Palau

Another car accident claims a life

Island Times - 12 ore 49 min fa

Another tragic car accident claimed a young life this weekend, when a car collided with a power pole in Ngerderar, Aimeliik State.

Police report revealed that at around 11:20pm on Saturday, July 31, 2020, a single car with 3 male occupants, ran off the road and struck a power pole with one of the men dying as result of the impact.  Two other males, were brought to the hospital.

Alcohol is suspected as a factor in the accident according to the investigators, although investigation is said to be ongoing.

The occupants of the vehicle are citizens of the Republic of the Marshall Islands who are in their early 20’s to early 30’s.  The deceased is said to have recently graduated from Palau Community College.

Names of individuals were withheld pending notification of their families.

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Categorie: Palau

Dale shares views on education at confirmation hearing

Island Times - 12 ore 50 min fa

BY: Olkeriil Ngirudelsang

Senate Committee on Education sat down yesterday for a confirmation hearing of Dr. Dale Jenkins’ appointment to the Ministry of Education.

Held the same day as the opening of the first day of a new school year for public schools, the hearing was conducted by Senator Andrew Tabelual, Chairman of Committee on Education, who himself served as the Director of Education just recently.

During the hearing, Dr. Jenkins shared his views and positions on certain education issues. Asked by Senator Sengebau as to how teachers can be kept from moving to better paying jobs, Jenkins said that “my suggestion is that all teachers should be put on teachers’ contract”. He explained that by remaining in the civil service program, teachers are entitled to take a 2 weeks-vacation in the middle of a school year. Jenkins pointed that by being employed through teachers’ contracts, teachers will be conditioned to complete the 10 months-school year as well as be incentivized under this scheme.

Dr. Dale also emphasized the importance of increasing the use of technology in teaching and learning. He also made clear that schools in Palau should be held a year round; with no summer breaks but with holidays and breaks in between quarters and semesters “like a 3 or 4-days quarter break”. “A year round school’s calendar; I’m a firm believer that educationally, it is the best system,” expressed Dale.

In response to Senator Eldebechel’s statement regarding the public inquiry of Dale’s nationality as a non-palauan, Jenkins assured, “give me four years and then decide”.

When asked to comment, Senator Isechal expressed that “I would have liked to see a Palauan fill this position; but if not, I will respect the President’s decision to nominate Dale”.

Dr. Dale Jenkins have an impressive resume on education. He holds a doctorate degree on Policy development and administration and 2 Masters degrees on Reading as well as Educational Administration and Supervision.

In a letter to the OEK, President Whipps wrote that “Dr. Jenkins has the practical teaching experience to know exactly what the students and teachers need to succeed in the classroom, and has the leadership experience and education to foster an engaged and successful ministry.”

If confirmed, Dale Jenkins would be the second foreigner to serve as a cabinet member of this young Republic.

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Categorie: Palau

Former Angaur speaker pleads guilty to criminal charges

Island Times - 12 ore 51 min fa

Former Angaur State Speaker Leon Gulibert accepted a guilty plea agreement in which he pled guilty to 5 out of the 24 counts brought against him under criminal case no. 20-120.

He pled guilty to Ethics Code Violation (misdemeanor), Terroristic Threatening in the First Degree (felony), Non-payment of Wages – Labor Trafficking (misdemeanor), Unified Tax Violation (misdemeanor) and Sexual Harassment (misdemeanor) offenses.  In agreeing to these criminal charges, the remaining 19 will be dismissed.

Under the plea agreement, for Ethics Code Violation, Mr. Gulibert will pay a fine of $4,000.  For Terroristic Threatening in the First Degree, he may be sentenced up to 6 months in jail, 6years probation and pay a fine of $10,000.  Under Non-payment of wages and Labor Trafficking, he will pay full restitution to victim (1), $2,516.40 and pay $2,000 fine for counts 10-16, a total of $14,000.  Rest of the counts under this charge will be dismissed.  Under Unified Tax Violation, he will pay a fine of $1,000 for Count 17 and the rest will also be dismissed.  For Sexual Harassment guilty plea, he will pay a fine of $1,000 and may serve up to 6 months in jail to run concurrent with Terroristic Threatening imprisonment sentence. 

Altogether, if court agrees to the plea agreement, defendant Gulibert could pay fines of $31,516.00 and faces a possibility of 6-months imprisonment.

Under the plea agreement, by pleading guilty, Gulibert waived his rights to a trial and to an appeal.

Sentencing is for September 13, 2021.

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Categorie: Palau

Court order suppresses evidence in major drug case

Island Times - 12 ore 52 min fa

Trial court presiding Justice Kathleen Salii has issued an order granting a motion from defendant Teddy Teodoro to declare statements he made to the police inadmissible in court.

