Weekend Report Sept. 28, 2012

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Continuing Budget Authority addressed in two separate legislations, rx ADB bill in committee
Less than three days is left until the new fiscal year begins and the Olbiil Era Kelulau must come up with a solution before this current fiscal year collapses. Acknowledging the time frame, case the Senate last week passed the Asian Development Bank legislation containing the continuing budget authority as a rider. The legislation was then submitted to the House of Delegates for their review. On September 27, site however the House of Delegates addressed the matter by attaching the continuing budget authority rider on a separate legislation. The ADB legislation, which proposes to approve, authorize and ratify the President to secure a $28.8 million loan for the Koror-Airai Sanitation Improvement Project passed first reading at the House of Delegates, but was referred to the CIP committee for review. Information from the senate committee report indicates that the legislation must pass by September 30, otherwise ADB would withdraw its consideration for the project until March 2013.
Mamis appointed as temporary Acting General Manager of PPUC

Acting GM of PPUC
L: Lorenzo Mamis R: Ken Uyehara

The Board of Directors of the Palau Pubic Utilities Corporations (PPUC) and dozens of employees met on September 28 to strengthen the overall operation of the country’s energy company. During the meeting, Chairman Temmy Shmull revealed that John Sugiyama will complete his tenure as interim managing director on Sunday September 30 and that a new acting general manager has been appointed until the Board hires someone to take the position permanently. Shmull also revealed that the Board was unable to come up with a decision regarding the candidates who previously applied, and will therefore announce the vacancy to solicit applications from other qualified candidates. Lorenzo Mamis will serve as temporary general manager beginning October 1 until the position is filled permanently. The Board anticipates to hire someone by the end the year.
2012 Future Policy Award goes to Palau for Outstanding Marine Policies
2012 Future Policy Award goes to Palau for Outstanding marine Policies
On September 26 during a press conference at the United Nations headquarters, the World Future Council announced Palau as the winner of the Future Policy Award 2012. Palau receives the Award in recognition of two outstanding marine policies – namely the Protected Areas Network Act and the Shark Haven Act. According to the international jury, the winning policies contribute most effectively to sustainable management of the world’s oceans and coasts for the benefit of the current and future generations. “With the Future Policy Award we want to cast a spotlight on policies that lead by example. The aim of the World Future Council is to raise awareness for exemplary policies and speed up policy action towards just, sustainable and peaceful societies”, said Alexandra Wandel, Director of the World Future Council. The Philippines and Namibia both received silver awards for their respective policies.  An award ceremony is set for October 16 at the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in India.
Palau anticipated to ratify convention on rights for persons with disabilities
Palau will be attending the upcoming 2nd Forum Disability Minister’s meeting in Papua New Guinea for the progress in the implementation of the Pacific Regional Strategy on Disability and the importance of the Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities for the Pacific. Palau’s Minister of Community and Cultural Affairs Tina Rehuher-Marugg addressed Ministers and the President during a recent press conference in regards to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability.
Section of Ulong Island closed due to historical, cultural and scientific value
The Governor of Koror State Yositaka Adachi has closed a section of Ulong Island to the public through an executive order signed on September 25, 2012. According to the order, certain items of apparent historical, cultural and scientific value have been recently uncovered within a site on the island, and therefore, the area has been marked off-limit to locals and visitors except of personnel authorized by the Governor. Sources however indicate that Koror State Government closed the section to rehabilitate the area. The said area will be opened as soon as the matter is completed.  According to an announcement from the Koror State Department of Conservation and Law Enforcement, the area has been demarcated with red tape.  Ulong Island is popular tourist destination for diving, fishing and other ocean activities.
ROP signs MOU with Japanese NGO for removal of unexploded ordnances
The Republic of Palau has entered a memorandum of understanding agreement with the Japan Mine Action Service (JMAS) for the removal of unexploded ordnances in the country. In January of this year, JMAS Vice President and advisor conducted preliminary research in the possibility of removing UXO’s. The team also conducted an investigation at Helmet Wreck for possible methods in removing ordnances at the underwater site. JMAS will now prepare to launch its office in Koror come October, which will include Japanese staff as well as local staff who will receive training. The signing ceremony was held at the old OEK.
