Hello thank you for joining us for this week’s news report, pilule I’m Blaire Phillips and these are the news highlights for the week.
Another Water and Power Catastrophe?
A problem with one of Palau’s main water pumps has led to water shortages and a series of power outages. On Saturday April 21st, one of the three operational water pumps collapsed causing low water pressure. Water rationing was then imposed to lessen the impact to the communities, however the lack of sufficient water supply is now becoming a more serious issue as it is also causing generators in Malakal Power Plant to automatically shut off. Which means that as long as water is being rationed, unexpected power outages will continue. Normally the water facility operates with four pumps, one however is used as a standby unit. But one pump has not been operational since last year and is currently still under repair. Although two functional pumps remain, they cannot suck enough water to fill in the tanks. Power fluctuation was identified as the source of the pump failure, but since the water facility lacks a regulator, the pumps are more susceptible to power fluctuations.
Chinese spy speculations continues
Two weeks after 25 fishermen were arrested for illegal entry and fishing in Palau waters Chinese representatives pressured Palauan officials to release them with a total of $25,000 in fines and time served. Although the fishermen have departed Palau the reason for their encroachment into Palau waters still remains a mystery. Palau’s government has expressed concern that the Chinese nationals may have been involved in a spying and not an illegal fishing as convicted. ABC Reports that in Washington the Lowy Institute’s director of polling and research Fergus Hanson said Palau’s President Johnson Toribiong thinks the men could have been more than simple fishermen. “He found it very suspicious that the Chinese, or these particular people, had gone to the extent of burning their mother ship and setting it alight and then racing off in very high powered speed boats,” Mr. Hanson said, ”It’s obviously completely speculation at this stage because the ship was burned down and sunk and all that they have managed to capture is the alleged, supposed, fishermen and their getaway boats”
Palau’s First National Water Policy Endorsed
Palau has taken a significant step towards sustainable water management and protection when President Toribiong endorsed the nation’s first water policy this past week. The policy aims to protect and conserve Palau’s water resources as well as ensure access to safe and affordable sustainable water and wastewater services. One of the key goals of the policy was to ensure that responsibility for key aspects of water and wastewater management was spread across different organizations in a coordinated and integrated manner. The new policy was based on best practices demonstrated by Global Environment Facility-IWRM demonstration project that looked at the sustainable management of the Ngerikiil watershed. The policy covers the entire water cycle, from ridge to reef. Now that the President has endorsed the policy it will be submitted to the Congress for action.
Palau launches Youth Entrepreneur program
The Ministry of Public Infrastructure Industries and Commerce, Palau Small Business Development Center and the United Nations Development Program have launched the nation’s first Young Entrepreneur Solutions action plan or YES program. Through the theme, “ Planting the seed of Entrepreneurship”, the program seeks to encourage the development of a dynamic business through Palau’s youth as well as reduce unemployment and increase local revenue. The program, which will begin next month, consists of a series of training in all aspects of business planning. SBDC will be assisting all the participants in developing their business plans and eventually launching their business. By the end of the training, participants will have improved business skills, personal skills, and the ability to launch their own business.
OTV attends CBA conference in Australia
Oceania Television Network attended the CBA conference in Brisbane this week along with other Pacific representatives from Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and the Cook Islands. Under generous support from PACMAS, small island nations were invited to attend this global conference that included both public and private television station executives from Canada, Australia, Pakistan, Africa and the Caribbean. The focus of the conference was on disaster management and the importance of both television and radio stations in informing the public during times of crisis. Disaster issues ranged from typhoons and climate change to man made disasters and public utility failures. The Commonwealth Broadcasting Association is the largest global association of public service broadcasters, creating the leading forum for exchange of knowledge and supporting members through Digital Transition.
Japanese group surveys Helmet Wreck
Members of the Japan Mine Action Services, a non-governmental organization that specializes in the removal of unexploded ordnances or UXOs has completed their investigation at Helmet Wreck, a famous shipwreck in Koror. The group, which included underwater UXO removal specialists, investigated possible methods in removing ordnances from Helmet Wreck. During their investigation, the specialists were able to identify over 85 depth charges with nearly half leaking picric acid, a chemical that is highly toxic to the human body. The depth charges are explosives designed to blow up underwater. They are typically dropped from a ship or an aircraft, used for attacking submarines. According to records, the ships origin is unknown, as it was not documented in any naval archives. It is thought that the Japanese confiscated the ship in Southeast Asia during the war. The Japanese UXO specialists will be providing Palau with the best possible methods in removing these ordnances safely.
