Pacific seek support at Ramsar COP11 on Wetlands
Several Pacific Island nations came together to raise the profile and visibility of the Oceania region at the recently concluded 11th conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention of Wetlands in Bucharest, illness Romania. Delegations from the Pacific, information pills which included Australia, the Marshall Islands, New Zealand and Palau amongst others, took part in a side event themed “My Pacific, My Islands, My Wetlands”. During the event, speakers from SPREP, RMI, Palau, Fiji and New Zealand provided a regional overview of wetland conservation in the Pacific including sub-regional perspective on the Micronesia Challenge and actions taken place at the national level. Palau’s National Ramsar Focal Point Pua Michael attended the meeting in hopes to seek sustainable financial solutions for the management of the Ngardok Nature Reserve. Ngardok is an important breeding ground for saltwater crocodiles and is home to at least a dozen indigenous bird species. The 11th Ramsar Convention concluded on Friday July 13th, a total of seven Pacific Island nations attended. According to SPREP reports, Kiribati, Tonga and Tuvalu are now in the process of joining the Convention.
Controversy over result of UN World Drug Report
A new World Drug Report recently published by the United Nations that named Palau as the country with the highest consumption of marijuana in the world has also produced a bit of controversy. ABC Australia reported that while the results represent adult usage those surveyed were actually students from Palau High School, the country’s only public high school. The survey showed that 40 percent of students say they’ve used marijuana in the last month, while 60 percent of students said they have used the drug at least once. Palau’s Director of Education Emery Wenty reportedly believes that the UN overestimated the issue stating that Palau is a very small island. If cannabis use is as prevalent as the UN claims, you would see it and smell it everywhere. And you don’t. However, a UN statistician claims that their data, whatever its shortcomings, does suggest that there is a relatively high prevalence of drug use in a number of Pacific Island nations. In 2011, Palau also topped another international report, the WHO Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health, which reported that Palauans drink more beer per capita than any other nation in the world. This is the third damaging report this year to be published with less then reliable research. A report by the World Bank Group and the International Finance Corporation ranked Palau as one of the most difficult place to do business although the researchers failed to survey the business community. And another report by the Freedom House ranked Palau as first in Press Freedom in the Asia-Pacific but did not state how that ranking was obtained and did not take into account several issues regarding attempts to restrict the media.
2012 Supplemental Budget expected to pass HOD
On Thursday July 12, the 2012 supplemental budget passed second reading after a series of oversight hearings conducted by the House of Delegates’ Committee on Ways and Means. The House made a few changes to the proposal including the removal of two items or riders – the FY 2011 over expenditures and the amendment to the Social Security Act. The committee reported that with limited amount of time and lack of information, the members were unable to conduct review of over expenditures and recommends the OEK to wait for the 2011 audit report before addressing the issue. Allocation to the Ngardmau Free Trade Zone Authority was also removed from the budget. The committee stated that the Authority has not provided a report of the implementation of the $100,000 appropriated in FY 2011 among other changes. In the committee report, members noted that of the total amount requested for the supplemental budget, $3.5 million or 90 percent is allocated to the Executive Branch and if adopted, it will most likely be the largest budget ever authorized and appropriated for the Executive Branch alone. The House of Delegates is expected to pass the Supplemental on Friday July 13.
RMI power company urges govt to pay or lights go out
The power utility in the Marshall Islands has warned that unless the government clears its debt, electricity for Majuro and Ebeye islands could be cut off next week. As of Wednesday June 11, Marshall Islands government entities owed the Marshalls Energy Company a total of $4 milllion. The company’s General Manager, David Paul, says if some or all of this debt is not cleared immediately, the power utility won’t have money to pay for fuel and the lights could go out in Majuro or Ebeye or both areas. According to reports, the irony of the crisis is that there are two million gallons of diesel fuel in power company tanks. But, Paul says it is fuel provided to the utility on “consignment,” meaning it has to pay its fuel supplier as it uses it. And as of this week, the cash-strapped government utility does not have funds to pay for fuel needed for the two urban centers of Majuro and Ebeye.
