Obama Seeks Additional $1oo Million for Pacific Insular Territories
US President Barrack Obama has asked Congress for 100 million dollars more than the current allocation for the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau, Guam, US Virgin Islands, American Samoa and the CNMI. If approved, this would mean a total of 575 million dollars will be pumped into US Territories and Freely Associated States in 2013. The request in the Obama budget is from the Office of the Insular Affairs, which looks after US-affiliated insular communities
Appropriations for 2013 include 238.9 million dollars in payments to the Freely Associated States including: 68 million for the Marshall Islands, 106.9 million for FSM, 34 million for Palau, and 30 million for Compact Impact. The legislative proposal, transmitted to Congress on January 14, 2011, is expected to be enacted prior to the implementation of the 2013 budget; therefore, OIA is not requesting current appropriations for Palau’s compact assistance in 2013.
Bill to Eliminate Fuel Import Tax
Senators Camsek Chin and Regis Akitaya introduced a bill to eliminate fuel import tax last week. The purpose of the bill is to ensure the electricity rates would not increase and avoid an additional burden on residents. The bill acknowledged the effects that the inflated gas prices had on people, mainly those who fished or went to the taro patch and could no longer afford to fuel their boats or trucks. A bill was also introduced in the house of delegates that would temporarily reduce tax burden on gasoline wholesalers and retailers to help lower costs to customers. The senate bill has been referred to the committee on ways and means and financial matters for review.
Council of Chiefs Commits to Eliminate Tobacco in Palau
On March 14th the Council of Chiefs declared tobacco and tobacco products as illegal drugs. The declaration calls upon all parents and the general public to join all forces, efforts, campaigns, activities and programs against tobacco and appeals to the business community to look for alternative merchandise to replace tobacco as a source of revenue. The declaration also appeals to the president and government of Palau to impose a moratorium on the issuance of business licenses to sell tobacco and tobacco products.
Prohibited Marine Use Advisory Ngerubesang area Melekeok
The Palau Environmental Quality Protection Board would like to inform the residents of Melekeok State that there is a Marine Use Advisory in effect for the State of Melekeok. Water Quality Tests conducted in Melekeok’s surrounding marine waters near the Sewer Treatment Plant in Ngerubesang, on March 06, 2012, showed high levels of enteroccocci. Therefore, the Palau EQPB has issued a Prohibited Marine Use advisory for marine waters within 1000ft from the Melekeok Sewer Plant until further notice. Residents are advised not to swim, fish or collect any marine organisms in this area. Swimming or consuming organisms in this area can cause water borne illnesses. The Palau EQPB humbly asks the residents of Melekeok State for their understanding and patience as ongoing efforts are being implemented to resolve this problem. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to call the Palau EQPB Office at 488-1639/3600 for more information.
2 Year Anniversary of No Special Prosecutor
March 11, 2012 marks two years since the departure of Palau’s last Special Prosecutor, Michael Copeland. Since that time, President Toribiong submitted one name for nomination to fill the Special Prosecutor post, but the Senate rejected his nomination. No other name has ever been submitted by the President for consideration and according to the President’s recent letter to the Senate President he will not submit another nominee and subject them to similar scrutiny and possible rejection. So Palau’s Special Prosecutor position remains vacant. Many of the investigations and cases that were being handled by the former Special Prosecutor’s Office have not moved forward and the files are said to have been transferred to the Attorney General’s Office and are currently being reviewed by a new Assistant Attorney General.
Micronesian Chiefs Executives Summit in Guam
The 17th Micronesian Chief Executives’ Summit came to close on Thursday afternoon with the adoption of nine resolutions that set the framework for regional collaboration. The leaders also signed the 17th Micronesian Chief Executives’ Summit communiqué and resolutions that evening during a state dinner hosted by Governor Calvo and First Lady Christine M.S. Calvo at Governor House. Here’s a video clip on the summit from the Pacific News Center.
