Weekend Report Oct. 5th, 2012

US Army Corps of Engineers award contract for repair of compact road temporary detour road

The US Army Corp of Engineers has announced that a $4.8 million dollar construction contract for the Palau Compact Road Repair Project has been awarded to Trade West Construction Inc. from Nevada. During construction, more about the contractor will coordinate any detours and lane closures with the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Industries and Commerce. The bypass roads will remain open for most of the repairs, and local traffic and emergency vehicles will be able to gain access. According to US Army Corp of Engineers Honolulu District, the construction including the anticipated time needed for required submittals such as the safety plan, site specific sediment erosion control plan, final permits from EQPB and procurement of materials will last around one year. Construction will also depend on weather conditions. After years without repair, President Toribiong requested assistance from the U.S Department of Interior. Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Affairs Tony Babauta announced the assistance and partnership with the US Army Corps of Engineer in repairing of the damaged portions of the compact road in December of 2010 during the 14th Micronesian Chief Executives Summit saying, “The prompt repair of the Palau Compact Road is a priority for both the US and the Republic of Palau”.
Toribiong & Remengesau, Mariur & Bells to face off in Palau’s General Election
With the completion of absentee ballots, walk-ins and remaining propers tallied by the Election Commission on October 2, two Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates will now advance to the general election on November 6.  Former President and current Senator Tommy Remengesau Jr. with 4,618 votes and incumbent President Johnson Toribiong with 3,100 votes will be facing off for the Presidential seat. Meanwhile former Speaker Antonio Bells with 2,851 votes and incumbent Vice President Kerai Mariur with 2,963 votes will be facing off for the Vice Presidential seat. Other candidates running in the general elections have begun holding signs, doing house-to-house campaigns and appearing on television as less than 5 weeks is left until the general elections. Additional candidates have also appeared with Sandra Sumang-Pierantozzi now running for Senate as a write in.  Semdiu Decherong has also confirmed that he will try for Senator as write in after a number of supporters asked him to run.
US issues security alert for citizens in the Philippines
The United States issued a security alert on Friday September 28 in the Philippines warning American citizens they could be the target of an unspecified attack. The US embassy in Manila released a statement calling for US citizens to exercise extreme caution and consider cancelling American gatherings in the sprawling and chaotic megacity of 15 million people. “The US Embassy advises American citizens in the Philippines that a threat against American citizens in metropolitan Manila, specifically the Pasay City neighborhood, has been detected by reliable security forces,” the statement said. “This threat remains in effect until October 12, 2012.” U.S Ambassador Harry Thomas has ordered stepped up security for all U.S government facilities in Manila. The Embassy is also coordinating with the Philippines law enforcement agencies in monitoring, assessing, and if necessary, responding to the threat.
Severe weather causes power outages in FSM
Strong winds and heavy rains associated with a tropical storm northeast of CNMI recently caused power outages in Yap state. According to the Yap State Public Service Cooperation office, power outages were caused mostly by fallen trees due to weather conditions. Tropical Storm Malkisi is moving north northwest out of the region, so severe weather is expected to abate as the storm moves further away from Yap. However according to NOAA, a high surf advisory remains in effect for west facing reefs across Yap including Palau. Fortunately, power crews were able to repair broken lines and clear debris to return power back to residents in Yap. In Palau, residents did not lose power, however weather conditions caused some trees to fall. In Koror, a tree fell over a moving vehicle as a result of strong winds. Fortunately no one was hurt. According to Palau’s national weather service, rainy weather and gusty winds is expected in the upcoming days. The Yap Weather Service indicates that the current weather disturbance is an active Monsoon weather pattern occurring in Micronesia. A cloud of haze can also be seen in and around Palau’s rock islands, but the weather service cannot determine its origin. Haze is caused by volcanic smoke or massive fire and can travel over 200 miles.
Mori calls UN members to urgently address climate change
Speaking at the recently concluded United Nations General Assembly, FSM President Emanuel Mori urged member states to confront climate change more urgently and creatively. “Our very existence depends on it,” said Mori in his address. “Without international cooperation and assistance, we are helpless against the adverse impacts of climate change.” Mori called for closure of what he termed the “ambition gap” in reference to the Kyoto Protocol’s rolling emission-reduction commitment periods, the first of which will expire at the end of 2012. He also called on major emitters to “step up their level of commitment under the second commitment period.” “How do I tell my people that their plight and their future lie in the hands of those most responsible for greenhouse gasses?” he asked. He said that his country was pleased with the agreements reached at the Rio+20, but he urged leaders to recognize that Micronesia, despite appearing to occupy a “pretty empty” part of the world, to its inhabitants its “as much a homeland as any continental landmass.” Mori was among several world leaders and other high-level officials presenting their views and comments on issues of individual, national and international relevance at the Assembly’s general debate.
