Two separate measures have been proposed calling for the delay of the implementation of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act- the law that will close 80 percent of Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to commercial fishing. Proponents of the measure said the tourism downturn is affecting the fees earmarked for the famed marine sanctuary.
The two bills were introduced in November highlighted that the lower number of tourists visiting Palau lowered the revenues from the Environmental Impact Fee.
On January 2018, every visitor coming to Palau will have to pay $100 environmental fee. The environmental fee is the primary financing mechanism for the Palau National Marine Sanctuary. Enacted in October 2015, The law will be fully implemented in the year 2020, following a five-year transition period.
However, the bill introduced by Senator Rukebai Inabo called for the extension of the transition period for another 10 years.
While the bill introduced by Senators Kerai Mariur, John Skebong, Stevenson Kuartei, Aric Nakamura and Mark Rudimch asked for a delay of the implementation for five years.
Both bills took into account the declining tourism numbers that affecting Palau’s economy.
The $100 fee is allocated as follows: $10 to Fisheries Protection Trust Fund; $12.50 to state governments; $25 to the security, operation, maintenance, and improvement of the Palau International Airport (provided all funds from local revenue that would have been appropriated for those purposes shall be appropriated to the Civil Service Pension Fund); $30 earmarked for Protected Areas Network; and $22.50 to revert to the National Treasury.
The senators who proposed the delay in the implementation said that the low collection is also affecting the funding of other agencies that rely on the fee.
Palau set aside 500,000 square kilometers or 80 percent of its maritime waters for full protection.
The remaining 20 percent of Palau’s seas will be reserved for domestic fishing. (Bernadette H. Carreon)