The Palau Compact Agreement legislation pending in the U.S Congress has received widespread support from leading House members including a commitment made by U.S House of Representatives Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific Donald Manzullo to work with other House leaders to pass the legislation this year. “I continue to work with Chairman Ros-Lehtinen, price Speaker Boehner, page and other leaders of the House to pass the legislation this year. We all regard it as a priority for this Congress, order ” said Manzullo in his letter to President Toribiong on October 19. Although the passage of the legislation has been delayed due to the U.S administration’s suggestion to offset its costs, Manzullo says “next month’s election should enable many of the differences to be resolved and push forward agreements on a great deal of the outstanding legislation affecting the budget – including the bill to approve the Compact Review Agreement.” The $250 million Palau Compact Agreement has been pending in the U.S Congress for over 2 years.
Forum Island Countries address Regional UXO strategy framework in Palau
Forum Island Countries (FIC) gathered in Palau for a two-day meeting on the implementation of the Pacific Islands Forum Regional UXO or unexploded ordnances strategy to address the ongoing security threat that UXO poses to the livelihoods of the Pacific Island peoples. The meeting was graced with the attendance of Prince Mired Raad Al Hussein of Jordan, Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention Special Envoy. Speaking to FIC representatives during the opening ceremony, Prince Mired Al Hussein commended Palau for its “support and commitment towards this noble cause”. “It is of course at the end of the day, all about saving lives and protecting the environment for future generations,” he said. To further encourage and urge Forum Island Countries to comprehensively address UXO issues, Youth Ambassador of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines Song Kosal told the story of how she became a victim of landmines at a young age, an emotional story that moved representatives during the meeting. In his opening remarks, President Johnson Toribiong reiterated his message and goal for the safe removal of unexploded ordnances as one of his highest priorities saying, “I believe this forum will amplify the need to develop respective UXO strategies so that these remnants of war may be removed safely and speedily from our lands and seas…” The meeting was held at the Ngarachamayong Cultural Center from October 25-26th.
Civil Pension Plan debt paid, Lawsuit dropped
President Johnson Toribiong announced during his Special Roundtable show on television that the National Government has paid its obligations to the Civil Pension Plan, an action that led the Pension Plan Board of Trustees to drop their lawsuit against the President and the Vice President. Over $2 million in initial payments were made to the Pension Plan last week including an additional $1.1 million dollar payment this week to clear off outstanding balances up to October 23rd. According to reports, the only principal left unpaid is the interests from 2006 to 2012, which reportedly totals over a million dollars. The National Government settled the matter and cleared off any outstanding balances owed after the Pension Plan Board filed a lawsuit against the President and the Vice President. Funds used to pay Pension Plan are from local revenues and Compact funds.
Belau Community Credit Union receives charter
The Board of Directors of Belau Community Credit Union (BCCU), a not-for-profit financial cooperative, announced that it has received its charter and is now working to ready itself for operations beginning March 2013. BCCU will be in a unique position to offer its members a new and safe place to save and borrow at reasonable rates. “As a credit union, BCCU is a not-for-profit entity and is member-owned and operated. So once a person becomes a member of BCCU, they become much more than a customer. They become an owner – a shareholder – of BCCU. And as a shareholder, they will be able to take advantage of services only available to credit union members,” said BCCU President Greg Ngirmang. As part of its goals to serve the community, BCCU will work to promote thrift among its members and help them improve financial health through financial education and other services. With these planned offering of services, the Board reports that initial feedback they’ve received is positive and they hope to receive more interest once BCCU membership applications are made available.
Palau chiefs files lawsuit against Koror State Governor and KSPLA
The Palau Council of Chiefs has filed a lawsuit against Koror State Governor and the Koror State Public Lands Authority (KSPLA) following the barricading of their Malakal based office ordered by the defendants. The Chiefs are asking the Court in their lawsuit to hold a hearing and issue a TRO, and then preliminary injunction to order Governor Adachi and KSPLA chair to remove barricades. The Chiefs further claims that the defendants’ violated constitutional rights to due process of law and diminishing of the Chief’s role in violation of the constitution amongst others. According to reports, KSPLA has been attempting to vacate the Chiefs since 2009. Early last week, KSPLA barricaded the Chief’s office with all of the contents of their office inside.
