The 24th Mechesil Belau Women's Conference started its second and last day this morning with four panels set to lead the topics of discussion to conclude this year's confab. Topics today will cover Crime and Drugs; Environment that includes PPUC, PNCC and Pension; Climate Change and Protected Areas Network; and Land issue.
A packed Ngarachamayong Cultural Center witnessed the opening of the conference, which began with formalities and speeches from traditional leaders, Ibedul Yutaka Gibbons and Reklai Rafael B. Ngirmang. President Remengesau delivered the keynote address with presiding officers of both OEK houses Senate President Hokkons Baules and Speaker Sabino Anastacio concluding the national leadership remarks.
Dr. Keith Horinouchi, who is a Lifestyle & Nutritional Medicine Specialist and ran his own Dr. Horinouchi's Wellness Clinic in Guam, was a guest speaker. Panel topics on the first day were issues on customs and traditions — birth, marriage, and death; health; and education.
The two day event brings women from all over Palau to discuss issues that are important to them as well as promoting Palauan heritage, taking care of family, health, and improving children's education. In its 24th running, the women's conference has gained prominence with more than 20 public laws having originated from the discussion in the meetings.
President Remengesau will be leaving for an 11-day travel off island to Japan and New York City for the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) respectively, starting on September 14 and returning on the September 25.
Remengesau's trip to Japan will be to Hiroshima for the naming of the new 40 meter Palau patrol boat provided through grant assistance from Sasakawa Peace Foundation and Nippon Foundation. The patrol boat will join a fleet of other patrol boats to monitor the Palau's territorial waters.
Accompanying the president in his Japan trip are representatives from the Palau National Marine Sanctuary and Director Tutii of the Marine Law Enforcement and Fish and Wildlife. President Remengesau will also have an opportunity to meet with Japan's new Foreign Affairs Minister Taro Kono.
After Japan, the president will fly directly to New York City to attend the 72nd UNGA, which will convene on September 19th. The General Debate will open on Tuesday, 19 September 2017, with a focus on the theme, 'Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All on a Sustainable Planet'. Remengesau is returning on September 25th.
Women are dominating Palau's foreign affairs team with the recent confirmation of Jeraldine Tudong as Palau's newest ambassador. She will join Ngedikes "Olai" Uludong and Dilmei Olkeriil who are serving as ambassadors to the United Nations and Taiwan respectively, under Palau's top diplomat, Minister of State Faustina RehuherMarugg.
The Senate on Tuesday confirmed the presidential appointment of Ms. Jeraldine Tudong as Palau's ambassador to the European Union. Tudong will take on the position, which was formerly held by Ambassador Ngedikes "Olai" Uludong, before she assumed her present U.N. post.
Tudong's confirmation was swift with a Senate approval vote immediately after her confirmation hearing.
Tudong is currently chief of the Division of Foreign Affairs under the Ministry of State's Bureau of Foreign Affairs & Trade. She is a graduate of the Australian university system with Bachelor of Arts' Degrees in Politics & History at the University of Wollongong, New South Wales and a Master of Arts' Degree in Foreign Affairs & Trade Department at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.
President Remengesau said Ms. Tudong's extensive experience representing Palau at various United Nations bodies, strong relationship with Palau's diplomatic corps and her institutional knowledge of Palau's diplomatic agendas make her most suitable for this important assignment.
"I am certain, that with her impeccable background in foreign relations and her collective expertise in the Ministry, Ms Tudong will represent Palau's interests skillfully, and be an effective Ambassador for the Republic to the European Union and advance our development priorities with our partners," Re-mengesau said in his appointment letter to Senate President Hokkons Baules.
As an EU ambassador, Tudong will be keeping track of the many projects and bilateral agreement between Palau and the European Union and its respective member countries. "There is now an undeniable need for Palau to step up its efforts in following up and staying on track with many projects and bilateral arrangements that pertain to our partnership with the European Union," Re-mengesau said.
Ms. Tudong awaits an official oath-taking before leaving overseas to her new post at Brussels, Belgium.
The Koror Planning Commission (KPC) through its Building and Zoning Office is seeking public comments during a public hearing on proposed changes to the Koror building and zoning code to accommodate two new hotels and one bed and breakfast operation located in three hamlets.
