Hello thank you for joining us for this week’s news report of May 25th 2012, I’m Blaire Phillips and these are the news highlights for the week.
Fiji, PNG No Show at PALM6
Papua New Guinea has become the latest no show at the PALM 6 summit in Japan. Originally expected to attend, PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill will not attend a summit of Pacific island heads of government in Okinawa after the country’s top court ruled his appointment unconstitutional. Papua New Guinea Ambassador to Japan Gabriel Dusava notified Japan of the cancellation of O’Neill’s trip in a meeting with Japan officials. PNG joins Fiji, two of the biggest and most populous Pacific island countries to miss this once every three years gathering. Japan didn’t invite Fiji’s strongman Commodore Bainimarama, the head of the government to attend the two-day PALM 6 meeting, amid concerns that his reforms had not gone far enough. “Fiji’s ongoing process to build a firmly based democracy is of great importance to the stability and prosperity of the region. Japan’s message is clear and consistent…We hope that Fiji will continue to take concrete actions towards free and fair elections no later than 2014 and, to this end, we intend to maintain close dialogue with the Fiji Government,” said Prime Minister Noda in a PALM 6 statement released earlier. Palau President in a Tokyo interview said that Palau stand by the position of the Pacific Island Forum in regards to the non-invitation of Fiji to attend the meeting. ‘If they are not welcome at the PIF conference, then they are not welcome [to PALM 6] too.
The summit, to be held in Nago, will bring together several Pacific Island countries. From this year, the United States will take part in the framework.
Increase of Jellyfish lake fee unjustifiable?
Jellyfish lake and rock island fees are scheduled for its 50 percent increase on June 1st, however Minister of Justice Johnny Gibbons believes the implementation violates Palau’s national code. In a letter to Governor Adachi, Gibbons states that the increased fees are not justified. According to Gibbons, the supporting documentation that should have explained the reasons why the increased fees is necessary is not sufficient enough to determine that the increase is justified. Gibbons further stated that collected revenues appear to have increased each year, about a million dollar increase from 2010 to 2011 according to the documents provided by Adachi. It also appeared that several thousands of dollars of the fees collected were being spent on other activities other than the preservation of rock islands. In conclusion, Gibbons asked for more information regarding jellyfish lake revenue and the breakdown of costs for the department of rangers. According to reports, Koror State Government approved the increase of fees in order to continue preserving, maintaining and protecting the rock islands and the jellyfish lake with growing visitors. Whether the implementation is justified or not the Koror State Deparment of Conservation and Law Enforcement has informed tour operation and hotels of the changes in fees, which will begin on June 1st as planned. Jellyfish lake permits will cost $100 from its previous price of $50 and rock island permit will now cost $50 from $35 and $25.
Transaction Act creates a friendly economic setting in Palau
Palau’s new Secured Transactions Act creates a friendly economic environment for both domestic and foreign entities. The new law establishes a secured transactions system, which will allow loans to be secured by offering moveable assets such as boats, cars or farm equipments as collateral. The law will also help boost business development and increase access to financial opportunities in Palau. Despite concerns regarding one section of the law, President Toribiong stated that this is perhaps the most important economic related legislation that 8th Olbiil Era Kelulau has passed to date. Asian Development Bank, who assisted Palau in drafting the law, will also continue its assistance by installing an electronic registry that will essentially promote business and consumer credit by reducing transaction costs for borrowers. The registry will be available to the public through the internet. Other ADB-supported secured transactions initiatives are also being implemented in the Marshall Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu, PNG and Solomon Islands.
U.S. Government purchase land in Airai
The US Embassy and the US government have officially purchased the land in which the US Embassy is currently located in Airai State. Through months of negotiation with the Airai government, an agreement was finally reached and the sale approved. The Airai State Public Lands Authority and Airai State Government approved the sale after careful review of the proposal. On May 3rd, the group signed the resolution approving the sale of the 13,000 square meter land. The US government originally has a 50-year lease agreement with the Airai State for use of the land for consulate purposes, but tendered in a proposal for purchase last year for diplomatic related purposes. The Palau Constitution specifically prohibits the sale of land to foreigners, however the constitution does authorize the sale of land to foreign governments for consulate purpose. This sale makes the U.S government the first foreign government to purchase land in Palau. It is not certain how much the US government paid for the land.
