away after promising help.

This should raise huge flags to all people (Panamanian and foreigners) that are investing life savings in Panama and it appears that Panama is doing nothing to help in this time of need.

Linda’s email follows.

Hi Don Ray,

I was wondering if you or any of your readers might know of a direct method of contacting Sr. Ruben Blades, the Minister of Tourism for Panama. A group of very concerned property owners (both Panamanian and foreigner) from Playa Las Lajas, Distrito de San Felix urgently need to contact him regarding the current situation regarding the rio San Felix.

In recent weeks, a sandbar has formed at the mouth of the San Felix River, diverting the flow of the river back inland. The new river course has taken 1 house, 8 lots and is literally at the doorstep of another 2 houses. If the river continues on this new course, it will within in a matter of 2-3 weeks destroy properties & homes of more than 25 Panamanian families, Playa Las Lajas’ fledgling tourist industry as well as considerable foreign investment.

This has been declared an emergency situation by the Autoridad Maritima, MOP (Ministerio de Obras Publicas), SINEPROC and the Governor’s office. However, our efforts to obtain government funding and equipment has come up against a brick wall – his name is Ing. Luis Lombardo, the Provincial Director of MOP. On Friday July 28th, Governor Virgilio Vergara ordered MOP to provide emergency funds to bring in heavy equipment, but we were advised by Ing. Lombardo on Monday, July 31st that MOP will be providing absolutely nothing.

In the meantime, our group has raised funds among ourselves and has hired contractors to build a retaining wall as well as attempt to re-open the original river channel. The wall is holding, but we are unsure if our efforts to re-open the channel will be successful. We are running out of funds, but more importantly, we are running out of TIME!

If you or your readers have any suggestions on whom to contact and how, we’d be happy to hear from them.

Thanks, Linda & Stan

PS – The media has been contacted and there have been newspaper & television reports almost every day for a week.

13 thoughts on “Help Help Help for the Residents of Playa Las Lajas

  1. Hi Don Ray – we have some friends with property in Las Lajas and if you don’t mind I am going to forward this to them as they are in Florida……..Sharon

  2. Thank you Don for posting the message and to Pat for providing a contact for Sr. Blades and your good wishes. Will let you know if address still applies.

    Have just returned from the beach, so will update further a bit later.

    Thanks to you all!
    Linda & Stan

  3. Not sure it could be of help but I sent this post to Lucy Molinar, she has a morning radio show and maybe she would be able to help you by discussing the issue in her programme.

  4. I am familiar with this situation and would like to ask these people some questions about this problem.

    I am familiar with this situation and would like to ask these people some questions about this problem.

    Where is your permitting? With the proper permitting the engineers conducting the assessment would have told you about the problems that you will be facing in a river delta area.

    Where is your environmental assessment? Once again this ties hand in hand with the permitting. Without the environmental assessment addressing the area of the river delta there could be no permitting.

    Where are your studies? The studies are needed to justify what and how you plan to control the area with collected data. This is done to get the approval of the environmental assessment which in turn allows you to get the proper permitting.

    From the photos why did you not respect the 22 meters from high tide mark? You can not build any permanent structure within the 22 meters from the high tide mark.

    Why was part of the area filled with material to re-direct the river to make more property without approval? This was a big mistake. Where is the permitting to change the flow of the river because of the fill material?

    Sand bars happen in a river mouth by the beach. Why was there not any type of pre-planning involved to address this problem? Once again those studies come do come in handy.

    The main reason why you are not getting help is because it was done illegally and without permitting.

    So before you start putting those red flags in the air start asking the question that needs to be asked, where is your permitting?

    There is a reason there are codes, rules, and regulations here in Panama and they are to address situation like this. However, too many Foreigners think they can just come down here and do whatever they want.

    The bottom line is that this area is not following code. There was no permitting. You people just did what you wanted to do without any pre-planning of thinking of the consequences.

  5. Mr. DJ,

    I will leave the response to the questions you pose to those effected. However, after reading your comment and questions, I have a couple of observations.

    First you choose an email address of and therefore use DJ as your signed name. I would have taken you more seriously, if you had signed your real name and email address. The fact that you did not, makes me wonder about your motivation in choosing to comment. Further, your choice of using Davey Jones is in extremely poor taste as well as misspelled.

    Second your final statement says, “The bottom line is that this area is not following code. There was no permitting. You people just did what you wanted to do without any pre-planning of thinking of the consequences.”

    I may prove to be wrong. However, the people I have seen in almost 4 years of time in Panama that are the most concerned that all “I”s are dotted and “T”s are crossed happen to be the individual foreigners that have chosen to move to Panama for their home. I am curious how you are so certain that in this case, the correct procedures were not followed.

    Third, your comment shows an extreme level of hostility. Why is this? Anyway you look at it there are many affected people in the area that are suffering, the majority of which are Panamanian. I believe that there has been development in that area for well over a year. In my experience in the US, if a development were going on that amount of time and was not following code, it would have been shut down long long ago. If it turns out that you are correct and codes were not followed, then I would pose the question of why did the proper agency in Panama not act early in the process.

    You have raised some interesting questions and for that I thank you, I know those that are affected by this unfortunate situation are extremely busy, but I am sure they will respond when they see your comment. I have forwarded it to their attention.

  6. Don Ray,
    Thanks for alerting us to the comment received from DJ, the “unknown” correspondent. We’d like to respond if we might:

    Hey DJ,
    Thank you for your comments and questions. You indicated that you were familiar with this situation, but the scope of your knowledge and nature of your question leads us to believe that you are officially connected to the problems at Playa Las Lajas – do you work for MOP or ANAM?

    You state with some authority that the main reason we are not getting help is because “it” – we assume “it” is the privately contracted retaining wall, channel excavation and sandbagging – was done with permits. Due to the inaction of municipal, provincial and state ministries and agencies in a situation that required IMMEDIATE attention, someone had to do something to save the futures, lives and homes of the people of Playa Las Lajas, as well as preserve this part of the beach itself. We did. Although we may not have had a study, or an assessment or a permit, we certainly did have written acknowledgement of our intentions from MOP as well as their authorization.

    You ask why there was no pre-planning involved to address a problem such as this. That is an excellent question! Why doesn’t MOP or ANAM or both have a contingency plan in place? Why doesn’t MOP have the heavy equipment necessary to address problems such as this? Why doesn’t MOP have access to emergency funding to address problems such as this? Your questions – and mine – need to be addressed to the Government of Panama, not to the property owners of Playa Las Lajas.

    You speak of “our” lack of respect for the 22 meter issue, as well as the whole area “not following code”. Are you speaking about all of the property owners at Playa Las Lajas or just the foreigners? Speaking for ourselves, we have respected each and every code, rule and regulation that has been presented to us and we have in hand every permit required. As Don Ray pointed out, our project would certainly have been shutdown long ago had we flouted the rules – our project has been very heavily scrutinized by authorities since the day we broke ground. As for our neighbours, you’ll just have to check them out yourself.

    DJ, we don’t know what you’d hoped to gain from your fishing expedition. Between us, I believe we have responded in a respectful manner to your questions and comments, in spite of your hostility. Perhaps you could reciprocate by letting us know who you are.

    As always, thanks to Don Ray for your support.

    Linda & Stan

  7. Mother Ocean is not going to be stopped with or without the help of the Govt. offices. She takes what she want. We have house there. Thank god we thought about how nature can be so ugly in such a beautiful area. Every time we visit it’s all brand new. Between the river and the ocean……. humans are no match. Good luck and god speed. lee walker

  8. The issue was never the ocean. It was the diversion of the river which could have had and has had help, but not from the govt.

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