In Ngerbechedesau, Ngermid on the way to JPF Bridge, Etpison Corporation and Shalturn Etpison are building a 140-room hotel called Palau Reef Pemphis Hotel on Lot No. 102 B02 and B03. This is within an area zoned as "RC" Residential Commercial Zone which is proposed to be changed to "RV" Resort Center Zone. Job Kikuo is planning to turn his residence on Lot No. 135B03, B04, and B06 in Ngerbodel, Ngerchemai into a Bread & Breakfast operation with restaurant in an area classified as "R2" Single Family Residential Zone. He proposes to change it to "RC" Residential Commercial Zone. At Ngel, Medalaii in mid Koror between PNCC Office and PDC Building, Uchel Tmetuchl and RT Management are proposing to build a hotel on Lot Nos. 109B09, 132B03 and B04 and 40374.
It is within an area zoned as "RC" Residential Commercial Zone and is being requested to be rezoned to "RV" Resort Center Zone. KPC is asking for public comments especially from people residing in the three hamlets and close close to the locations of these three proposed projects in a public hearing to be held on Wednesday, September 20, 2017 from 6 to 9pm at the Koror State Assembly Hall in the state building in Nger-beched.
For further information, KPC office can be contacted at 488-8436/8769.
Locals will be required to show control of bank account upon business license renewal
President Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr., has organized a special law enforcement operation to crack down on illegal business practices and activities in the tourism industry.
Remengesau through Presidential Directive No. 17-26, organized joint law enforcement special operation called an "Operation Clean Business, Sound-Tourism," to improve compliance with the laws, rules, and regulations governing the tourism industry.
The law enforcement operation is effective immediately. Many businesses are operating illegally especially in the type of business reserved for locals.
Previous government inspections revealed that there are several business operations that are operating secretively or illegally without proper permits or licenses.
President Remengesau stressed that the Olbiil Era KeIulau recognized the increasing number of undesirable tourism related businesses schemes such as from businesses, operating apartments as hotels, and false marketing schemes, and has introduced a resolution calling on the President of the Republic to investigate and take the necessary actions to address the situation.
The mission of the special operation is to organize all relevant law enforcement agencies to conduct random monitoring, inspections, investigations, and assessments of certain tourism-related businesses to ensure compliance with the law.
Among the main areas of concentration for the special operation include rock island tourist sites, dive sites, live-aboard, state attraction sites, the airport terminal, tourist docking stations, and business establishments including restaurants, accommodations, gift shops, cubs, bars, and any other areas determined by the group.
Members of the joint law enforcement operations are president's office, Bureau of Tourism, Attorney General's Office, FIB, PVA, Bureau of Public Health, Bureau of Immigration and Labor, Marine Law Enforcement and Fish and Wildlife, Bureau of Public Safety, Bureau of Commercial Development, Customs and Border Control, Bureau of Revenue and Taxation and Bureau of Aviation.
In a related development, businesses in respective categories reserved for Palauans will be required to show proof of bank account under the business name and a Palauan citizen.
"I remind all Palauans who are these tourist related partnerships with foreign nationals that they are now required to show a bank account with their name and the name of the business for business license renewal," said Minister of Finance Elbuchel Sadang.
He said the proof of bank account was one of the ways that RPPL 9-64 (amendment to Foreign Investment Board) defined ownership to establish full business control.
On September 2, 2017, Satur-day, the Maris Stella School held its second carnival fundraiser to raise funds to help the school with its expenses. President of the Parents &Teachers & Students Association (PTSA), Mr. Gerald Tulop; collaborated with Principal Lorenza Olkeriil to put on a successful fundraising event. The other officers of the Maris Stella School are: J. Uduch Sengebau Senior Vice President, Bibbie Kumangai Secretary and Francis Remengesau Treasurer.
The Back to School Family Carnival theme was very successful last year and the school decided to go it again this year. The carnival this year was also a wonderful commemoration of the 60th year of Maris Stella School. Maris Stella School opened its doors in 1957 and the first graduating class was in 1958. The funfilled day brought together families, students, teachers, parents and alumni of the school. The school successfully raised $31,500.00 that day.
The Principal of Maris Stella School, Lorenza Olkeriil, wishes to thank the entire community of Palau including the generous corporate business and private donors who came together on Saturday, Sept 2, 2017, to help Maris Stella School.
Since this is the 60th year of the school, fundraising activities will continue until the end of this school year in May 2018.. Principal Olkeriil welcomes any and all donations from the alumni, and supporters of the school through the next year. First Lady Debbie Remengesau was on hand at the carnival to give awards to the best booths made by the students in each grade with the support of their parents.
The family atmosphere at the carnival fundraiser made it a lot of fun for both the students and their families. Maris Stella School hopes to make this an annual fundraising event an MSS Back-to-School Family Carnival during the Labor Day weekend. The money raised at this carnival will be used to purchase textbooks and to benefit the teachers. Mr. Salvador Tellames of Palau Wave Radio and Mr. Patrick Knight of Eco-Paradise/t8AA radio stations were able to broadcast the carnival "live" from the MSS Field.
