Weekend Report Sept. 14, 2012

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Council of Chiefs declare rise in violence a National Crisis

Palau’s traditional chiefs have taken the lead in declaring the increasing number of violent crimes in the nation as a national crisis. Through the declaration dated on September 12, price the chiefs are also calling upon all parents, pharmacy leaders, law enforcement personnel and the community as a whole to join forces in addressing the cause of the rise in violent crimes in the community. “In the past several months, we have seen a number of violent crimes in our community that have resulted in severe injuries and loss of lives, and we have not seen in our history in such a short period of time the number of violent incidents and loss of lives unrelated to war”, says the Chiefs. The Chiefs further stressed the many incidents, which resulted in loss of lives including last year’s hacking death of a Filipina worker and another incident that resulted in a death of Japanese citizen. “The violent incidents and crimes that occurred within the recent past against many people, national and foreign guests… and most recently the violent and gruesome knife assault that resulted in the taking of the life of a young and promising Palauan son and the permanent maiming of another, have affected the very foundation of our society…” stressed the Chiefs. The declaration urges all sectors to work in unison to address such crisis. “The increase in violent incidents and crimes have reached a crisis point that requires concrete and timely action from all sectors of the Palauan society”.

Hacking suspects plead not guilty; One out on Bail

Suspects of the hacking incident on September 3rd near Hanpa Hardware Store that lead to the passing of one of the victims and another hospitalized with serious injuries entered a not guilty plea during their bail and arraignment hearing before Associate Justice Lourdes Materne. Ngirasechedui Andres, who was charged with four counts of aiding and abetting with a dangerous weapon, and aiding and abetting assault and battery, is now out on bail after his family posted a surety bond in the amount of $25,000. Ngirachelbaed Ease Oiterong is still in custody, and is being held on a $50,000 cash or $100,000 surety bond. He was charged with eight counts of second-degree attempted murder and other related crimes. Although Andres is out on bail he must abide with the terms and conditions of his release ordered by Materne including observing a 9pm curfew and also prohibited from contacting any of the victims or witnesses including TenTen Remengesau. Surviving victim Nolan Rebluud, who sustained several injuries during the attack, medivacked to the Philippines earlier this week for additional treatment.

Guam Congresswoman urges passage of Palau Compact

Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo

Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo urged her House of Representatives colleagues to support the renewal of Palau’s Compact of Free Association during her testimony on Monday September 10 saying that the Obama Administration needs to engage more with the Congress in ensuring that “the renewed agreement addresses the requirements of the government of Palau.” In her testimony Bordallo stressed “the importance of the Congress and the Administration to continue working together to find mutually agreeable offsets to advance” the Palau compact legislation, in addition to highlighting the strength of partnership with Palau and the potential impact to U.S interests if the Congress does not pass the legislation. “I am concerned that the continued delays in passing an agreement will affect our country’s diplomatic relations and political capital with our allies in the region”, says Bordallo. The House subcommittee hearing also heard testimonies from Tony Babauta Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Areas and other Department of State senior officers. The Palau Compact has remained in Congress un-acted on since January 2011.

BTA asks President to seek assistance towards Macaque Eradication project

The Belau Tourism Association, in support of the Macaque Eradication Project is asking the President of the Republic to seek financial assistance from “Palau’s international partners especially the government of Germany” and “to declare the eradication of macaque monkeys as a national priority”. In her letter to President Toribiong dated September 4, BTA President Carol Ngiraidis noted that macaque monkeys have “multiplied to plague proportions on Angaur, making agriculture impossible and devastating the native forest birds.” Further stressing the importance of the eradication project and raising food security concerns in the state Ngiraidis said “farming for food production is not possible on Angaur, and the people have no food security: they subsist almost entirely on imported food.” The Macaque Eradication Project is being led by the Bureau of Agriculture and the National Invasive Species Committee coordinated by the Macaque Core Group. In addition, the group is also working closely with Island Conservation a US based international NGO. Recognizing that this invasive species of monkeys is not only a problem for Angaur state, Ngiraidis wrote, “if nothing is done, the monkeys will spread throughout the islands of Palau, and the entire nation will become completely food dependent.” Macaque monkeys were introduced to Angaur during the German phosphate mining period in the early 1900’s.