Economic Ministers agree on sustainable development
Forum economic Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to coordinate actions at the national and regional level to achieve sustainable economic development at the recently concluded 16th Forum Economic Ministers meeting in Tarawa, Kiribati. During the meeting, participants focused on key economic issues such as the implementation of the Waiheke Declaration, broadening of the economic base, strengthening development policy, access to finance for economic growth amongst other related issues. At the end of the meeting, the ministers released the Forum Economic Action Plan of 2012.
Guam DOC seek full budget to avoid lawsuits
In an attempt to avoid a possible healthcare lawsuit due to a deficit in medical care, the Guam Department of Corrections is seeking full appropriations of its proposed budget hike for 2013. According to reports, under the 1991 permanent injunction with the Federal government, the Guam DOC is mandated to provide inmates and detainees with adequate access to routine and emergency medical, dental and mental healthcare. DOC is also required under the agreement to hire a full-time physician. However, to date the department continues to use a part-time physician in addressing medical needs for more than 600 inmates. Due to the increasing number of inmate population and increase in costs of medication, and medical supplies DOC has struggled to meet the medical needs of its population as mandated by the injunction. According to DOC Director Jose San Agustin the 2013 goal is to avoid more lawsuits and provide for the medical needs of the inmates. Nearly $22 million was proposed by the Governor’s office for DOC in 2013.
Uyehara appointed as member of PIPSO board
Sector Organization (PIPSO) council members during their 6th annual general meeting last month appointed new board members including former PPUC GM Ken Uyehara as its Palau board member. At the meeting, the Counil members also endorsed the inclusion of the immediate past chair and Vice chair as ex-efficio members to guide, mentor and advise the new board for a term. The new board will serve a two-year term. PIPSO was established in 2007 and has made significant progress in undertaking work and programs in the Pacific’s private sector. Other members of PIPSO include the FSM, the Marshall Islands and Kiribati just to name a few.
2012 Election debates in August
In support of Palau’s democratic process, the Chamber of Commerce and the Palau Bar Association are hosting the 2012 Presidential debates at the Ngarachamayong Cultural Center in August. Debates are a long-standing part of democracy allowing voters to gain knowledge about the candidates, their platforms and future plans for Palau. Candidates will participate in a two-hour question and answer session covering many of the issues important to you. The debates will be broadcast LIVE on both television and radio.
Bad laws and human rights abuse hinder AIDS response
Inflicting laws and human rights abuses is hindering the global AIDS response according a landmark report by the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, an independent body of global leaders and experts. The commission found evidence that governments in every region of the world have wasted resources in the fight against AIDS by applying punitive laws and discriminatory practices. The commission reports that in more than 60 countries it is a crime to expose another person to or transmit HIV such practices discourage people from seeking an HIV test and disclosing their status. 78 countries criminalize same-sex sexual activity, which makes it difficult to prevent HIV. Laws and customs that disempower women and girls have also been found to undermine HIV protection and access to sex education. The report, however found that laws based on public health evidence and human rights can transform the global HIV response. The commission urges governments to ban discrimination on the basis of HIV status and to repeal laws that criminalize HIV transmission. Governments are further urged to promote good laws that support effective HIV responses.
World largest war exercise in Hawaii
A record number of 22 countries, 25,000 personnel, over 200 aircrafts, submarines and ships are taking part in the largest international maritime exercise in and around the State of Hawaii. The Rim of the Pacific Exercise also known as RIMPAC is a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans. The 23rd RIMPAC exercise, which is hosted by the U.S Pacific Fleet marks the first time that non-US officers command components of the combined task force during the exercise. The Royal Australian Navy reportedly commands the maritime component while the Royal Canadian Air Force commands the air component. Participating nations will take part in a number of exercises throughout the 5-week training, which include disaster relief, complex war fighting, air defenses, sea control and other operations. The exercise will also feature the first demonstration of a US Navy Great Green Fleet, which will test and evaluate the functionality of biofuels. The exercise is set to conclude on August 3rd.