Funds secured for renovation of Juvenile detention center
The Juvenile Justice Working Group announced that funds and assistance has been secured to renovate the old Vice President’s office to serve as the Juvenile Detention Center. The building, which was recently vacated has been cleaned out and ready for renovation with assistance provided by the Civil Action Team and the CIP office. A number of individuals, government agencies and organizations came together to seek a solution for juveniles in detention after a report released last year by the Judicial Monitoring and Evaluation team under the Pacific Judicial Development Programme reported that the jail conditions for juveniles constitutes the worst detention conditions of any group in Koror Jail. Other private donors are also extending a hand in the project by donating beds, books, toilet bowels and other necessities. “We are hopeful that more people will see the need and do their part to help with the project, “ said Jennifer Anson of the Ministry of Justice. The new detention center will essentially be used to house juveniles as well as give them more space separate from adult prisoners.
Outer atoll communities in the Marshalls to have access to safe drinking water
A Joint Committee that administers the Pacific Environment Community (PEC) fund has approved a $3.1 million dollar project for a potable water solution for outer island communities in the Marshall Islands. The photovoltaic reserve osmosis system project will be installed at community elementary schools in each outer atolls and will provide approximately 150 to 300 gallons of fresh potable water each day. “We hope that the introduction of this project will increase access to an additional source of safe drinking water for Marshall Islanders during times of water crisis. This is a great initiative by the Marshall Island government and will go some way towards improving the educational environment for our young people and communities in the outer atolls of the Marshall Islands, “ said Tuiloma Nerodi Slade, Secretary General of the Forum Secretariat. The PEC Fund, which is administered by the Forum Secretariat, is a commitment made by the Japan government providing funding assistance to Forum Island Countries for the establishment of solar and desalination initiatives to address environmental challenges.
Marshall Islands President calls for public service accountability
The 10th Annual Pacific Public Service Commissioners’ Conference in Majuro with Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak making a strong pitch for accountability in government services. Delivering the keynote speech to the conference of PSC chiefs from the region, Loeak said “there is no greater issue more central to good governance than accountability.” “It is incumbent on you, as public service commissioners and CEO’s, to provide the vision required for public service management,” Loeak said. He also directed advice to government workers, saying they must be willing to serve the public. He called for “creating a real culture of public service. The reality is that the people are not simply clients, but are citizens — they provide the capital that pays our wages and expenses.” Speaking after the president, Mishka Tu’ifua, the chairperson of Tonga’s public service agency, said: “We’ll work to make public service good for Pacific citizens.”
Water contaminated in several states in Palau
The Palau Environmental Quality Protection Board (EQPB) has announced that water systems in four states are contaminated with coliform bacteria, a bacterium that is found in the intestinal tracts of humans and animals. Its presence in water indicates fecal contamination and can cause severe case of diarrhea and other forms of gastrointestinal diseases. According to sources, numerous studies and assessments has been conducted on these sites including other water systems in the Babeldaob area with recommendation for action, however majority of these issues have remained despite these assessments. EQPB made the emergency announcement on October 22nd after test results revealed the contaminations on these sites. Residents are advised to boil their water before use until further notice.
Pacific ACP member countries to develop export capacity
The Secretariat of the Pacific Community has announced that 12 out of 15 Pacific ACP countries or Asian-Caribbean-Pacific Group of States have been selected to receive assistance from the Increasing Agricultural Commodity Trade (IACT) project to strengthen and develop export capacity in the region. Samu Turagacati of SPC Land Resources Division based in Fiji said, “The project’s main aim is to identify viable markets that Pacific enterprises can target with high quality agriculture, forestry and aquaculture products. The project employs a whole-of-supply chain approach, helping commercial ventures and producer groups to become export-oriented, market-driven enterprises that are able to consistently supply overseas markets with competitive products. “ After an intense selection process that included visits to shortlisted businesses, 30 out of 200 applicants were chosen. These participants will be assisted by a technical advisory group committee made up of individuals with expertise in financial planning, marketing & economics and management of agriculture, forestry, livestock and aquaculture.Mr. Turagacati further expressed that “not all the selected enterprises will require four years of assistance. “As businesses meet their aims, it will be possible for other shortlisted applicants to enter the project.”