Mr. Teodoro was charged on counts of Trafficking in Controlled Substance and Possession of Controlled Substance, in relation to a seizure of nearly 500 grams of methamphetamine in March of this year in a crate from the Philippines addressed to Teodoro.

Defendant claimed he did not sign the written statements given to him by the police and that he was not read his rights and was not informed of his rights to counsel when he was arrested and questioned by the police.

In the order issued by Justice Salii, it states, “Statement obtained from defendant Teddy Teodore during his arrest, his interrogation and conversation with Director Aguon or any other law enforcement officers and the statement in type-written form which were presented to him to sign, are inadmissible against him.”

Mr. Teodoro was arrested and charged for Trafficking of Controlled Substance and Possession of Controlled Substance, to which he pled not guilty.

In the charging documents, police said that Mr. Teodoro had said that the crate sent to his name through cargo was not for him but for his employer Felix Francisco.  The crate was found to contain methamphetamine or (ice) worth over $2.5 million dollars, hidden in hollows under it. Furthermore, the statement made by Teodoro recounted that Mr. Francisco, Teodoro’s employer had instructed him to pick up the cargo, implicating his employer Felix Francisco. 

The court order made these statements by Teodoro inadmissible in court, meaning they cannot be used against him in his trial.

Meanwhile, his employer Mr. Felix Francisco, who was arrested based partially on the same statements and was in custody pending trial, was approved by court to go home on June 19th, under home custody, to watch his kids while his wife was off-island until her return on August 1st. 

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Categorie: Palau

Team Palau returns home from Tokyo Olympics

Island Times - 12 ore 53 min fa

Team Palau to the Tokyo Olympics returned home yesterday after giving their best during a brief debut at the Tokyo Olympics.

The three Olympians representing Palau in swimming and athletics sports performed in their respective sports on July 30 and 31st and left on the 1st of August to return home.

All three athletes performed their personal best, competing against much larger nations.  The competitions were broadcasted live and many Palauans at home were able to cheer them on from home.

According to parent of one of the athletes, due to flight schedules, athletes had to catch the earliest flight back or they would have been stuck in Japan for another week.  Due to tight restrictions in and around Japan due to COVID, staying back was not an option for the athletes.

The three athletes Osisang Dibech Chilton, Shawn Dingelius and Adrian Justin Ililau were accompanied by their coaches, Billy Brown and Peoria Koshiba, Chef De Mission Marcy Tellei, PNOC President Frank Kyota, PNOC Secretary Baklai Temengil-Chilton and PNOC Liaison Stephanie Ngirchoimei. (By: L.N. Reklai)

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Categorie: Palau

Bill returning public land to states passes Senate

Island Times - 12 ore 54 min fa

A bill requiring that Palau Public Land Authority (PPLA) turn over public lands it holds to the states where those public lands are located passed 3rd reading in Senate once again.  Under the bill, PPLA must turn over lands to the state within 90 days, once formal request from the state is submitted.

This is not the first time that this bill has been introduced.  During last administration, it passed both Senate and House and was submitted to then President Remengesau.  The bill was referred back with amendments and OEK did not act on it and it lapsed.  It has been re-introduced and passed 3rd and final reading in the Senate, to be transmitted to the House.

The objective of the bill is said to “increase localized management of public lands” and to “improve the ability of various state governments regulate and monitor the operations of their respective public land authorities”.    

Significant changes proposed include; limiting the authority of PPLA to sell, lease or exchange public land and to “use or dedicate land for public purposes” only, allow state government to legislate more authorities to state public lands authorities, remove President’s legal authority to execute leases and land use agreements, and discontinue the Homestead program.

Palau Public Land Authority will be limited only to management of lands “identified in the National Development Master Plan for the national government and those public lands reserved for use by the United States Government under the Compact of Free Association.” (By: L.N. Reklai)

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Categorie: Palau

Japan and Palau Signed approx. $1.8 million Grant Aid Contract to Promote Agriculture and Livestock Production in Palau

Island Times - 12 ore 55 min fa

On July 30th, 2021, H.E. Karasawa Akira, Ambassador of Japan to the Republic of Palau, and H.E. Surangel S. Whipps Jr., President of the Republic of Palau, exchanged notes on the Japan’s Grant Aid “The Project for Assisting the Development of the Agriculture and Livestock Production Industry” for Palau. Hon. Hokkons Baules, Senate President, Hon. Sabino Anastacio, Speaker of the House of Delegates, Hon. Steven Victor, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and the Environment and other officials from Japan and Palau attended the ceremony.

