Fri. Dec 6th, 2019

Six senators calls for transparency in discussions of airport bill

Six senators are calling for transparency by urging Senate President Hokkons Baules to hold a public hearing regarding the proposed measure on a planned multi-million dollar project to renovate the Palau International Airport.

In an August 2 letter addressed to Sen. Baules, Sens. Regis Akitaya, Camsek Chin, Rukebai Inabo, Philip Reklai, J. Uduch Sengebau Senior and Mason Whipps, requested that the public through the hearing should have access to complete information on the renovation project. [restrict]

The public hearing they said should be scheduled before the Senate tackle the bill in a special session.

“The essence of any democracy is openness and transparency to the people who honor us as elected officials. Without this openness and transparency about the Airport Renovation Bill, there is no accountability to the people on this important issue, which will impact every Palauan for at least the next twenty years,” the senators stated.

The members of the minority bloc said the Senate owes it to the public to “understand the need for this multi-million dollar project, the way in which the Republic plans to make this new or renovated airport terminal a reality, and most importantly the financial implications that borrowing $24.5 million to $40.0 million over a period of twenty to thirty years will have on the airport, the Republic, and the average citizen of Palau.”

The senators said the hearing should be open to the public, filmed and televised for all the citizens of Palau.

They said that there are concerns regarding the project and one of them is whether the project is a loan or an investment.

On July 28 President Tommy Remengesau Jr. referred back House bill 10-38-2,HD4, the airport renovation bill seeking clarification to a language in the measure that he said could jeopardize the project.

Remengesau also cited the urgency of the measure due to looming deadlines.

In his referral letter,  Remengesau said that the current language in the bill requiring contracts executed by the President to obtain final approval from Congress is essentially requiring “third round of OEK approvals for the same contracts”. This, he said, could create confusion and jeopardize the implementation of the project. He suggested removing the language “subject to approval by law” from the bill.

Remengesau said in a previous joint resolution, members of the Congress have already agreed to give him the authority to execute the agreement without needing the approval from the OEK.

Copies of contracts were provided to OEK members in May and members of OEK had made “critical observations from the perspective of protecting our Republic” and that those recommendations were incorporated to improve the contracts, according President Remengesau in his transmittal.

Sen. Mark Rudimch, chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means when asked about the transmittal letter said that the measure referred back by the president would be tackled or reviewed when the special session is scheduled.

Whether the Senate will adopt Remengesau’s recommendations, Rudimch would not say pending discussions by the senators during the special session. (B.Carreon) [/restrict]