United Airlines reduces Guam staff, close contact center
United Airline confirmed this week that it will shed potentially dozens of Guam jobs to keep costs down. The reductions stem from the airline’s plan to close its Guam Contact Center, outsource cargo-handling operations and reduce the number of local airport operations employees said Koji Nagata, United’s Director of Corporate Communications for Asia Pacific. Nagata indicated that “under the current collective bargaining agreement, employees affected by this decision may have displacement rights and other options, so it is difficult to determine at this time how many positions will be eliminated”. The changes are part of “company-wide initiatives to increase efficiency and achieve sustained profitability,” he said. According to reports, there are nearly 50 employees at the contact center and dozens more in the Guam cargo department. Nagata said that United Airlines is in discussion with the employees affected by this decision, providing them with appropriate support and assistance.
One dies, another hospitalized in vehicular accident
One dies, another hospitalized in car accident
On the eve of Saturday September 22 during heavy rains, a black skyline carrying one passenger and a driver crashed near Bem Ermii burger hut in Airai killing the female passenger. 35-year-old Leila Renguul reportedly died on impact and was pronounced death on the scene.  36-year-old Dudley Ililau survived with serious injuries, and is being held in the Belau National Hospital for observation and treatment. The accident is pending further police investigation. She is survived by her children, mother, siblings, nieces and nephews. We send our deepest condolences to her friends and family.
First Palauan woman to be named Chief Public Defender
First Palauan woman to be named Chief Public Defender
Palau President Johnson Toribiong on Friday September 21 appointed Lalii Chin Sakuma as Chief Public Defender, the first Palauan to hold the title. Prior to her appointment, Sakuma served as assistant Public Defender. She also has experience as legal counsel representing Palau’s Public Lands Authority, and as an associate for the firm Williams Venker & Sanders in Saint Louis, Missouri. In 2003, Sakuma completed her Juris doctor at the William S. Richardson School of Law in Hawaii. She is licensed to practice law in Missouri, Hawaii and Palau. During the same appointment, President Toribiong also appointed another to serve as Assistant Public Defender. Scott Delaney who served as the Senior Court Counsel of the Republic is now the new Assistant Public Defender. Delaney is licensed to practice law in Illinois, the U.S District Court for the District of Maryland and the US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.
University of California Merced to conduct biodiversity research in Palau
University of California Merced researchers are set to conduct a five-year study into environmental changes in marine lakes including a climate study in Palau. Through the $1.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation, which expands the University’s research to the Pacific, UC Merced researchers will study how Palau’s climate influences changes in lake temperature, circulation, salinity and oxygen levels. According to the University, research in Palau will include the golden jellyfish at the Jellyfish Lake. Records collected during this project can be used to relate patterns of environmental change to species in the lake, and might be able to better predict how changes will affect other marine ecosystems. The grant is part of National Science Foundation’s initiative to promote integrative, innovative approaches to understanding diversity of life on Earth.
Forum Secretariat prepares for 2nd Pacific Plan review
The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat is preparing for the 2nd independent review of the Pacific Plan as agreed by Forum Leaders at the recent 43rd Pacific Islands Forum in Cook Islands. In an interview with Radio Australia, PIFS Deputy Secretary General Feleti Teo said the “review will provide a good opportunity to reflect on the plan’s successes thus far as well as the challenges”. Teo pointed out that “each country has different needs and challenges” making the impact of the Pacific Plan on the Pacific Island people vary. However, he indicated that with this review the Secretariat hope it will have an immediate positive impact on Pacific Island people in terms of discussions about the future of the region and services across the region. The Secretariat previously asked Forum member countries to nominate an official to be part of the independent review team, which closed this week. According to Teo, the review team consists of five people that will include two officials from member countries and two consultants. As part of the review process, consultations are being organized across the Pacific in forum countries including Palau.  Holly Yamada, Palau’s SIS desk officer and officers from the Secretariat is scheduled to conduct a workshop next week. Forum Leaders endorsed the Pacific plan in 2005.
Guam bar owner gets life in prison for forcing Micronesian women into prostitution
Guam Bar owner gets life in Prison for forcing Micronesian women into prostitution
A Guam bar owner was sentenced on Thursday September 20 to life in prison in a sex trafficking scheme to force Micronesian women and a 16-year-old girl into prostitution. According to the indictment, from February 2004 to January 2008, now 70-year-old Song Ja Cha and others lured about 10 victims to Guam from Chuuk, where she promised employment at her bar called Blue House Lounge. But the women were forced to work 12 to 14 hours a day in six rooms offering commercial sex.  After an eight-day trial, she was found guilty on all 20 counts of indictment that charged her with sex trafficking, conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, coercion and enticement to travel in interstate or foreign commerce for prostitution and transportation of a minor for prostitution. According to the U.S Deparment of Justice, Cha will be incarcerated in Dublin, California, pay $200,000 in restitution to the victims and $10,000 in fine.