Audit report raises concern about Marshalls retirement fund
Without legislative action to revamp the retirement system, the Marshall Islands social security program will be bankrupt in 10 years says an audit report issued to the Marshall Islands parliament. An actuarial study of the Marshall Islands social security program shows that its unfunded retirement liability is growing and the retirement agency can pay only 23 percent of the total current and future retirement benefits estimated at $287 million. The audit report, by Guam-based Deloitte and Touche identified no “findings” for the ninth straight year, confirming the Marshall Islands Social Security Administration as the most accountable government entity in the country. But while the retirement fund is demonstrating a high-degree of accountability, there are numerous warning signs about the health of the retirement system.
Marshallese film and ten-year old actress recognized at GIFF
Jack Niedenthal and Suzanne Chutaro have put the Marshall Islands and the North Pacific on the map through their Marshallese films. At the 2012 Guam International Film Festival, the new Marshallese feature film “The Sound of Crickets at Night” won ten-year old Salome Fakatou a Grand Jury Award for her role, an achievement that Niedenthal says he has been trying to give the children of the Marshall Islands through the films that he and Chutaro produces. The role demanded a lot of emotion from young Salome, but Niedenthal says she nailed it. Throughout her role in the film, Salome was directed and guided by Chutaro. The film has already won an award from the Moondance Film Festival in New York, but Niedenthal says the award that Salome received is the most prestigious of all. The film is set to be screened at another international film festival in Hawaii and is anticipated to be released on DVD sometime next year.
US has become the latest country to sign the Pacific Cetaceans MoU
The United States has become the latest country to add its signature to the Memorandum of Understanding for the Conservation of Cetaceans (whales and dolphins) and their habitats in the Pacific region. “This is a monumental occasion for the Pacific region and we look forward to the benefits to come from this strong partnership”, said David Sheppard Director General of SPREP. The US had already indicated their intention to sign at the 3rd Meeting of the Signatories to the Pacific Cetaceans MoU earlier this month in New Caledonia, at which they participated as observers. At the ceremony in the margins of the 1st Meeting of the Signatories to the Memorandum of Understanding for the Conservation of Migratory Sharks, Shannon Dionne, Acting Deputy Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of International Affairs (NOAA) signed the non-binding agreement on behalf of the US.  The participation of the US is expected to promote the implementation of the 2013-2017 action plan for whales and dolphins in the Pacific region.
Solomon Islands calls for the immediate end of Cuba’s embargo
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo called on the United States to immediately lift the economic and trade embargo against Cuba at the recently concluded UN assembly in New York saying that the U.S should respect the good neighborly principle. Expressing his appreciation to the government of Cuba, Lilo acknowledged the support that the Cuban government has given to Solomon Islands students and many other Pacific Island students studying in the field of medicine. Dozens of Pacific Island students are attending the Latin American School of Medicine on a fully funded scholarship. “I thank the Government and people of Cuba for the support they have provided to our medical students”, said Lilo. Adding “We join the international community in calling for the immediate lifting of the US economic and trade embargo against Cuba.”
FSM opens up first Finger Print Laboratory in the North
The FSM National Police has recently opened up a finger print laboratory at the National Police Office in Palikir, making it the first lab of its kind in the country and in the North Pacific region. According to Chief of Police, the laboratory is valued at approximately $238,000 dollars, consisting of modern finger print identifying and storage technologies that will allow collaborations among law enforcement operations with enhanced capabilities. Pacific Police Development Program Project Coordinator Frank Clair, represented the Australian Federal Police at the opening said that the decision to house the lab at the FSM National Police building was made to make the service a “truly national asset” with the understanding that officers from the States will work and train at the lab on a rotational basis to gain experience that will be vital at their own stations and to overall law enforcement practice throughout the FSM. The FSM National Police now looks forward to having more officers certified and become experts in finger print operations. The lab was funded by the Australian Federal Police through the Pacific Police Development Program.
