Palau’s Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism Minister Umiich Sengebau was among the three keynote speakers at the Pacific Ocean Finance Conference held in Yanuca, Fiji from November 11-15.
Minister Sengebau delivered his speech along with two other keynote speakers namely The Nature Conservancy Deputy Managing Director of Blue Bonds, Robert Weary, and Althelia Sustainable Oceans Fund Blue Investments Director Simon Dent in a gathering of top practitioners and experts in ocean governance and finance.
The conference, which is dubbed as the “first of its kind for the region”, aimed to gather ocean and finance experts to discuss “all aspects of ocean finance and governance.”
Minister Sengebau opened his speech by reiterating the importance of ocean as an integral aspect of the survival of the people of the Pacific and their cultures.
Sengebau said that there are many initiatives currently done to ensure the conservation of the oceans but along with these come the question of securing funds to fuel continuous initiatives.
“A lack of long-term funding strategies, and funds, is often the cause of conflicting priorities, forcing us to put sustainability in the back seat and instead prioritize the revenue we could generate,” Sengebau said.
The Minister presented Palau’s financing schemes to support key conservation projects and initiatives such as the Green Fee and its scale-up version, the Pristine Paradise Environmental Fee (PPEF).
The PPEF is Palau’s funding mechanism that is derived from $100-fee imposed on each tourist that visits the country. It currently supports the Protected Areas Network (PAN) and the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS), among others.
The Minister, however, emphasized that while Palau is proud of this mechanism, it is also vulnerable to challenges tied to the tourism performance of the country.
“We rely on assistance from, and collaborative efforts with, our regional partners and the international community to support us financially and logistically in ensuring that the sanctuary remains a no-take zone for decades to come,” the minister said. (Rhealyn C. Pojas)