House Questions $4 Million from ADB Loaned to buy “Used” Cable
The House of Traditional Leaders were first to express concern about shifting Asian Development Bank loan funds, which were intended for water and sewer improvements, to purchase a fiber optic cable. Nonetheless, the President has sought the approval of the OEK to use $4 million dollars from the ADB funds as a loan to PNCC for a fiber optic cable. The House of Delegates, however, has now expressed their reservations as well. The resolution for authorization is on hold due to questions about the purchase of a “used” rather than a new fiber optic cable. The House of Delegates has deferred action on the resolution until an independent fiber optics expert can be engaged to analyze the risks of purchasing a “used” fiber optic cable including the complications thAT may result from damAge to the cable from recovering and re-laying it as well as the expected performance and life of a used cable.
New Airline Launches Next Month
A new airline in Palau hopes to increase tourist arrivals. Palau Airways will have its inaugural flight on April 11 from Palau to Taipei, Taiwan. Initially flights will operate between Taipei and Palau, three times a week. Starting in May flight service will increase to five times a week. Once flights between Palau and Taipei are steady, the airline plans to expand their market to Japan, Korea and the Philippines. The fleet will consist of two Boeing airplanes, which can accommodate 206 customers. “The difference between this airline is it will be Palau based, it will have its own office in Palau and they will train Palauans to manage the office, and will train others to be flights attendants,” said Jackson Ngiraingas, minister of Public Infrastructure Industries and commerce. The airline, with an average load of 85 percent could bring up to 175 passengers to Palau every flight.
Angaur State Boat Dil’ Belau Repaired by National Government
In September, 2011 the Republic of China donated a boat valued at over $500,000 to Anguar State which was named Dil Belau. However since that time sources say that there has been a struggle over the ownership of Dil Belau between Anguar State and the National Government who has used the boat for state visits. Dil Belau recently underwent repair of its engine through efforts made by the National Government, namely the Ministry of Justice and the Vice President’s Office. The boat’s engine was repaired but to date Dil Belau is not docked at the Anguar State slip and questions of ownership and maintenance continue to be a source of debate.
Japan Gives Airai Elementary New Gym
This week the Japan Embassy held a signing ceremony to officialize a grant to construct a new gym for Airai Elementary School. Japan Ambassador Yoshiyuki Sadaoka and Airai Elementary principal Aileen Mikel officialized the grant worth over 98 thousand dollars, which is offered through Japan’s grant assistance for grassroots human security project or GGP. The project will benefit the 146 students at Airai Elementary and the residents of Airai state. GGP funded a multipurpose building for Koror Elementary and is currently funding the reconstruction of Palau Mission Academy’s gym. This marks the first time that Airai Elementary received a GGP grant.
Meeting on UN Conventions on Human Rights Held
Representatives of the pacific forum on human rights held a meeting on the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities this past Tuesday at the Public Health conference room. President Toribiong requested that each Ministry designate a representative to attend this important meeting in order to enhance Palau’s effort towards UNC Rights of Persons with Disabilities. A Pacific Islands Forum Human Rights Adviser and UN Women Consultant was in attendance and did an introductory at the meeting. Topics discussed included a debriefing of the upcoming training on disability policy in April and legislative indicators and how they are relevant to ministries and civil group organizations.
President signed Human Rights Treaties Including Minimum Wage for Foreigners
Last year at the United Nations general assembly President Toribiong signed all of the courts Human Rights Treaties, which covers diverse areas including Persons with disabilities, safe work places, human trafficking, and extending minimum wage to cover foreign workers .
MYSN conference held in Palau at Ngarachamayong Cultural Center
The 8th annual Micronesian Youth Services Network took place this week hosted by Palau at the Ngarachamayong Cultural Center. Youth participants came from the Marshall islands, Guam, CNMI and the federated states of Micronesia. MYSN holds a conference every year to develop opportunities for an exchange of information between young people, organizations and agencies in the region to support youth programs in Micronesia. Here’s Palau’s MYSN steering committee chairman Kenny Reklai with more info.
Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Remembered 1 Year Later
The Japan embassy held a ceremony at the Palau royal resort on Monday, march 11 that marks the first year of the Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Present at the ceremony were High Chief Reklai, President Johnson Toribiong, Vice President Kerai Mariur and members of the OEK. A moment of silence was observed at 46 minutes after 2pm, which was the exact time the earthquake hit the eastern region of Japan.