President 'Tommy E. Re-mengesau returned from a 3-day trip to the City of Geru in the Gifu prefecture of Japan on September 2, 2017. Remengesau was in Japan by invitation of a Japanese religious organization (Kurakara) that helped build two WWII monuments in Peleliu honoring those that lost their lives in the war.
President Remengesau held meetings with religious leaders and corporate leaders as well as top cultural events organizers in Japan.
He encouraged greater "people to people" exchange programs. "It has only been a little over a year since I met with His Excellency Prime Minister Abe at PALM 7 to discuss the importance of our respective peoples understanding each other's cultures," stated Remengesau in his Address to Gero Group which has arranged through Priestess Morishita of Kurakara Temple to bring 50 high school students to Palau next year.
In his meeting with Geru group, they also expressed intentions to visit Palau in December and to create an organization called "We Love and Support Palau" to work with the Office of the President to continue "people to people" exchange programs. "I am certain that the visitors from Geru will enjoy their visit to Palau and I am sure that they will appreciate the natural biodiversity and unique culture Palau has to offer that is very different but just as magnificent as the beautiful mountains of Geru.
The warmth of the ocean and the colors of the flourishing life beneath will be a wonder the visitors from Geru and the high school student from Ritsumeikan will enjoy....I hope that our work will become tradition among friends to continue learning and understanding between peoples of our two countries," expressed Remengesau. Remengesau was accompanied at this meeting by Economic and Japan Relations Advisory Mr. Donald Haruo, Peleliu State Governor Ternmy Shmull and his Press Secretary Olkeriil Kazuo. Palau recently executed a joint venture and concession agreement with two companies from Japan to build, expand and improve Palau's International Terminal. It is expected that the two companies JATCO and SOJITZ will be bringing a lot of Japanese customers as well as inter-national customers to Palau through their marketing networks.
Senate President Hokkons Baules is requested to compel Palau Public Utilities Corporations' Chairman Sam Masang and CEO Kione Isechal to a public hearing to answer public concerns about tariff rates, disconnection and reconnection services, irregularity in billing cycles, metering and fuel adjustment rates. In a letter signed by five Senators, Senator Inabo, Senator Senior, Senator Akitaya, Senator Whipps and Senator Chin, it asserts that despite repeated requests to Chairman of Capital Improvement Projects, Senator John Skebong, to conduct public hearing with PPUC to address these raised issues Senator Skebong has not been able or willing to conduct such hearing.
Senators further urged. Senate President to use his subpoenas authority to compel the officers of PPUC to come to a public hearing and provide all documents on tariff rates and other issues raised. The letter further states that Senate might be seen by the public to be protecting their own interests, such as preventing records of some members of OEK who are not paying their home or business bills from be-coming public. "If we continue to remain quiet and complacent about these troubling issues at PPUC, the people of Palau who elected us to office might mistakenly conclude that we are somehow protecting PPUC and are intentionally preventing, obstructing, impeding or deterring full disclosure of billing records which might implicate members of the OEK who are not paying their bills for their homes or businesses."
The letter was issued before Tuesday's scheduled Senate session where Senate Ways & Means Committee will be presenting a report on the FY 2018 Annual Budget bill in its second reading. No public hearings have been held on the bill so far and the bill contains proposed subsidy for PPUC.
Several senators have raised concerns that PPUC may have recovered its fuel cost excessively when the Automatic Fuel Price Adjustment Clause (AFPAC) of the tariff schedule was not adjusted to reflect the huge drop in the cost of fuel worldwide. What should have been savings realized by families and businesses instead remained in PPUC's coffers.
In a letter to PPUC Chairman Sam Masang and Chief Exectuive Officer Kione Isechal, the senators also questioned if the excessive cost recovery may have had an impact on the proposed 77% tariff increase for water and wastewater to be effective on October 1.
The letter of August 28, 2017 was signed by Senators Rukebai Inabo, Mason Whipps, Regis Akitaya, Uduch Senior and Camsek Chin. "Though PPUC's fuel cost dropped 30% (from $14.5M in FY2015 to $10.1M in FY2016), power revenue changed only slightly. The FY2016 power revenue only dropped 6%, from $21.0M in FY2015 to $19.8M in FY2016.
This leaves one to believe that maybe PPUC did not adjust AFPAC fuel tariff rate downward sufficiently when fuel price dropped substantially," said the lawmakers. The senators claim that without the downward adjustment of AFPAC, PPUC continued to charge higher fuel rate. "Which probably means, the revenue generated through AFPAC fuel rate exceeded fuel cost by an estimated $4M to $5M," the senators said.