In this project worth 200 million Japanese yen (1.8 million USD), Japan will provide the Bureau of Agriculture (BOA) with a set of equipment to build a chicken slaughterhouse, a meat-processing house and a veterinarian laboratory as well as a trailer and low flat head. These facilities will be built in the BOA premises in Ngchesar and Nekken in early 2023, in cooperation with BOA, Taiwan Technical Mission and other partners. This project will help Palau to enhance domestic livestock production, value and safety of the products and farmers’ livelihood, leading to improved food security in Palau. It is the first outcome under the bilateral agricultural cooperation framework “Task Force”, established on 21 May 2021 under the Memorandum of Cooperation signed between President Whipps and Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan Nogami. It is also the biggest Japan’s Grant Aid in agricultural areas since ever.

At the ceremony, President Whipps thanked Ambassador Karasawa and the people and Government of Japan for the Grant Aid. He stated, “We are really excited to develop livestock industry and improve food security. We need to learn from Japan’s experiences to develop our agriculture, so we hope to continue partnership with Japan in this area.”

Ambassador Karasawa stated that developing agriculture and livestock production is critically important for Palau to diversify economy and improve food security, and the project will significantly contribute to the demand for the long term. He added that Japan continues to promote more agricultural projects in cooperation with Task Force members.

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Categorie: Palau

PPUC signs Subsidiary Loan Agreement with MOF

Island Times - 12 ore 56 min fa

On Friday July 30, 2021, the Palau Public Utilities Corporation represented by Chief Executive Officer Greg Decherong signed a Subsidiary Loan Agreement (SLA) with the Ministry of Finance represented by Minister Kaleb Udui, Jr. The SLA specifies the term for disbursement and repayment of the $10 million through the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Policy-Based Loan.

The loan is separated into two tranches, $5 million to support revenue enhancement projects for PPUC’s Electric Operations (EPO) and $5 million for the Water Operations (WO). As a provision of RPPL 10-53,

$1.8 million from the loan will be used to pay off the reimbursable subsidy received from the National Government.

A Project Steering Committee (PSC) consisted of PPUC, MOF, MPII, and PEA was established to oversee the successful implementation of the loan including identifying priority projects to be funded. For the EPO, the PSC approved the following projects: installation of Niigata Control System at the Malakal Power Plant and installation of prepaid (token) meters in Babeldaob, outlying states and Koror. Projects for the WO include critical improvements to the Koror-Airai Water Treatment Plant, improvements to Ngerkesoaol distribution zone, replacement of water pumps, and system upgrades in Ollei, Mengellang, Ibobang and Mechebechubel. All identified projects will have direct revenue impacts and improve services.

PPUC would like to thank the National Government especially the MOF, MPII and PEA for the support and partnership.

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Categorie: Palau

Blue Bay donates $2,500 to support Palau Conservation Society

Island Times - 12 ore 57 min fa

Koror, Palau – Facing treacherous waters and unfamiliar terrain in a post-COVID world, Palau Conservation Society (PCS) continues to feel the effects of the ongoing pandemic that has left no country unaffected. Despite these unpredictable times, Corporate Partners for Conservation (CPC) continue to show support for Palau’s original local environmental organization.

On July 29, 2021, PCS received a generous donation of $2,500 from the Blue Bay Petroleum Inc. Corporate partners like the Blue Bay Petroleum Inc. know that integrating conservation into our community morals is important and should never be an afterthought. The PCS Board of Directors and staff are grateful to Blue Bay for their yearly commitment to Palau Conservation Society. Any company or interested individuals wishing to make a donation is encouraged to contact call our office at 488-3993, or via email at admin@palauconservation.org.

Mesulang, Blue Bay Petroleum for your loyal support!

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Categorie: Palau

Kaleb Udui, Jr. to join APAFS Board of Governors

Island Times - 12 ore 58 min fa

July 23, 2021 – Hon. Kaleb Udui, Jr., has joined the APAFS Board of Governors as one of three Board members from the Republic of Palau (“ROP”), representing the ROP Ministry of Finance where he serves as Minister of Finance.

Minister Udui will join Board members Patrick U. Tellei, EdD,President of the Palau Community College, and Vice Chairman of the APAFS Board of Governors; and, Senator Rukebai Kikuo Inabo, AIF®, representing the Senate Committee on Ways & Means and Financial Matters of the 11th Olbiil Era Kelulau, for which she serves as Chairwoman.

Mr. Kaleb Udui is the new Minister of Finance for the Republic of Palau having been sworn into office on February 8, 2021. His public service began as the Chief of the Division of Budget and Management in the early 1990’s. In the late 1990’s, he served as the Financial Advisor to the Ministry and Manager for a UNDP project that covered Personnel, Tax, and Planning reforms. In the 2000’s, Minister Udui worked in Banking and also served as the President of the National Development Bank of Palau. His private business activities have been in banking, energy consulting and in real estate. He has also served on various public and private Boards including Palau’s Banking Supervisory Board and the Palau Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Udui has a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance and Economics from the University of Guam and a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Hawaii.

APAFS (www.apafs.org) is a Guam-based 501c3 association whose membership includes institutional investment funds throughout the Pacific Region. Its mission is to promote prudent stewardship through fiduciary education and to lead advocacy efforts on behalf of its membership.