Increase Commitment for sustainable tuna in the Pacific
The World Wildlife Fund has welcomed efforts taken by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) to increase commitment to the sustainable management of tuna fisheries and minimize impact on bycatch species such as sharks, turtles and marine mammals in the Pacific. The PNA this week gathered to determine rules for fishing in the region and agree on the terms and conditions for tuna purse seine fishing licenses. Strong fisheries management measures taken by the PNA to implement in their free-school purse seine fisheries include restrictions on the use of fish aggregation devices (FADs), prohibitions on setting nets on whale sharks to avoid whale shark bycatch, and committing to 100 percent independent at sea observers to verify catches and bycatch. According to WWF the PNA free-school purse seine tuna fishery was the first in the world to receive certification under the marine stewardship council. WWF is one of the world’s largest conservation organizations that focus on conserving the world’s biological diversity among others.
Sugiyama appointed as Interim Managing Director of PPUC
Since Uyehara completed his contract as PPUC’s Interim General Manager a couple of weeks ago, PPUC has been operating without a GM. Realizing that a GM is needed to continue PPUC’s daily operations, the Board of Directors through a resolution appointed one of its members John Sugiyama as the Interim Managing Director. Sugiyama will serve and act as the GM until June 30th or until a new GM is hired. According to the Board, an Interim Managing Director is highly needed to continue operations and overseeing PUC’s daily tasks. At the meantime, the board is reviewing the credentials of all the GM applicants and is reportedly conducting interviews. Only three people applied for the vacant position namely Kione Isechal, Rukebai Inabo and Mathew Muller. Aside from Muller, all other applicants have experience as a member of the board or as PPUC’s GM.
Palau attends Japan’s Symposium on Human well-being and marine environment
On May 17th to 19th an international symposium on Human well-being and the Marine Environment in the Pacific Islands was held in Okinawa Japan at the Okinawa Convention Center. A delegation of three from Palau was invited to present at the symposium including Ngiwal state Delegate, Speaker Noah Idechong, who was the symposium’s Keynote speaker, Joe Aitaro Director of the Palau Bureau of Protected areas Network, and Olkeriil Kazuo of OTV. The event featured discussions on several topics common to countries in the pacific such as the conservation and utilization of marine environments and it’s resources as well as oceans and their relations to disaster prevention and health. The symposium’s aim was to build a network for interaction and function as a corner stone for the nurturing of capable talent within the region. Keynote Speaker Idechong spoke about the Development of the Palau protected areas network or PAN which has caught international attention as the premier environmental conservation model in the pacific region. Aitaro also spoke about PAN including its current update, sustainable financing, its challenges, how to prepare communities for the PAN and its capacity to implement the activities of its management plans. Kazuo highlighted the importance of education and awareness in effective conservation as well as how to identify your audience and reach the community and stakeholders. The Symposium was organized by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, the University of the Ryukus and the Okinawa prefecture. It was a prerequisite to the 6th The Pacific Alliance Leaders Meeting or PALM 6. Tune in to OTV News for Palau delegation presentations and the outcomes of the symposium.
PPUC implements rate increase due to fuel costs
Palau Public Utilities Corporation has implemented a new power rate increase effective July 1st due to the price of fuel. On July 1st, power rates will increase by 1.7 cents from its current 31.9 cents rate for a total of 33.6 cents. The increase was implemented under the automatic fuel price adjustment clause in response to various factors, which includes the current price of fuel and engine conditions. Electricity rates is also due for increase in October under a new tariff. President Toribiong has publicly announced that the government will provide subsidy to alleviate the costs from the community, however subsidy plans will be included under the 2013 fiscal year budget proposal. The new rate increase may be reduced if the cost of fuel is reduced, however it is not certain.
Kiribati Newspaper ceased for the second time
Kiribati Independent Newspaper has been instructed once again to stop publication. The newspaper received instructions from the Ministry of Communications to cease publications until it has registered. The publisher and editor of the paper Mr. Korauaba believes the government’s move to stop its publications is politically motivated. He said the paper received a similar instruction in March, and after filing the required affidavits, it continued publishing due to advice from its lawyer. But he believes there is a hidden agenda in the Ministry’s latest order. “And I suspect that it might be something to do with some stories that we published recently about the government and some of its private dealings with some business there.” Mr. Korauaba says the newspaper’s manager in Kiribati is seeking legal advice on the matter.