The senators stressed that AFPAC supports full-cost recovery' which means PPUC's average net income should be zero. From fiscal years 2013 —2015, actual fuel cost is always around 65% - 70% of the power generation revenue. But in fiscal year 2016, the cost of fuel was only 51% of the total power revenue, far below average. They asked if the 17% to 18% excess revenue really just excessive cash for PPUC.
Further the senators said that PPUC's cash flow appears to confirm assumption of over recover of fuel cost recovery through AFPAC because it shows PPUC's cash balance increased substantially by $8.4M in FY2016 from $7M to $15.4M. "When PPUC's cash reserves more than double in one
year, we must ask how and why this happened because cash flowing into the coffers of the PPUC is at the great sacrifice of the people, especially those who can least afford it.," they said. With PPUC's fuel cost at the lowest in the last 10 years, new power generators at Malakal and Aimeliik, and energy loss lowered, "why is it that the AFPAC fuel rate is not the lowest rate ever?" "Did PPUC recover excessive power revenue by not adjusting its AFPAC fuel rate in keeping with the fuel cost fluctuation? Or is something wrong with the AFPAC mechanism such that, its implementation yield unintended results?", asked the senators. They have requested PPUC to provide all the information necessary to form a firm and conclusive answer to the question.
"Killing two birds with one stone" is perhaps the most fitting expression to describe the latest salvo in the escalating war of words between the attorney Senator Uduch Senior and Senate President Hokkons Baules. Senator Senior has proven to be the one among the opposition senators with the guts to stand up to the Senate President.
In her August 30, 2017 letter to Baules, she did not only asked for his resignation, she attacks House Speaker Sabino Anastacio for his comments about the Senate during the Palau leadership meeting on Tuesday. She said in the letter, "I am writing to express my utter disappointment at your failure to respond to the statement made by the Speaker Sabino Anastacio, the Delegate of Ngchesar State, about the Senators during the miscellaneous part of the Leaders Lunch meeting yesterday.
As "leader" of the Senate, it is your responsibility and duty to stand up and represent the Senate". Without citing the specific statements about the Senate, the outspoken woman senator further told HB, "I exercised restraint and did not respond to the highly offensive statements of Speaker Anastacio out of a deep respect for the Rubekul Belau (presence of Ibedul and Reklai in the meeting) and proper decorum which were apparently lacking in the Delegate of Ngchesar State". ..."Your silence meant that you agreed with those statements; the uncouth and disrespectful nature of the statements made by Speaker Anastacio casts the whole Olbiil Era Kelulau in a poor light and reflects the poorly on not only the Speaker who the statements but on you and the Senate".
As to Speaker Anastacio, she also attacked on another matter saying, "Further, I am outraged that the House of Delegates is spending thousands of dollars on an end of the fiscal year party. The elected leaders of the Olbiil Era Kelulau should not be partying while the pressing business of the people is not being done. The water and wastewater tariff increase of 77% is on the minds of every
Palauan, and the yet the House of Delegates throws a party using public funds."
As to the Senate President, she added, "Based on your performance in recent months, it is obvious that you can no longer lead the Senate." "Again, I request that you step down as President of the Senate and let a new, stronger voice for the Senate and for the people of Palau lead the Senate for the betterment of all the people of Palau."
The apparent acidic relationship between Senior and Baules originated earlier this year when Senior along with Senator Phillip Reklai voted with Senate minority against and killing the resolution on China trade agreement introduced by Baules. Shortly thereafter, the Senate President turned down the TA for Senior to fly to Japan with her husband for a day to obtain a visa and return the next day and then fly out to Guatemala to attend a human right conference that he had approved before.
An exchange of harsh letters between the two ensued resulting with Senior resigning her chairmanship and vice chairmanship in two committees. The Senate President then exposed 21 overseas trips taken by 9 senators in seven months since taking costing over $50,000 in taxpayers money of which Senior spent over $13,000 in six trips, the highest among all other tripping senators. ,
Since then it has gone from a skirmish to an all-out war now that Senior is asking for Baules head. An earlier development also led to the present situation. Senator Senior with Senator Reklai had jumped to the 7-member majority from the 6-member minority during the causing for leadership with Baules as the President before the swearing-in of the 10th OEK in January. This boosted majority number to 9 and reducing the minority to 4. When she resigned so as Senator Reklai and rejoined the minority , however, Reklai sided the majority in the recent voting and passing of the controversial $24.5M airport renovation and expansion joint project with Japanese companies and has been sidelined by the minority. Senior has appeared to be the spokesperson and leader of the minority now with 5 members.