Scientists Welcome Public on Tsunami Debris Voyage
Last Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of the tsunami that struck the eastern side of Japan causing nearly 200 billion dollars in damage and taking over 15,000 lives. Bridges collapsed and rows of houses were swept away. Much of that debris washed into the Pacific Ocean and over 20 million tons is making its way toward the U.S. Last year scientists at two non-profits have offered spots aboard the Sea Dragon, a 72-foot yacht, for anyone who wants to see the debris up close. The catch is that it comes with a price tag: $13,500 for the first leg of the voyage from the Marshall Islands to Japan and $15,000 for the second leg from Japan to Hawaii. The two maritime research groups have recently decided to sell $50 raffle tickets enabling one winner to join the expedition for a reduced price. The deadline to apply is April 7 and one winner will be announced on April 15.
3D IMAX Movie Premieres Coral Reef Conservation
Two special screenings of The Last Reef, a new documentary featuring 3D footage of life in the ocean’s coral worlds, brought together leading scientists and conservationists this week to discuss the threats and the hope that remains for coral reefs. Palau’s former president and current senator Tommy Remengesau Jr. was invited to the special preview that was hosted by The American Association for the Advancement of Science. The Last Reef premiered at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History as part of the DC Environmental Film Festival on Wednesday, 14 March. Both events included panel discussions featuring the film’s directors, senator Tommy Remengesau, coral reef conservation experts from NOAA, and other leading scientists. The 3D film was shot on location in Palau, The Bahamas, Australia, Cancun and Vancouver Island, The Last Reef is the latest giant screen film from the makers of Wild Ocean 3D and STOMP.
PCS Environmental Updates
And now here’s Yalap Yalap with this week’s PCS report.
Ambassador to Federated States of Micronesia FSM Nominated
President Barack Obama announced on Monday his nominations to key Administration posts. Among the eight posts was nominee Dorothea-Maria Rosen, as the Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia. ?Dorothea-Maria Rosen, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, currently serves as the Diplomat-in-Residence for the Midwest region. Prior to this position, she was the Deputy Principal Officer in Frankfurt, Germany. She holds an Bachelor of Arts degree from Vassar College and a Juris Doctor from Hofstra University Law School.
Kiribati President Considering Relocating Citizens to Fiji
Kiribati President Anote Tong announced last week that his Cabinet endorsed a plan to buy nearly 6,000 acres on Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu. The land is being sold by a church group for about $9.6 million dollars and could be insurance for Kiribati’s entire population of 103,000. This move comes as fear of climate change could wipe out the entire nation which lies on the equator near the international dateline. Tong said he hopes that the Fiji land will represent just one of several options for relocating people. He pointed out that the land is three times larger than the atoll which is currently home to more than half of Kiribati’s population. Sharon Smith-Johns, a spokeswoman for the Fijian government, said that several agencies are studying Kiribati’s plans, and that the government will release a formal statement next week.
ADB Expects Pacific Growth to slow in 2012
Economic growth in the Pacific region is expected to slow to 6% in 2012 from 7% in 2011, according to the latest Pacific Economic Monitor released this week by the Asian Development Bank. The slowdown is driven by lower growth in large resource-exporting economies that dominate regional growth. Tourist arrivals, particularly in the Cook Islands, Fiji, Palau, and Samoa, reached record levels in 2011, and the tourism outlook for 2012 is positive. Resumed phosphate exports from Nauru should sustain relatively strong growth there in 2012 and 2013. In Kiribati, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Vanuatu, spending on infrastructure projects is expected to support economic growth.
PNA Stands Ground on Closure of High Seas to Foreign Fishing
In two weeks fishing nations and Pacific Islands nations will meet at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting in Guam. This year the Commission must decide on a conservation and management measure for tuna. The Parties to the Nauru Agreement said it would not concede to the demands of opening the high seas to foreign fishing. Each year the WCPFC brings together the Pacific Island countries, Asian nations, US, EU and other foreign fishers to meet and decide rules for fishing of tuna throughout the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, the world’s largest tuna fishery, supplying 50% of the global tuna supply. Overfishing of bigeye tuna, a popular sashimi fish, is a problem in the region, despite healthy levels of other tunas such as skipjack tuna. PNA Director Dr Transform Aqorau said that they are calling on the distant water fishing nations to increase their standards by taking voluntary conservation and management measures this year at WCPFC.