Chuuk’s Former Police Director Arrested
Former Chuuk State police Director was recently arrested on several charges relating to beating. Jimmy Emilio and another officer by the name of Damian John were arrested for allegedly beating a tourist last year while she was in police custody. After a lengthy investigation by both the Chuuk State Police Department and the Attorney General’s office, both men were charged with several counts of misconduct in office, threats, assault and battery, and assault with dangerous weapon. According to reports, both officers responded to a complaint by the victim, but upon arrival they placed her on handcuffs and drove her back to the station. At the station, the defendants allegedly beat her up numerous times. The victim is an American US Army major who was in Chuuk on vacation at the time of the incident. Although both defendants were arrested, they have been released from custody with several conditions. The defendants have not declared their guilt or innocence on any of the charges, however court proceedings are still ongoing.
Alien Registration Refund Status
Foreign workers, who registered through the Alien registration scheme, will be subjected to a 20 percent fee upon receiving their refund. In a notice from the Class’ Attorney David Fisher, notifying the group of the refund and the subjected attorney’s fee, informed the class that the money is not available yet for the disbursement. The 20 percent fee from each class member will reportedly compensate him for his time working on the lawsuit on the class’ behalf. Depending on how many foreign workers registered under the scheme, the compensation can amount to over $20,000. On May 3rd, the Palau Supreme Court Trial Division issued a judgment requiring the Republic of Palau to return all the money collected under the Alien Registration Act.
Summer Intern Initiative to Bring Students back
Majority of Palauan students studying abroad usually stay outside of Palau after graduating seeking better paying jobs and other opportunities. In efforts to address this issue and encourage students to return home, a legislation has been passed and signed to law to establish a Summer Fellowship Award, which will set up an internship program for students. The new law encourages students to partake in the internship program the summer before their last year of studies. According to the legislation, the program will allow students to become familiar with current issues and job opportunities that they wish to participate in once they return home after they obtain their degree. The program will offer stipend and airfare benefits to those awarded. On May 18th, President Toribiong signed the legislation into law stating that he is in complete agreement with its intent.
And now here is Yalap Yalap with this week’s environmental update from the Palau Conservation Society PCS.
Last week we’ve talked about the Junior Anglers. Now let’s talk about a new program called Hawksbill Recovery Nest Survey. This is a nest survey for Hawksbill turtles. We all know that hawksbill turtles are important to all the people of Palau. We rely on it for subsistence, for Palauan culture, for the tourism industry and it has a role in the environment. This is a public notice that there is a 5 year Moratorium for Hawksbilll Turtles. This 5 year moratorium was passed from the Palau National Congress to amend the existing 24 Palau National Code, section 1281 and created Republic of Palau Law no. 8-23. This was Hawksbill Moratorium was signed into law by President Johnson on December 2010 and will last until December 2015. So this moratorium closes hunting and taking of Hawksbill Turtles. It is against the law to hunt and harvest Hawksbill Turtles in the sea or on the beach, egg collection is absolutely prohibited, and supplying new hawksbill turtle scutes to make new toluks is prohibited. A person violating any of the provisions of this moratorium shall, upon conviction, be imprisoned for a period not exceeding one year, or fined not more than $500, or both, for each individual specimen of turtles taken or killed. At the moment with the moratorium in place, the Palau Conservation Society along with the Bureau of Marines Resources, the Department of Law and Conservation of Koror State Government and the Division of Fish & Wildlife are working together to implement the Hawksbill Turtle Nest Rcovery Survey. This survey continues from the previous surveys from 2005-2010 from the Bureau of Marine Resources. The aim is to build up from previous surveys. Datas will be able to tell us the volume of nesting hawksbill turtles in Palau, threats and what are they. This way we will be able to address the threats. The method is easy. The survey team will visit beaches and look for signs nesting activities and identifying sites.
Thank you for watching this outreach program from PCS for the protection and understanding of Biodiversity of Palau and Micronesia.