Disability rights training held in Palau
Pacific Disability Forum and Omekesang Association organized a two-day training focusing on the promotion and protection of rights of people with disabilities. Here’s Joe Aitaro with more.
Vehicle incinerated by unknown culprits
In other local news, on Monday April 23sometime past midnight a white Mazda was found burning behind Hanpa Mart. The fire was believed to have started beneath the fuel container where it eventually made its way up the vehicle incinerating it. It was completely destroyed, windows were shattered and backlights melted. The fire and police department were called to the scene, but no one witnessed the car burning or anyone near the vehicle at the time. The vehicle reportedly belongs to Francis Dimayac-yac, a Filipino national employed by Seabird Cruise ship. He is reportedly in Cebu, Philippines where the ship is being dry docked and won’t return until the end of the month. The vehicle has been moved to a new location waiting for Francis’ return back to Palau. The case is now under investigation.
Filipino busted for sale of narcotics
On Wednesday April 18 during a buy-bust operation, Palau’s Narcotics Division arrested Filipino national German Nunez for the sale and possession of methamphetamine. A confidential informant was provided with $800 worth of marked bills and was also wired with a recording device during the operation. Nunez was immediately arrested after the exchange between him and the informant. According to records, officers found additional drugs in Nunez’s room. During his arraignment before Chief Justice Arthur Ngiraklsong he entered a not guilty plea. He is now under the custody of Palau’s correction division waiting for his trial date set for May 3rd.
New modern dance studio prepares to open
Local kids in all age groups including adults can now learn new dance moves from the Belau School of Ballet, a new dance studio specializing in ballet, hip-hop and contemporary dance. Here’s Rolynda with more details.
SDA holds school science fair
The Seventh Day Adventist School this week held an all grade level science fair. Grades 1 to 8 presented their science project on Thursday April 26 to the school’s teachers and staff. Students had the opportunity to showcase their science knowledge and interest through the in-school science fair contest. Prizes were awarded to the winning project in each grade level.
PHS ribbon cutting ceremony
In other local school news, this week, Palau High School held a short ribbon cutting ceremony recognizing the school’s latest improvements. Here’s Joe Aitaro with more.
And now here’s an environmental update from PCS.
Free vaccine shipment to the Pacific discontinued
Member countries of the Pacific Island Health Officers Association or PIHOA may not be receiving its expected flu vaccines this year after United Airlines discontinued its service of shipping them for free. United regional manager informed the U.S Department of Defense through a letter that the service was discontinued, as it does not align with the airline’s overall corporate efforts and strategies. Back in 2007, the U.S Department of Defense began the U.S Pacific Islands Vaccine Program when the department realized that it was destroying excess vaccines while the Pacific had shortage. Each year, the Hawaiian Airlines and Continental Micronesia partnered up with DOD to ship the donated vaccines at no cost. Hawaiian Airlines continues to provide the service and has delivered this year’s donation to American Samoa, however Guam, Palau, CNMI, FSM and the Marshall Islands depend on the shipment from Continental Micronesia, now United Airlines.
CNMI Pension Plan bankrupts
The Government of the Northern Marianas’ retirement fund or pension plan has filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S bankruptcy code. By filing for bankruptcy the plan hopes to prevent cash from running out by July 2014 or sooner. According to the court filing, if the pension benefits of retirees is not reduced, the Fund will exhaust all of its assets on or before July 2014. The Fund hopes to reduce the amount of benefits retirees receive by 58 percent. The decision to file bankruptcy is based on a culmination of years of the Government’s failure to fully pay its employee shares. In 2006, the Fund sued the government, which resulted in a $231 million judgment but the government has failed to meet that obligation and still remains unpaid to this day.