Eight Jurors selected; First Jury Trial Begins

After sending hundreds of summonses to possible jurors, the Court has finally selected and swore in eight jurors for Palau’s first jury trial in the case of Republic of Palau vs. Amador Misech aka Amador Osima. On September 4, jury selection began with the voir dire, the preliminary examination of jurors by the Court and counsel. Presentation of witnesses and evidence began on Monday September 10 where the trial is anticipated to take five weeks. Defendant Amador Misech is facing charges relating to the hacking incident near the Asahi baseball field in June of last year that resulted in the death of Virginia Galo. Over 20 witnesses are anticipated to be called during the course of the trial.

UN pushes U.S. to Increase RMI Nuclear compensation

A United Nation report prepared by special rapporteur Calin Georgescu is pushing the United States to provide extra compensation to settle claims by nuclear-affected Marshall islanders and “end a legacy of distrust”. The report also urged Washington to declassify secret reports of its nuclear testing program in the country. Georgescu said the report “is neither to apportion blame nor attempt to make a legal pronouncement on the nuclear testing program.” The goal according to Georgescu was to stimulate dialogue “between the parties in the spirit of understanding, respect and reconciliation, for the benefit of the Marshallese people”. The report also included testimony by nuclear test survivors about the psychological trauma from witnessing the explosions and their effects recognizing a serious health concern. The report was presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Matson to raise fuel surcharges in the Pacific

Matson Shipping Company

Matson inc, a Honolulu based shipping company that services Hawaii, Guam and the Micronesian region announced on Friday September 7, that they will be raising its fuel surcharge by 4.5 percentage points. The change will reportedly take effect on October 7 increasing charges to Guam and Micronesia from 35.5 percent to 40 percent. Matson officials cited rising bunker fuel and other energy-related costs as the reason for the increase. “Since announcing our last decrease in mid-July, bunker fuel prices have risen over 13 percent. Energy related expenses continue to be a significant cost factor for most businesses, as well as consumers, with transportation companies especially hard hit”, says Dave Hoppes Senior Vice President of Ocean Services.

Marine Aquaculture experts from Taiwan visits Palau

A delegation of experts from the Department of Aquaculture of the National Taiwan Ocean University, consisting of a marine ecologist, environmentalist, aquaculturist, and an expert in ornamental aquarium and aquatic ecology is visiting the country as part of the bilateral maritime cooperation between the Republic of China-Taiwan and Palau. ROC Ambassador Maggie Tien stressed that, as a steadfast development partner of Palau, ROC government is committed to the enhancement of food security in the country. The grouper project currently underway in the Palau National Aquaculture Center is part of good beginning toward the goal and more cooperative projects are expected aiming at benefiting both the people of Palau and the ROC, says Ambassador Tien. Both countries have launched relevant programs in recent years based on the practical need in Palau for marine resource management and sustainability such as the construction of the Rabbit Fish Hatchery, the Bureau of Marine Resources office, and the brood stock hatchery and lab.

CNMI Governor facing impeachment

CNMI Governor Benigno Fitial

Commonwealth of the Mariana Islands (CNMI) Governor Benigno Fitial is facing impeachment after a minority bloc in CNMI’s House of Representatives filed a resolution containing 16 allegations to impeach him as the country’s governor. The resolution accuses the governor of multiple felonies, multiple acts of public corruption and neglecting official duties. Joseph Deleon Guerrero, Chairman of the Impeachment Commitment and lead author of the resolution, told Radio Australia that the resolution lists 16 articles “five of which are acts of corruption, seven acts of neglect of office rather neglect of duty and four commissions of felonies.” “We believe that through his actions he has breached his oath of office and through his actions there is apparently no regard for the rule of law or transparency”, said Guerrero. Fitial on the other hand has not addressed the allegations set forth in the resolution, but has released a statement begging for people’s patience and forgiveness on the shortcomings of those who do not understand his motivations or actions. The Special Committee on Impeachment has scheduled 12 meetings, starting this week that is open to the public. This is the first time in CNMI history that a resolution impeaching the governor has been introduced.

Consistent state of Environment reporting essential for Policy making

Consistent state of environmental reporting is an essential tool for guiding appropriate policy and decision-making – was the general consensus of participants who attended the concluded 2nd Pacific Environment Forum in New Caledonia. This year, the focus of the forum was the development of a mechanism for national state of environment monitoring and reporting that will synergize with a broader regional framework. “Although the whole idea of state of environment reporting can be daunting, it is an incredibly valuable tool”, says Tuiolo Schuster, a participant from Samoa. The Forum concluded with three major outputs: agreement on a framework and approach for developing a regional state of environment assessment; guidance on development of indicators; and a recommended roadmap for actions. The Forum was an opportunity for Pacific stakeholders to discuss environmental issues before the annual Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) meeting. The three main outputs were presented to the SPREP meeting for further consideration.