Sea Shepherd leader accusing Japanese of arrest
The leader of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Paul Watson is suggesting Japan is involved in his recent arrest in Germany. Paul Watson, who is out on bail is being accused of putting a ship’s crew in danger. “You know, Japan is spending a lot of money to try and stop us intervening against their illegal whaling activities in the Southern Ocean, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Japan was a part of this”, Watson said in an interview with Australia’s Seven Network. Watson and the Sea Shepherd crew are well known for their pursuit and harassment of Japanese whaling boats off Antarctica, which in recent years has significantly reduced the number of animals being slaughtered. Watson was arrested on the warrant from Costa Rica in Frankfurt on May 13. He is reportedly under house arrest until the matter is resolved. Not waiting for a solution to his legal issues Watson said, “he will fight the extradition to Costa Rica.”
Tropical Storm Sanvu passes the Marianas
The Tropical Storm Sanvu, which threatened Guam and CNMI on May 22nd, passed without heavy damages except for slight power interruptions caused from fallen vegetations. The Tropical Storm began as a tropical depression, but quickly intensified in a matter of hours with speed reaching 45 miles per hour. The storm moved northwest just about 180 miles from Guam where it passed. Aside from heavy rains, winds, and slight power interruptions, no one was injured. Weather officials continued watching the storm and on May 23rd, NASA satellites captured more data from Sanvu and according to weather experts the tropical storm is intensifying and may soon become a typhoon. Sanvu is now moving towards Iwo To, Japan.
North Pacific increase access to Basic electricity
North Pacific nations are targeting their energy sectors to increase access to basic electricity needs to ultimately reduce poverty and dependency on fossil fuels through the North Rep project, a project that is supported by SPC and funded by the European Union. According to SPC, the project was designed to provide access to affordable and reliable sources of energy. Most of the North Pacific Island countries to date are in line with the project’s objectives. For instance in the Marshall Islands, 1500 stand-alone 200-watt solar photovoltaic home systems were installed in 14 outer atoll communities. In Kosrae, energy needs are addressed with provision of electricity to about 40 households, a school and a health Centre. In Pohnpei, a 725-kilowatt hydropower station is in the process of going back online. FSM is also in the process of procuring renewable energy equipments to provide electricity for communications, refrigeration, and lighting in Chuuk and Yap. In Palau, an energy policy framework has been completed and energy efficiency is also accessible through the National Development Banks loan program for both residential and commercial buildings. According to the project’s team leader, the primary reason for this particular project was to help reduce poverty through the promotion of social development by increasing access to basic electricity.
PIFS Secretary General visits the North Pacific
The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, met with Leaders and senior ministers of the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands to discuss several issues as well as other programs that each of the governments are undertaking.
In Pohnpei, Secretary General Slade met with FSM leaders and officials where he took the opportunity to congratulate FSM on their successful application under the Pacific Environment Community (PEC) Fund to supplement electricity generation through solar energy to the four different FSM states. A broad range of other issues were also discussed includes FSM’s efforts in relation to the Millennium Development Goals, the progress of PACER Plus discussions among several other issues. Secretary General Slade also met RMI leaders and officials in Majuro for a similar meeting where he personally congratulated the President on the development of RMI’s first Trade Policy Framework. Further discussions were held regarding obligations related to environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and waste, RMI’s concerns about the impacts of climate change and several other issues. The Secretary General also briefed the President and Minister on arrangements for the 2012 Pacific Islands Forum to be held in the Cook Islands and the MCG visit to Fiji.
Marshallese men Arrested in Kansas for Hitchhiking
Seven Marshallese men were arrested in Kansas after trying to hitchhike at the interstate highway. The men were reportedly taken into custody for their own safety as they were standing at the entrance of the highway flagging drivers. According to the Kansas State Troopers, their action was a clear traffic violation. The men who ranged from age 17 to 23 were arrested for seven days, but were released to the Revolution Church, who offered them help. The men were reportedly trying to hitchhike a ride back to Arkansas after their vehicle was impounded on their way to Denver. A member of the Revolution Church reportedly read their story and was inspired to help as he used to work for the US Army Kwajalein Atoll test site and knew Marshall Islanders well. After their release, the Church provided a van to transport all seven men back to Springdale, Arkansas.