RMI Senator recipient of 2012 Peace Leadership Award
Senator Tony de Brum of the Marshall Islands became this year’s Distinguished Peace Leadership Award recipient after the Nuclear Age Foundation honored him for his work during its recent reception in California. “Senator de Brum has worked tirelessly for peace and justice on behalf of his country. He and his fellow Marshall Islanders seek a peaceful world, free of nuclear weapons, “ said the Foundation in a statement. “For whatever is remaining of my life, I pledge to follow this dream that one day we can rid the world of the scourge of nuclear weapons and that peace can be achieved not by what harm we can do to each other, but by what good we can do together. I share in this award… and recognize with gratitude those who have walked with me in this journey of life, ” said de Brum in his speech upon receiving the award. Senator de Brum has and continues to work for a peaceful world free of nuclear weapons. The Nuclear Age Foundation, which was founded in 1982, is a foundation comprised of individuals and organizations worldwide who realized the imperative for peace in the Nuclear Age.
CMI President worried about funding changes
The President at the College of the Marshall Islands says any changes to funding from the US Government could have a devastating effect on education. Funding for students is expected to change from a system based on enrollment and access to one based on student achievement. The President of the College, Carl Hacker, says the idea of funding based on achievement sounds good in theory, but is unworkable in the education environment of the Marshalls. “When kids graduate from High School most of them are really struggling when it comes to things like math, science and language. We spend at least half of our budget working on developmental and remedial education. It’s tough, a change in the formula is going to have a big impact,” said Hacker. A taskforce has been created with the Minister of Education and High schools to improve the academic success of students. But he says changes to college funding will set back the progress that has been made.
Micronesian community to launch cooperative in Minnesota
The Micronesian Community in Milan, Minnesota, a small town compromising of nearly 400 residents is in the formative stage of launching a cooperative to expand their economic opportunities. Using the same economic model as the immigrant farmers from more than a century ago, the members are hoping for the cooperative to raise, process and market ethnic foods. Holding their first organizational meeting for the Anach Cooperative or “our food” Cooperative, the members are also brainstorming the possibility of developing other products based on the melding their native culture with the American culture including handicrafts, clothing’s and others. The US Department of Agriculture Rural Development this week announced it will award $163,000 to provide technical assistance toward the Cooperative’s development. Robert Ryan of Bird Island initially proposed the idea of the Cooperative to the community and sought a grant for it. The funding from Rural Development will allow Ryan to tap resources in private industry and the public sector to help the Micronesian community identify possible products and markets, and develop them. The Micronesian community accounts for about half of the western Chippewa County.
UAK awards champions of community transformation in NCD’s
Palau based non-governmental organization, Ulkereuil A Klengar (UAK) awarded plaques to several individuals, organizations and schools in their continuous efforts to address non-communicable diseases in a community wide level. Ibedul Yutaka Gibbons was among many organizational representatives, students, and individuals attending the award ceremony. Addressing the audience in his special remarks, Ibedul encouraged the group to continue the program, as it operates under a good purpose. A wide range of community based initiatives organized by UAK, individuals, and organizations are actively working on addressing NCD’s by encouraging healthy eating, more exercise and better health. UAK is a community health support group that works extensively to promote healthy lifestyle and provide NCD information to the Palauan community.
PMA donates small aircraft to Palau for outlying states
The Pacific Missionary Aviation (PMA) on Friday October 19 donated a small aircraft to the Republic for the purpose of providing additional transportation services to outlying states particularly Angaur State. The small aircraft will also provide additional services such as medivac, act as an additional transportation option in addition to the regular weekly boat transportation amongst other services. According to PMA, Angaur State particularly Governor Gates-Meltel and Delegate Horace Rafael initiated the project as the State desperately needed another alternate form of transportation in addition to their state boat. With a crew based in Palau, PMA pledged to work with the national government and the Angaur state government in provided air transportation services and aircraft maintenance. PMA is a non-government organization working in the Pacific region to bring home and change the lives of the Pacific people.
Unique fashion show celebrates Marshallese style and culture
A unique fashion show organized recently at the Marshall Islands Resort, celebrated and showcased Marshallese style and culture. The show, which was the highlight of the Ministers of Tourism Conference hosted by the Marshall Islands Visitors Authority, attracted a lot of attention from the night’s guests. The show included unique clothing designs and accessories showcasing the “Jaki Era” or the pre-western pre-missionary era.