Ocean Protection addressed in deep sea mineral mining

Deep Sea Mineral Mining

Deep-sea mineral exploration and exploitation is an emerging new economic opportunity for the Pacific, but Dr. Russell Howorth of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) says the opportunity must be balanced against protection of the ocean environment and preservation of rare and fragile ecosystems and ocean habitats. Dr. Howorth spoke to participants at the regional training workshop on geological, biological, and environmental aspects of deep-sea minerals last month saying that “the precautionary approach must prevail”. Howorth indicated that Deep Sea Minerals (DSM) team members have already completed 13 national stakeholder consultation workshops across the region, with plans to visit the remaining two. During the Pacific ACP meeting in Cook Islands, SPC launched the regional legislative and regulatory framework for deep sea mineral exploration and exploitation to provide better understanding of deep sea environments and to assist in the efforts to effectively tackle deep sea mineral issues. The workshop was organized by the SPC DSM project and is part of the technical assistance provided to the 15 Pacific ACP countries, which includes Palau, FSM, RMI, Tuvalu and others.

Owner of Solomon Star newspaper passes away

John William Lamani

The Pacific media is mourning the sudden passing of a pioneering publisher and owner of Solomon Islands’ leading daily newspaper Father John William Lamani. The Media Association of Solomon Islands (MASI) President George Herming released a statement saying that the death of the late Father Lamani is a huge loss for the media industry in Solomon Islands. He described the late Father Lamani as one of the pioneering figures in the development of the Independent Media in Solomon Islands. He is also pioneering Pacific Island newspaper publisher – owning Solomon Islands daily newspaper, the Solomon Star, PAOA FM radio and a printing business. In 2001, Lamani and his wife were awarded with the PINA Media Freedom Award for the bravery and national leadership of the local Solomon Islands media during the ethnic tension. In 2009, he was knighted and bestowed the Order of St Michael and St George for his service in media, church and community in his country. The late Father Lamani is survived by his wife Catherine, his children and grandchildren.

Yap State Summit tackles community, public and private sector challenges

The 2nd Yap State Economic and Social Summit kicked off this week in what Yap Governor Sebastian Anefal says is aimed “to tackling public sector, private sector and community challenges.” Anefal emphasized in his opening remarks that together as a community, challenges can be addressed. “All of us together will critically contribute inputs, reflections and ideas to tackle the challenges that our state is facing and to find a direction to channel our joint effort and commitment for a common goal: the well being of the state of Yap”, says Governor Anefal. He said through the Summit, “the committees on the public sector, the private sector and the community sector as well as the joint crosscutting committee will meet to try to answer [the concerns] the people may have identified…as the most meaningful questions for Yap’s future.” The Summit concluded on Friday September 14 with the endorsement of its outcomes.

MOU signed to renovate Pohnpei’s power grid

Pohnpei Utilities Corporation and Energy Infrastructure

A memorandum of understanding has been signed between Pohnpei’s Utilities Corporation and the Energy Infrastructure Global (EIG), a renewable energy firm, for the renovation of the island’s power grid with the implementation of renewable energy. EIG Managing Director Jeffrey Voacolo commended Governor John Ehsa’s leadership saying that he “is truly committed to showing the world how an island nation can lower their dependence on fossil fuels”. The design concept for the renovation consists of the replacement of the entire existing diesel generating plant by installing 4 megawatt of temporary generation, 7.5 megawatt of new highly efficient diesel generating power plant, the implementation of 3 megawatt of solar photovoltaic, 2 megawatt of battery storage and 750 kilowatt of hydro power. In addition, a training center will be established within EIG’s Micronesian office in Pohnpei to provide the necessary installation skills needed for the project.

Palau Soldier promoted from Captain to Major

Palau Soldier promted from Captain to Major

36-year old Henson Deltang, a Palauan son who has served in the U.S military for more than a decade was currently promoted from his current ranking of Captain to Major with help from his wife Sherry and Lt. Col. Cornell Anderton. In the course of his military career Major Deltang has been deployed to Iraq as the Senior Division Operations Advisor to an Iraqi Army Division, and has also been recently deployed to Japan in support of the Great East Japan Earthquake Humanitarian Assistance and the Disaster Relief mission in support of Operation Tomodachi. The next rank up is Lieutenant Colonel, which was attained by Senator Camsek Chin prior to his retirement from the military.

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