Child trafficking and prostitution exists in PNG
Poverty has been determined as the main factor that drives children in Papua New Guinea to sex work according to a report released by the International Labour Organisation. The report, which was released this week, indicated that child trafficking involving parents and guardians who sell their children for money exists in PNG. Over 400 children involved in child labor were interviewed back in 2009. About 175 children were found in commercial sexual exploitation. The report also revealed that most of the parents knew about the work their children did and in some cases the parents were responsible for getting clients. Out of the 175 children, 13 were tested positive for HIV. Some of the children who interviewed are still working, however the organization will be launching a program in May to withdraw some of them from sex work.
Guam to lift 17-year CNMI betel nut ban
The government of Guam has made a decision to lift a 17-year old ban on the importation of un-husked betel nut from CNMI for personal consumption. The lift will only enable CNMI to import up to 50 pounds of un-husked betel nuts. CNMI Senate President Paul Manglona thanked the Guam Governor for deciding to the lift the restriction, as it will open up new opportunities for farmers in CNMI. According to Manglona, Rota, Tinian, and Saipan farmers will now have the opportunity to expand their business and generate revenue. Guam banned the importation back in 1995 due to the outbreak of betel nut disease in CNMI.
Mission launched to follow up on nuclear tests on Marshall Islands
United Nations Special Rapporteur Calin Georgescu is currently visiting the U.S as a follow-up visit to his recent country mission to the Republic of the Marshall Islands, to assess the impact on human rights of the nuclear tests conducted by the US between 1946 and 1958. “In Washington I will continue assessment of the efforts undertaken by the governments of the United States and the Marshall Islands to eliminate or mitigate the negative effects of the testing on the Marshallese,” said the United Nations Special Rapporteur. Earlier this year, Georgescu undertook the first ever visit to the Marshall Islands by an independent expert of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Based on information gathered during the visit, the Special Rapporteur will prepare a report containing his conclusions and recommendations and present it to the Human Rights Council in September 2012.
Palau doctor praises Marshalls health programs
The College of the Marshall Islands’ nursing program and the University of the South Pacific’s science foundation program are the best in the freely associated states, according to a doctor from Palau who visited Majuro this week. “The College of the Marshall Islands nursing school is the strongest in Micronesia,” said Dr. Greg Dever, the Human Resources for Health Coordinator for the Pacific Islands Health Officers Association. “The foundation science program at USP Marshall Islands project is the strongest health career preparation program in the freely associated states,” he added. Dever is involved in developing a range of health training programs including two-year, four-year and advanced degrees for health workers in US-affiliated islands. Palau Community College is expected to role out its first public health two-year degree program this fall.
Marshalls’ Telecom undergoes management shakeup
A management shakeup is underway at the Marshall Islands National Telecommunications Authority, following a board meeting that approved resolutions to ask for the resignation of Vice President and Chief Finance Officer Ron Cenicola and to demote Yoshi Kaneko from President and CEO to Executive Vice President and hire a qualified person for the CEO position. The NTA board took swift action after it learned that management, without consulting with the board or the RMI government, had defaulted on two loans. NTA management sent a letter to the US Rural Utility Service last month announcing that it could not make its regular monthly payment of about $200,000 on a long-standing loan. The cash-strapped telecommunications agency sent letters to the RMI government last month asking for government funding that it had been promised, but not given, since 2004. But it did not notify the government of its imminent default situation with RUS. NTA has also defaulted on its initial loan to the RMI government. While the loan payment to the RMI is flexible, the RUS loan “is not.” NTA has a legal requirement to consult with the Cabinet and government as the loan guarantors and majority stockholders before making any substantive changes to its RUS loan.
And now for this week’s Mike-ro Sports
4th Gentlemen’s Gourmet successful
The 4th annual gentlemen’s gourmet food tasting event held this past weekend was successful. Several local cooks demonstrated their best dishes to hundreds of guests. The event also featured entertainment from the Tourism Club dancers and local artists such as Malo. Profits from the event and from the telethon held at OTV studios a couple of weeks ago will go to the Palau community college senate association scholarship fund.
That’s all we have for this week’s news. Thank you for joining this week. I’m Blaire Phillips, have a safe weekend.