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Categorie: Palau

Rukebai Kikuo Inabo to join APAFS Board of Governors

Island Times - 12 ore 59 min fa

August 1, 2021 – Senator Rukebai Kikuo Inabo, AIF®, has joined the APAFS Board of Governors as a Board members from the Republic of Palau (“ROP”), representing the Senate Committee on Ways & Means and Financial Matters of the 11th Olbiil Era Kelulau, for which she serves as Chairwoman.

Senator Inabo will join Board members Patrick U. Tellei, EdD,President of the Palau Community College, and Vice Chairman of the APAFS Board of Governors.

Senator Rukebai Kikuo Inabo is serving her third term as a Member of the Senate of the 11th Olbiil Era Kelulau, the Palau National Congress.  During current term (2021 to 2024), she is the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Ways & Means and Financial Matters.  In 10th OEK  she was the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Public Utilities, Communications and Housing Development. During the 9th OEK she was the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, Public Utilities and Infrastructure.

Before joining the campaign for the Senate, Senator Inabo was the Chief Executive Officer and General Manager of the Palau Public Utilities Corporation (PPUC).  She also served as the Chief Financial Officer of the PPUC for over 10 years.  She has other work experience as Vice-President of the Bank of Hawaii Koror Branch  and Chief Financial Officer for Surangel & Sons Company .  She has held other positions locally such as Audit Manager at the Palau Office of the Public Auditor.

She has served in other public positions as the Chairman of the Board of the National Development Bank for 6 years  and has served as the Chairman of the Board of the Palau Public Utilities Corporation for 4 years .

Senator Rukebai Kikuo Inabo graduated from Palau Mission Academy.  She attended Union College, Lincoln, Nebraska (USA)  graduated with honors in 1980 with a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting.  In 1983 she went back to University of Houston and graduated in 1987 with Bachelor of Business Administration BBA with Concentration on Finance and International Finance.  .

APAFS (www.apafs.org) is a Guam-based 501c3 association whose membership includes institutional investment funds throughout the Pacific Region. Its mission is to promote prudent stewardship through fiduciary education and to lead advocacy efforts on behalf of its membership.

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Categorie: Palau

Sink or swim: Can island states survive the climate crisis?

Island Times - 13 ore 54 sec fa

NEW YORK, 02 AUGUST 2021 (UN NEWS CENTRE) —Small island nations across the world are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis, and their problems have been accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has severely affected their economies, and their capacity to protect themselves from possible extinction. We take a look at some of the many challenges they face, and how they could be overcome.

Low emissions, but high exposure

The 38 member states and 22 associate members that the UN has designated as Small Island Developing States or SIDS are caught in a cruel paradox: they are collectively responsible for less than one per cent of global carbon emissions, but they are suffering severely from the effects of climate change, to the extent that they could become uninhabitable.

Although they have a small landmass, many of these countries are large ocean states, with marine resources and biodiversity that are highly exposed to the warming of the oceans. They are often vulnerable to increasingly extreme weather events, such as the devastating cyclones that have hit the Caribbean in recent years, and because of their limited resources, they find it hard to allocate funds to sustainable development programmes that could help them to cope better, for example, constructing more robust buildings that could withstand heavy storms.

The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the economic situation of many island states, which are heavily dependent on tourism. The worldwide crisis has severely curtailed international travel, making it much harder for them to repay debts. “Their revenues have virtually evaporated with the end of tourism, due to lockdowns, trade impediments, the fall in commodity prices, and supply chain disruptions”, warned Munir Akram, the president of the UN Economic and Social Council in April. He added that their debts are “creating impossible financial problems for their ability to recover from the crisis.”

Most research indicates that low-lying atoll islands, predominantly in the Pacific Ocean such as the Marshall Islands and Kiribati, risk being submerged by the end of the century, but there are indications that some islands will become uninhabitable long before that happens: low-lying islands are likely to struggle with coastal erosion, reduced freshwater quality and availability due to saltwater inundation of freshwater aquifers. This means that small islands nations could find themselves in an almost unimaginable situation, in which they run out of fresh water long before they run out of land.

Furthermore, many islands are still protected by reefs, which play a key role in the fisheries industry and balanced diets. These reefs are projected to die off almost entirely unless we limit warming below 1.5 degrees celsius.

Despite the huge drop in global economic activity during the COVID-19 pandemic, the amount of harmful greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere increased in 2002, and the past six years, 2015–2020, are likely to be the six warmest on record.

Climate finance (climate-specific financial support) continues to increase, reaching an annual average of US$48.7 billion in 2017-2018. This represents an increase of 10% over the previous 2015–2016 period. While over half of all climate-specific financial support in the period 2017-2018 was targeted to mitigation actions, the share of adaptation support is growing, and is being prioritised by many countries. 