Controversy over bid process for power reform project in Pohnpei
A cloud of controversy surrounds the Pohnpei Utilities Corporation (PUC) recent decision to unilaterally award a bid to Energy Infrastructure Global (EIG) for the upgrade of the country’s power generation systems with the implementation of renewable energy. Reports indicate that the recent MOU signed between Pohnpei State and EIG required the State to pay $275,000 for conducting various technical assessments. “There may be valid reasons to support the proposal from EIG, however, this project is likely to exceed $20million, have a contract term of over 25 years, and will need to be recovered from a population of about 40,000 people,” says Chief Executive Officer, Jared Morris. “The impact of a poor decision is so severe that it demands a high degree of transparency and accountability by the decision-makers. It cannot be left to a weekend analysis or one viewpoint and a unilateral decision.” FSM PetroCorp, and other bidders, is now asking the question, “Were we given fair consideration under the bid review and award process as required by Law?”
Finances at Marshall college under scrutiny
Financial deficits over the past four years at the College of the Marshall Islands have raised a red flag for the US Western Association of Schools and Colleges, which says it is undertaking an in-depth review of the College’s finances. The college’s president, Carl Hacker, says it expects to end the year in the black for the first time since 2006, which he believes will resolve any concerns about its fiscal state. The associate VP of WASC, Norval Wellsfry, says negative ending balances and inadequate reserve funds were the reason the College was being red flagged for additional financial analysis.
Radar site to be constructed in the Marshalls
The US Air Force has revealed that the first radar site in a new system to track satellites and space junk will be built on Kwajalein Island in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The Air Force Space Command based at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado said the construction on the new radar station is expected to start in 2013, which will take four years including testing. However, no cost estimate was immediately available. The radar station will be part of the Space Fence system to track objects in Earth orbit and watch for potential collisions and other hazards. The U.Ss Air Force monitors about 1,000 active satellites and 20,000 pieces of debris in orbit around the Earth.
Kiribati claims misunderstanding over Sea Shepherd’s surveillance in the Pheonix Island 
Kiribati claims misunderstanding over Sea Shepherd's surveillance in the Pheonix Island
Kiribati Government said this week that Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s involvement in the surveillance activities in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) had been done without the formal approval of the Government. Secretary to Cabinet Teekoa Luta said that there was a misunderstanding by the PIPA administrator that the Ship Riders’ Agreement between Kiribati and the U.S could also be applied to other foreign vessels. Kiribati law however indicates that no foreign vessel could assume the highly sensitive responsibility and authority of boarding and inspection of vessels at sea on behalf of a sovereign nation without authorization from the proper levels of authority. Sea Shepherd crew on board MV Brigitte Bardot assisted in the maritime surveillance of PIPA under Operation Requiem. No report of the surveillance carried out by MV Brigitte Bardot in PIPA indicated no illegal activities were detected in the area. In acknowledging the work done by Sea Shepherd, the government also pointed out that the necessary procedures and legal requirements must always be adhered to.
China launches first aircraft carrier
China has joined a small group of developed nations by launching its first aircraft carrier into service.   This Liaoning has been constructed from a refitted ship acquired from the Ukraine and will be used primarily for testing and training in preparation for the other carriers that are expected to begin coming online in 2015.  The launch of this carrier comes at a time when tension in the region is high with China and Japan both laying claim to the Senkaku islands North East of Taiwan.  Other nations that currently have aircraft carriers are Thailand, Brazil, India, Brazil, France and the UK.  The United states has 11 carries more than all other countries combined.
Apple’s iPhone 5 may boost America’s weak economy
Apple's iPhone 5 may boost America's weak economy
If the U.S. economy looks a little brighter this Christmas, its Santa Claus will be the iPhone 5. The phones went on sale Friday, September 21. Many stores were sold out by Sunday and are now awaiting new shipments.  Estimates are that Apple sold 8 million phones since sales began Friday.  In addition to iPhone sales, the new product’s arrival brings sales to new phone cases, chargers and other accessories. U.S sales of Apple’s newest phone could pump more than $3 billion into the US economy in its first three months, but even with the iPhone’s contribution, economists say the consumer spending is still sluggish.