Voters go to the polls for Hatohobei Officials
In other news, on Friday May 25, Hatohobei state voters went to the polls for its 8th general elections. Two candidates are running for the gubernatorial position namely Thomas Patris and Dominic Emilio. A female candidate by the name of Jacqueline Victor is the only candidate running for the Lieutenant Governor seat. Both seats carry a term of four years. A total of eleven candidates are running for the legislature at-large with nine available seats. The election was set from 7 am to 7 pm on Friday. Watch OTV’s news report next week for the election results.
Pacific ” Ring of Fire” Eclipse
Tokyo and other places around the world had a spectacular view of the annular eclipse that lighted up the world with its unique rays on May 22nd. Unfortunately Palau wasn’t able to see the eclipse, but millions across the world gazed at the Pacific ‘ring of fire’ eclipse. In Japan, “eclipse” tours were held at schools, parks, pleasure boats and even private airplanes. Similar types of events were also held in Mainland China and the Republic of China-Taiwan. According to Japanese media, Panasonic sent an expedition to the top of Mount Fiji to film the eclipse using solar powered equipment. In other places in the world, people also traveled to areas where they can clearly view the rare eclipse. The eclipse occurs when the moon is at its farthest from Earth and does not block out the Sun completely, resulting in a ‘ring of fire’ effect. The last annular solar eclipse was in May of 1994. The eclipse is part of a cycle, which repeats every 18 years and 11 days.
And for this week’s sports news, here’s Mike for Mike-ro sports.
PML BASEBALL REGULAR SEASON OVER
Palau Major League Baseball recently concluded it’s regular season with the top four teams advancing to the playoffs. Team Koror takes home the pennant finishing with the best record in the league, followed closely by Team Airai. Rounding out the bottom two seeds are Team Ngerbeched and Team Meyuns. The PML Playoffs start tomorrow May 26th at Asahi Field with #1 Team Koror taking on #2 Team Airai at 2pm.
ANSON QUALIFIES FOR OLYMPICS
Congratulations to Jennifer Anson for qualifying to represent Palau in Judo competition at the upcoming Olympics in London. Jennifer was last seen on OTV kicking the crap out of yours truly before heading to the Oceania Judo Championships in Australia. At the Championships, Anson defeated Guam in the 63 kg category, allowing her to finish 86th out of 178th, qualifying her for a slot in the upcoming Olympics. We hope to follow Jennifer’s Olympic journey as well as all of our Oceania athletes in the upcoming games.
MARSHALL ISLANDS OLYMPIANS
In other Oceania Olympic news. three Marshall Islands runners will travel to Australia this weekend for high-performance training in a bid to secure a place at this year’s London Olympics.
Timi Garstang, Jamodre Lalita, and Thomas Lajwi will be joined at the training program by Haley Nemra, who represented the Marshall Islands at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
There is no proper athletics track in the Marshall Islands, and coach Rais Aho says they wanted to send them off-island to train with professional coaches to see how much they can improve.
The Marshall Islands received two “wild card” invitations for the 100 metre track competition at the London Games.
EARTHRACE 5 YEAR FLASHBACK
In honor of Earthrace’s 5 year anniversary of their first attempt to break the world record for circumnavigating the globe by power boat, we’ve been chronicling the journey that brought Capt. Pete Bethune and his crew to Palau and beyond which included my joining Earthrace on their leg from Palau to Singapore. Last week we left off on our approach to Singapore, where I bid farewell to Earthrace and began making arrangements to get myself back to Palau. I quickly found out that although Singapore is a beautiful city, they DON’T MESS AROUND when it come to breaking the law. Apparently there was a mixup when they stamped my passport upon arrival and they had me still listed as an Eartrace crew member! When I tried to leave the country, red flags went off and I found myself in deep doo doo with local authorities. Here’s me a little more than shaken up after my near miss brush with Singapore law.
So we all know I eventually made it back to Palau safely but what happened to Capt. Pete Bethune? And how and the heck did Earthrace ever come to be on the now infamous reality tv series Whale Wars??? In an OTV O-scluvie, here’s Capt Pete himself to tell the tale.