This is a cost-effective approach, because if not enough is invested in adaptation and mitigation measures, more resources will need to be spent on action and support to address loss and damage.

Switching to renewables

SIDS are dependent on imported petroleum to meet their energy demands. As well as creating pollution, shipping the fossil fuel to islands comes at a considerable cost. Recognizing these problems, some of these countries have been successful in efforts to shift to renewable energy sources.

 For example, Tokelau, in the South Pacific, is meeting close to 100 percent of its energy needs through renewables, while Barbados, in the Caribbean, is committed to powering the country with 100 percent renewable energy sources and reaching zero carbon emissions by 2030. 

Several SIDS have also set ambitious renewable energy targets: Samoa, the Cook Islands, Cabo Verde, Fiji, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Vanuatu are aiming to increase the share of renewables in their energy mixes, from 60 to 100 percent, whilst in 2018, Seychelles launched the world’s first sovereign blue bond, a pioneering financial instrument to support sustainable marine and fisheries projects.

The power of traditional knowledge

The age-old practices of indigenous communities, combined with the latest scientific innovations, are being increasingly seen as important ways to adapt to the changes brought about by the climate crisis, and mitigate its impact. 

In Papua New Guinea, local residents use locally-produced coconut oil as a cheaper, more sustainable alternative to diesel; seafaring vessels throughout the islands of Micronesia and Melanesia in the Pacific are using solar panels and batteries instead of internal combustion; mangrove forests are being restored on islands like Tonga and Vanuatu to address extreme weather as they protect communities against storm surges and sequester carbon; and in the Pacific, a foundation is building traditional Polynesian canoes, or vakas, serving as sustainable passenger and cargo transport for health services, education, disaster relief and research.

Strategies for survival

While SIDS have brought much needed attention to the plight of vulnerable nations, much remains to be done to support them in becoming more resilient, and adapting to a world of rising sea levels and extreme weather events.

On average, SIDS are more severely indebted than other developing countries, and the availability of “climate financing” (the money which needs to be spent on a whole range of activities which will contribute to slowing down climate change) is of key importance. 

More than a decade ago, developed countries committed to jointly mobilize $100 billion per year by 2020 in support of climate action in developing countries; the amount these nations are receiving is rising, but there is still a significant financing gap. A recently published UN News feature story explains how climate finance works, and the UN’s role.

Beyond adaptation and resilience to climate change, SIDS also need support to help them thrive in an ever-more uncertain world. The UN, through its Development Programme (UNDP), is helping these vulnerable countries in a host of ways, so that they can successfully diversify their economies; improve energy independence by building up renewable sources and reducing dependence on fuel imports; create and develop sustainable tourism industries, and transition to a “blue economy”, which protects and restores marine environments.

Fighting for recognition

*For years, SIDS have been looking for ways to raise awareness of their plight and gain international support. As the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) in 1990, they successfully lobbied for recognition of their particular needs in the text of the landmark UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) two years later.

*Since then, the countries have continued to push for a greater emphasis on ensuring that international agreements include a commitment to providing developing countries with the funds to adapt to climate change. An important step was ensuring that climate change negotiations address the issue of “loss and damage” (i.e. things that are lost forever, such as human lives or the loss of species, while damages refers to things that are damaged, but can be repaired or restored, such as roads or sea walls etc.).

*SIDS continue to urge developed nations to show more ambition and commitment to tackling the climate crisis, and strongly support calls for a UN resolution to establish a legal framework to protect the rights of people displaced by climate change, and for the UN to appoint a Special Rapporteur on Climate and Security, to help manage climate security risks and provide support to vulnerable countries to develop climate-security risk assessments.

*SIDS have also advocated for eligibility to development finance to recognise the vulnerabilities they face, including from climate change hazards. The UN will release its recommendations in a report due to be released in August 2021….PACNEWS

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Categorie: Palau

Guam Power Authority fuel surcharge to increase 55% over next 4 months

Island Times - 13 ore 1 min fa

HAGÅTÑA, 02 AUGUST 2021 (THE GUAM DAILY POST)— — The fuel surcharge on Guam Power Authority customers’ bills will increase in three phases over the next four months, starting 01 August.

When the third phase is complete, the surcharge will have increased from 11 cents per kilowatt-hour currently to 17.14 cents per kWh, which will be a 55% increase.

The Public Utilities Commission broke down what could have been a one-time increase of roughly $57.56 in the average residential customer’s monthly power bill.

That one-step rate hike was proposed by GPA and approved by the Consolidated Commission on Utilities in late May. It represented an increase from the current rate of 11 cents per kWh to 16.75 cents per kWh.

At the third phase of the increase, the increase PUC approved is higher than GPA’s.

The three phases decided by the PUC are:

• 01 August, up to 13.04 cents per kWh.