Progress recorded in implementation of regional disability strategy
The Pacific region has made remarkable progress in the implementation of the regional strategy on disability said Feleti Teo, Deputy Secretary General of the Pacfic Islands Forum Secretariat at the 2nd Forum Disability Ministerial Meeting in PNG. “We have, with the assistance and support of development partners and partner agencies developed and finalized an implementation action plan for the regional strategy. And with the support of the Government of Australia through AusAID, we have secured generous funding support to progress the implementation of the regional strategy,” Teo said. He urged the Forum Disability Ministers to ensure that disability remains and continues to be reflected as a regional priority in the Refreshed Pacific Plan. Palau is attending the meeting in PNG in the country’s progress to ratify the Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities.
PIFS consultation workshop held in Palau
Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat officers and Palau national government officers met this week for a one-day workshop to provide an overview of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat including its strategic role and work in Forum Island Countries. Presentations of key decisions by the 2012 Smaler Island States Leaders and Forum Leaders following the PIFS meeting in Cook Islands was also included in the agenda. PIFS officers also assist the government of Palau to define the strategic role of Smaller Island State – Pacific Plan Desk Officer. The workshop is one many consultation meeting conducted by the Forum Secretariat ahead of the Pacific Plan review.
Experts from US EPA and EQPB conducts oil contamination testing
Technical experts from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently visited Palau to provide assistance to the Environmental Quality Protection Board (EQPB) to monitor soil and groundwater testing conducted by Shell Petroleum through contractors from Australia. The testing was a follow-up to the preliminary test results gathered in February 2010 that revealed that soil within the IP&E compound is contaminated with oil. The matter prompt EQPB to request technical assistance from EPA to assist with the oversight of the sampling event. Soil samples were collected by Shell’s contractor that included soil samples from up to 10 feet below the surface at different areas within the compound. The sample were sent off to the US for analysis, where the results will help determine the movement, source and possibly the amount of oil in the soil and ground water. Furthermore, wells have also been installed around the IP&E compound to track the movement of the oil. EQPB believes that information obtained from this study will allow better insight of the size and potential movement of the contamination.
Pacific Training on Maritime oil spill and emergency preparedness begins
The International Maritime Organisation with assistance from the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) is conducting training in maritime oil spill and emergency preparedness in efforts to prepare Pacific Island countries to address maritime pollution.  The training course, which kicked off in Samoa this week will equip participants on how to prepare a coastal site sensitivity map. The IMO regional Convention on Oil Preparedness Response Cooperation Level 3 training course will be followed by the IMP Coastal Site Sensitivity Mapping Workshop set to end on Friday October 5th. Eleven countries are participating in the training including Palau, Marshall Islands, FSM and Kiribati.
Kintaro Jr. graduates from Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies
A member of Palau’s Emergency Response Team has graduated from a four-week comprehensive crisis management course from the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. John Kintaro Jr., Palau’s Environmental Inspector received his diploma after completing the program. The four-week course is intended to deepen participant’s ability to understand and deal with the multi-faceted, interdependent nature of both natural and man-made crises. The course focused on actions to prevent routine difficulties from collapsing into crisis, responding to crises in ways that reduce the near-term impact, and setting the stage for mid-term return to a sustainable development path.  Over a dozen representatives from Asia-Pacific countries attended the security course including the Federated States of Micronesia and Tuvalu.
ROC has Kite Flying demonstration in Palau
Members of the Taiwan Kitefliers Association recently performed several demonstrations during the Independence day celebrations. The group also showcased their kite flying skills at the Asahi Baseball field after the celebrations. Hundreds of excited children and their parents joined the fun. Several different kites were showcased such as ladybug kite, national flag kite and the leaf kite. TWKA was established in 2002 and demonstrated kite flying in Palau as part of the cultural exchange between Taiwan and Palau.

1 thought on “Weekend Report Oct. 5th, 2012”

  1. Fine news site. However, black on white font would be a lot easier on the eyes than the current white on black.

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