Marjuro Airport Project Progressing
A stalled U.S funded airport runway safety project in Majuro may see movement following a meeting in Guam this week between high-level Marshall Islands and Federal Aviation Administration officials. Although the RMI EPA in December issued a permit for the Ports Authority and Pacific International Inc. to proceed at a new dredge site near the airport, the controversial project has been awaiting final FAA go-ahead. The US government in January notified the Marshall Islands government that it needed to provide evidence to justify the decision approving the new dredge site because of the controversy that has surrounded the project. A US Embassy official said earlier this week that the document has not yet officially been transmitted to the US government. The original reef mining dredge plan, at the western side of the runway, was strongly criticized by a College of Marshall Islands marine science instructor, which led to the US applying the brakes and a new dredge site being selected on the eastern side of the runway.
Government Backs Funding for College of the Marshall Islands
Marshall Islands Finance Minister Dennis Momotaro and College of the Marshall Islands President Carl Hacker signed an agreement this week committing the government to providing $3 million a year to the nation’s college for the next five years. “While the financial outlook of the government over these coming fiscal years will remain challenging, given the Compact decrement, stagnant General Fund and a fragile economy, President Loeak and his Cabinet are clearly committed and fully support the College of the Marshall Islands,” said Education Minister and Acting President Hilda Heine at Monday’s signing ceremony. Hacker said the college was well aware of the difficult financial situation faced by the RMI as it commits scarce resources to CMI, and said “we will ensure use of funding is appropriate and for projects that make a difference.” The government-college funding agreement runs through 2017.
High School Robotics Team Joins Bent Prop Search for WWII Men
The Stockbridge High School Advanced underwater robotics team will be arriving in Palau next week to search for missing US servicemen during World War II. The 8 Stockbridge High School students and 2 teachers who will be joining the BentProp Project has built an Underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle or ROV that’s capable of diving to 125 feet and video taping possible aircraft crash sites to determine if human divers should be sent down to further investigate the side scan sonar contact.
The students have raised over 40 thousand dollars to build the ROV and travel to Palau. They will be looking for a B-24 Bomber that was shot down in August of 1944. To aid in that search they recently received a Tritech ST 525 sonar from SeaView systems in Dexter, Michigan. The search team will be in Palau from March 22 to April 7 2012. BentProp will be posting daily updates to their website BentProp.org.
Youth Week in Palau Many Activities
This week Youth awareness week was observed in Palau and many events took place such as Moot Court sponsored by the Palau Bar Association and the science fair held at the PCC cafeteria. Lets take a look at some of the action. President Johnson Toribiong declared March 14th as National Head Start Day in Presidential Proclamation number 12 dash 61. This year marks Belau head start program’s 44th year of successfully addressing and meeting the needs of low-income children ages three to five and their families. This year’s theme was “Two hands are better than one” so that every child has a chance to be healthy, caring and productive citizens.
Pacific Media Workshop RMI and Palau invited to Fiji
The Pacific Island News Association is holding their annual Pacific Media Summit on March 26 – 28th in Fiji. This year’s theme for the summit is “Building a Healthy and Responsible Pacific Media Culture” and will focus on reviewing the present status and trends in media development as well as assessing opportunities and challenges of future media development. On March 25th one day prior to the annual PINA meeting, the Pacific Media Assistance Program (PACMAS) will host a pre-summit workshop called “Communications for Development” to discuss the role of media in supporting better governance in the Pacific. Micronesia will be represented by two journalists including myself on behalf of Oceania Television Network and Mr. Isaac Marty from the Republic of the Marshall Islands on behalf of the Marshal Island Journal. We’ll share the outcome of the workshop on our news following my return.
Mike-ro Sports Recap
Now here’s Mike Fox with this weeks’ sports highlights.
Thank you for joining us and stay tuned for next week OTV Weekend Reports.I’m Blaire Philips and have a safe weekend. 😉