• 01 October, up to 15.08 cents per kWh.

• 01 December, up to about 17.14 cents per kWh.

The CCU approval was only an interim step, and the PUC has the final say on rate matters.

The PUC’s decision Thursday was unanimous, although one commissioner was absent from the meeting.

The fuel recovery surcharge, formally known as the Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause, or LEAC, represents GPA’s cost of fuel to fire up its power plants. It is updated every six months, but changes may happen within that period as well.

PUC Chairman Jeff Johnson said the reason PUC’s approved hike is higher is that fuel prices went up about 6.4% between the time GPA submitted its proposal and the PUC meeting last Thursday.

GPA General Manager John Benavente has stated that the utility, CCU and PUC recognise that the phased-in approach should be done now, which is still manageable, “in order to avoid a more substantial increase in the future.”

This is the second time that the PUC has raised rates amid record-high underrecovery, or losses as a result of rising fuel costs, that GPA is experiencing.

The first was in February, when the PUC raised the rate to 11 cents from about 8.6 cents per kWh. That represented a US$21 increase for the average residential power bill.

But fuel prices have been rising also, raising the utility’s costs, and losses along with it.

GPA’s current underrecovery is US$32 million, according to Johnson.

“We’ve never been that deep in underrecovery. Because GPA wasn’t collecting enough over the last year during the pandemic, when everybody was agreeing that we kind of take it easy for that period of time. But it’s caught up with us now, so now something has to be done,” Johnson said.

Between 01 February, 2020, and 31 July, 2020, the PUC granted rate reductions three times due to declining fuel costs. The fuel surcharge went from about 15.4 cents per kWh to about 8.6 cents per kWh in that time.

Then, in August 2020, the PUC decided to maintain the surcharge at 8.6 cents up to the end of January. But by that time, GPA was projecting losses as fuel prices began to rebound.

In February, Johnson said the commission probably “overshot the mark” by keeping the rate low. 

Even after the upcoming rate increases, the projected underrecovery is about US$22 million.

There was a discussion about US$15 million that might be obtained from American Rescue Plan funding. If that is received, that would take the projected underrecovery down to about US$7 million, according to Johnson.

“We can handle that. We’ve been in single digits before,” he said.

But “more than likely,” the rate increases will have to stay the way they are, even with ARP funding, as the utility, the Consolidated Commission on Utilities and the PUC catch up to the losses, Johnson said.

“Unless there’s some great decrease in fuel prices over the next six months, … I don’t see how we can alter them very much over the next six months,” he said. “I think we’re kind of on that trajectory no matter what at this point in time. The fuel prices are staying stable. That’s the prediction by Morgan Stanley,” he said…. PACNEWS

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Categorie: Palau

Federated States of Micronesia makes COVID-19 vaccine mandatory

Island Times - 13 ore 2 min fa

PONPHEI, 30 JULY 2021 (ABC)—-The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) has become one of the first nations to adopt mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations.

Everyone in the western Pacific country over the age of 18 will be required to be vaccinated.

President David Panuelo saidit’s a necessary step to achieve heard immunity.

“We have 58-thousand of our population who are eligible and these are individuals that are subject to getting that vaccine, and congress has just made that compulsory,” he said.

“We are so fortunate that we are still one of COVID-19 free countries in the world.””

Panuelo told Pacific Beat the government hopes to have more than 70 per cent of population vaccinated by Christmas, but some people will not be required to get the jab.

“People who have vulnerable health conditions, pregnant women and children under 18… are not subject to the mandatory vaccinations.”

“We see that we are going to reach our 70 percent target and we should even to go beyond that.”

“People with vulnerable health conditions, pregnant women and children under 18… are not subject to the mandatory vaccinations.”

“We see that we are going to reach our 70 percent target and we should even to go beyond that.”

“My hope is that we reach heard immunity by Christmas, so we can move from COVID-19 free to COVID-19 protected,” he said.

The FSM President has acknowledged that some people remain vaccine hesitant but that health officials are working to convince them of the benefits.

“Like in very country we have people who are hesitant.”

“Those are the issues we are going to deal with… but we are [campaigning] fairly aggressively so that we can share the importance and benefits of getting vaccinated,” he said.

“Rather than laying back in our hammock thinking we are okay … [we are] getting out and explaining the benefits of getting vaccinated so we can be safe from this deadly virus.”

Meanwhile, FSM and the United States have agreed on a plan to build a military base in the Pacific nation.

The two countries have a long-standing relationship through the treaty known as the Compact of Free Association.

FSM also maintains diplomatic ties with China but President David Panuelo does not believe the plan for the new base will harm that relationship.

“We have that right to delegate some of the defence responsibility to a close ally and in this case with the United States,” he said……PACNEWS

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Categorie: Palau

New Samoa PM cancels China-funded port

Island Times - 13 ore 3 min fa

APIA, 02 AUGUST 2021 (AAP)—Samoa’s new prime minister says she will cancel a China-backed port project but hasn’t closed the door to China.