Marshallese face challenges in the U.S
Most Marshallese who choose to migrate to the U.S normally settles in Springdale, Arkansas where more than 4,000 Marshallese resides today. As previously reported by the New York Times online and Arkansas Times, citizens are quickly faced with challenges from language problems to punctuality. Schools have reported struggles with tardiness amongst Marshallese, but have seen some improvement after establishing a program to educate parents on American life and expectations of students. Marshall citizens also face challenges with the English language. Most are unable to pass driver’s test and obtain their drivers license because of language barrier. Melisa Laelan, who also reside in Arkansas has taken the matter into her own hands by petitioning the Arkansas state police and state officials to offer driver’s test in Marshallese. With the growing number of Marshallese in Arkansas, some locals are criticizing the need for Marshallese driver’s test saying that they could learn the English language just as other immigrants have done in the past.
Solar Project to light up RMI basketball court
The Republic of China-Taiwan in efforts to assist the Marshall Islands in combating the impact of climate change has donated 78 solar lighting units valued at $200,000. The units will be installed at basketball courts in the outer islands and the urban centers in Majuro and Ebeye. ROC Embassy in Majuro explained that the project aims to improve the living quality as well as create better exercise and function venues for the youth and the community. The ROC government previously donated over a hundred solar streetlights that are now in use all around the Majuro area. On July 5, ROC Ambassador presented a $25,000 check to cover installation costs to the RMI government. According to reports, some of the solar lighting units have already been installed at the Youth-to-Youth-in-Health basketball court. The project is provided as an additional funding to the annual grant to the RMI government.
Suspect involved in stabbing deaths in Guam pleads guilty to another case
In Guam news, one of the suspects involved in the stabbing deaths of three Chuukese men last September filed a plea agreement this week for another case that occurred a few months prior to the triple homicide. In July 2011 Benny Sam Robert was charged with rioting as a third degree felony including other crimes, but offered to plead guilty to disorderly conduct as a petty misdemeanor. In September 2011 Benny Sam Robert and Vimson Menisio were charged with aggravated murder for the deaths of Rex Nanoto and Michael Pucholong in Dededo, Guam. Pucholong allegedly killed another victim, Allferson Muritok, before he was killed. Robert’s court date for the stabbing death of Michael Pucholong is set for July 24th.
Survivor Returns to Palau
The long running reality series Survivor is returning to Palau for an unprecedented 3rd time. Several sources have reported to OTV that the U.S. survivor series is preparing to film in Palau in late 2012. The reality series has traveled around the world from Australia, to Africa and Thailand to the Philippines. Now in its 26 season, this would be the third time U.S. Survivor was filmed in Palau. The series still ranks as the Number 2 reality series on TV among adults 18 to 49 with an estimated 11 million viewers. Palau has hosted 5 Survivor shows so far including Japan Survivor, two U.S. Survivors, French Survivor and Survivor Philippines that was co-produced by Roll’em Productions. The last U.S. survivor reportedly brought over 4 million dollars into the Palau’s economy utilizing almost every boat available ad filling the hotels. Palau has been ranked the most beautiful Survivor location by the viewers and in the upcoming series will be filmed in High Definition.
Lost in Palau, a new adventure book
A new book titled “Lost in Palau” has been released by author Randy Schafer. The post WWII adventure story follows three friends serving in the US Navy in 1946 who hire of a diver to explore a shipwreck. They find more than was expected but their diver dies mysteriously before anything is recovered. Local pearl divers are brought in to complete the job, but soon the explorers are battling for the treasures and their lives. Lost in Palau is available online through Smashwords.com. Author Randy Shafer is best know for his previous book Beware of Larry co-authored with his wife Kathy Schafer.
OTV wants You to make Television
OTV and Roll ’em Productions are expanding our coverage of Micronesia and we need television producers. We are looking for 5 candidates to become television producers in both the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia. Selected candidates will receive a video camera and computer, and training in shooting and editing videos for OTV news and other shows. We will be equipping and training one producer from each of the islands Majuro, Pohnpei, Chuuk, Kosrae and Yap. For more information visit our website oceaniatv.net and click on the 2012 television producers training link.