Year 2017 In Review

  05 Jan 2018

Common thread…

August – Asian Development Bank’s annual publication Together We Deliver: 50 Stories of  Partnerships in Asia and the Pacific says Palau is one of the “most successful economies” among the Small Island countries. ADB noted some of the major partnership projects it has with Palau such as the $25 million North Pacific Regional Connectivity Investment Project (high quality internet broadband connectivity), $28.8 million Koror-Airai Sanitation Project and the Water Sector Improvement Program.

Airport Terminal Improvement Project pushed through amid concerns and allegations of lack of transparency surrounding the deliberation of bills and contracts on the project. Letters protesting the lack of public discourse on the project were brought by six senators and two private citizens.

President Remengesau signed the Airport bill into law. Also in the same month Palau signed the Joint Venture Agreement with JATCO and Sojitz Corporation to expand and renovate the airport. Palau also signed the Concession Agreement with JATCO and SoJITZ within the same month.

Appellate Court overturned the decision of the Trial Division which stated that Koror State Legislature did not have standing to sue KSPLA because it could not demonstrate injury in fact.  Appellate Court said KSL had standing to sue as Palau Constitution defines judicial powers to “extend to all matters of law and equity.”

Also in August, North Korea threaten to bomb Guam in retaliation against US position against its regime. Remengesau issued a statement saying that Palau stands with people of Guam and region in their concerns for well-being of everyone. He also expressed his confidence in the US ability to protect its allies.

Minister Baklai Temengil-Chilton is nominated for membership of the International Olympic Committee. She is one of the nine individuals selected by OIC Election Commission and presented to IOC Executive Board.   In September, Minister Temengil-Chilton was formally approved to be member of IOC at the International Olympic Committee Session Lima, Peru.

Wilhelm Rekis Aichi is charged with 8 criminal charges, Money Laundering, Structuring, Criminal Conspiracy to Commit Trafficking of drugs, Criminal Attempt and Theft of Government Property.

Edwin Rechirikl is sentenced to 25 years, with all suspended except for six years  served in jail for Trafficking Controlled Substances.  He will pay a fine of $10,000.

Senators suggest PPUC may have overcharged customers on fuel adjustment rate and alleging that PPUC may have recovered their fuel costs excessively. Senators voiced concerns that such calculation may further burden people when next rate tariff goes up. Senators asked PPUC to provide further details in how reached the “excessive power revenue”.  Senators also wrote Senate President to compel PPUC to a public hearing to answer public concerns.

September – A sweeping arrest of 9 men over a weekend was made in connection drug trafficking, criminal solicitation of prostitution, sexual assaults, electronic enticement of a child and criminal conspiracy to promote prostitution and others. The nine men allegedly were collaborating in these criminal activities.

Contract to construct the $6.6 million dollars Palau Mariculture Demonstration Center facility was awarded by JICA. Minister Umiich Sengebau and General Manager of Chizaki Inc. Overseas Operation Division signed the construction contract to begin the work on the new facility.  The project is slated to be completed by summer of 2018.

PPUC denied charging excessive fuel cost to customers assuring OEK that they did not overcharge customers. PPUC explains that the $15 million reported in its audit include all accounts and is not due to over recovery of fuel cost in 2016.

Land Court resolves 17 out 22 land cases using mediation process. Land Court’s authority to hear and adjudicate land cases expired in August of 2016 was only restored  in April of 2017.  With hundreds of pending cases before it, active mediation was used to resolve some of the cases.

OEK introduced policy proposals in the FY 2018 budget.  The proposals included raising SS contribution to 7%.  Individual contributions and employer contributions will increase by 1% to a combined total of 14% and removing the ceiling on remuneration. Another proposal was to change the PPEF fee from departure to arrival fee and for the fee to be incorporated into airline tickets.

Palau Chamber of Commerce issued a statement protesting the increase in Social Security contribution saying that the sudden increase will negatively affect some businesses. Limited time given to businesses to adjust compounded with expected increase in utility rates will lead to “reduced customer spending and higher consumer costs.”

President Remengesau signed the budget bill into law this month of September, item veto the appropriation for Pension Plan subsidy, and also cutting $100k from House of Delegates budget.

Keobel Sakuma, Managing Director of Palau National Marine Sanctuary won the 2017 Kenton Miller Award for Innovation in Protected Area Management and received the award on behalf of all those that developed and established the Palau Marine Sanctuary.

Vice President Raynold Oilouch reported that discussion and negotiation with land owners for lands needed for the U.S. radar systems was closer conclusion with landowners amenable to leasing their lands for radar use.  Discussion over compensation is still on-going. (Final review of 2017 will be in January 8 issue) [/restrict]