Fiame Naomi Mata’afa is navigating a new path for the Pacific nation against a backdrop of intensifying regional competition between Beijing and Washington.

She indicated she would only approve investments that had clear benefits for her country as she expressed doubts about the upside for the Pacific in being a pawn in a geopolitical tussle between the two superpowers.

Mata’afa said China’s interest in the Pacific had grown as the United States effectively “moved out” of the region.

“There seems to be a renewed interest in the Pacific, which may be a good thing, but not necessarily,” Mata’afa said in an interview over Zoom last Wednesday, days after her election was confirmed, ending a months-long political crisis.

Samoa, an island nation of around 200,000 reliant on subsistence farming, along with tourism, fish, coconut product exports and foreign remittance, has found itself exposed to external geopolitical jostling, as Washington and its allies respond to a more assertive Beijing in Pacific waters that have been largely uncontested since World War II.

Any foreign involvement in critical infrastructure such as ports and airstrips are particularly sensitive, and China’s proposed construction of a wharf in Vaiusu Bay had played a part in April elections.

Samoa’s former leader, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, promised to build the port with Chinese help for US$100 million, after a similar project was deemed economically unviable by the Asian Development Bank.

Mata’afa told Reuters in May, after her election but before taking office as Tuilaepa disputed the poll result, that she would scrap the project, calling it excessive for a small nation already heavily indebted to China.

China is the single largest creditor in Samoa, accounting for about 40 per cent, or some $US160 million, of its external debt.

 “We’ve indicated that would not be a priority for us at this time and that there would be other areas that we would be more interested in,” Mata’afa told Reuters in an interview.

“I’m pleased the outgoing government had not reached a level of agreement with China where that is set in place.”

China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday that China held preliminary discussions with Samoa on the feasibility of building the port at the request of the former government.

“China always adheres to the principle of mutual respect and consultation on an equal footing in conducting foreign cooperation,” the statement said.

“We will continue to strengthen friendly exchanges and mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields with the new Samoan government in accordance with the above principles to benefit the two countries and peoples.”

Mata’afa said China had been a long-term partner and her government would assess the relationship in the same way it evaluates all of its bilateral relations.

“I think as a new administration coming in we will do that for China and any other partner that we have,” she said.

“China just takes the forefront because of the nature of the work that’s being funded. There’s a lot of infrastructure, mostly building infrastructure which other donors don’t do,” she said…. PACNEWS

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Categorie: Palau

Mudslides force more than 100 to spend night on highway

Island Times - 13 ore 4 min fa

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — More than 100 people had to spend the night on a highway, including nearly 30 who took refuge in a tunnel, after rain over an area burned by a wildfire once again triggered mudslides in western Colorado, authorities said Friday.

The people were caught with their vehicles on Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon on Thursday night. Those in the tunnel were stuck for about nine hours until crews could carve out a path through the mud to reach them at about 6:30 a.m. Friday, Garfield County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Walt Stowe said.

The tunnel serves as a 24-hour operations center for the Colorado Department of Transportation, so it is relatively well-lit and has telephones, Stowe said. No injuries were reported.

The transportation department has accounted for 108 people, including 29 in the tunnel, who were stuck on the highway overnight. Between 65 and 70 people remained stranded at a rest stop Friday afternoon as crews worked to punch a safe passage through the debris.

Mike Goolsby, a regional director for the transportation department, said the area was affected by about 10 slides, some 12 feet (4 meters) deep and up to 150 feet (46 meters) wide.

“I’m very grateful that no one was hurt. … We’ve tried our hardest not to have people in the canyon when these flash flood warnings hit, but it was the best case scenario for all of us based on the outcome this morning,” he said.

Glenwood Canyon has cliffs towering up to 2,000 feet (610 meters) above the Colorado River, making it prone to rockslides and mudslides. In recent weeks, rain over the area burned by a wildfire last summer has triggered frequent slides, resulting in closures of I-70, Colorado’s main east-west highway. Those closures have mostly occurred before the storm moves in, to prevent people from being trapped.

On Thursday, the canyon had temporarily closed earlier in the day as one storm cell approached but had reopened by the time a second storm cell moved in, which led to the vehicles and their passengers getting trapped.

Transportation officials say the section of interstate is expected to be closed at least through the weekend because of the significant cleanup underway and because of heavy rain in the forecast. The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watch for the area.

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Categorie: Palau

PNG caught in China-Australia power play as COVID-19 Delta variant infiltrates Pacific nation

Island Times - 13 ore 5 min fa

PORT MORESBY, 02 AUGUST 2021 (ABC)—On two sides of Papua New Guinea’s capital, there are duelling vaccine rollouts run by Australian and Chinese representatives taking place.

In the face of a contagious new variant and widespread vaccine hesitancy, PNG is taking help from any neighbour offering it.

But vaccines have become a loaded political issue lately. 

On a Saturday morning in the car park of Papua New Guinea’s biggest shopping centre, the country’s first pop-up clinic has just opened. Music is playing, free shirts are being given away, and importantly, people are getting their jabs. 

While this Port Moresby clinic is being run by PNG’s health authorities, Australian embassy staff are on site helping, and almost everyone is wearing face masks and shirts emblazoned with the “AusPNG Partnership” logo.

On the other side of the city, at Port Moresby’s biggest hospital, another vaccine clinic has been set up.

But this one is being run by a visiting Chinese medical team administering doses of the Sinopharm vaccine.

PNG, which recently detected its first case of the Delta variant, agreed to offers of vaccine supplies from both China and Australia earlier this year amid a surge in COVID cases.

But the geopolitics tied up in the schemes have been hard to ignore, particularly with the Chinese government recently accusing Australian advisers in PNG of interfering with and delaying the rollout of its vaccine in the country.

It is an allegation Australia has denied.

Like most Pacific countries, PNG has long walked a careful diplomatic line amid the geopolitical battle that is intensifying in the region, and it has become somewhat adept at managing the potentially awkward situation.

PNG’s Health Minister, Jelta Wong, said the country did not “take sides”.

“We are thankful to Australia for giving vaccines and we are thankful to China for giving vaccines,” he said.

“Both countries help us in many ways, and we will always be in debt to them for the times Papua New Guinea was in need and they came to our aid.”

He emphasised that PNG was a sovereign country and he denied it was coming under pressure or influence from outside powers.

“There’s no pressure from any political or country affiliation,” he said.

Australia has a long history of supporting PNG since it gained its independence and it is by far its biggest aid partner.

But it has received increased attention under Australia’s “Pacific Step Up”, which has been seen as a counter to China’s rising influence.

There has also been a rise in the use of the AusPNG Partnership logo in the country in recent years, matching the China Aid logos that spread quickly in the lead-up to PNG hosting APEC in 2018.

The vaccines are just the latest flashpoint in the geopolitical push and shove, coming shortly after a public debate over whether China presented a security “challenge” for PNG.

Last month, at a Sinopharm vaccine launch event held at the Port Moresby General Hospital, the Chinese ambassador to PNG, Zeng Fanhua, spoke out about “political manipulation” of the pandemic.

It followed disappointment among some Chinese officials that neither the Prime Minister nor Health Minister came to the airport when the vaccines were flown in, as they had with other vaccine donations.

Instead they left it to the country’s Planning Minister to represent the government.

“We must always adopt a scientific, objective and impartial attitude in the fight against COVID-19,” Mr Zeng said at the launch.

“We have seen some countries are using the pandemic for political purpose, including on the issue of origin tracing of the virus.”

He said the international community “should stand together to firmly oppose such politicising and irresponsible acts”.

China first offered 200,000 COVID-19 vaccines in February, but PNG said it was waiting for the World Health Organisation and local medical authorities to approve the Sinopharm shot for emergency use before bringing it in.

That did not happen until the start of May.

But privately, some people in the PNG health system complained about a lack of information and support included with the Sinopharm vaccines when they arrived.

So far, more than 5,200 people in PNG have had the Sinopharm vaccine, the majority of whom have been Chinese citizens in the country. More than 600 shots have gone to Papua New Guineans or people of other nationalities, including Indonesian embassy staff.

These vaccinations have not yet been included in the national data that is regularly sent out. It is only tracking AstraZeneca doses administered under the national rollout.

The first Papua New Guinean to get the Chinese shot was Forestry Minister Walter Schnaubelt, who said he wanted to encourage more Papua New Guineans to get vaccinated by showing there was a choice available.

“That was the whole purpose of me saving myself to take this vaccine today,” he said. “We can’t say it’s voluntary and then we only offer one vaccine.”

In March, as COVID-19 cases soared in PNG and the country waited for supplies under the global COVAX program, Australia supplied 8,400 AstraZeneca shots intended for frontline health workers. 

While most of PNG’s AstraZeneca vaccines have so far been donated by COVAX and New Zealand, Australia has supplied another 10,000 doses and committed to donating 15 million to the Pacific region.

It is expected supplies to PNG will be drip-fed as they are needed, given the country’s slow uptake and the risk of batches expiring.

Australia is heavily involved in supporting the vaccine rollout and in the broader response to COVID-19 in PNG.

On health issues, there is also an element of self-interest for Australia.

PNG is just four kilometres from Australia at its closest point in the Torres Strait, so an outbreak of an infectious disease poses a risk.

The Australian government has been providing specific help vaccinating people who live in the traditional villages that border the Torres Strait.

It is involved in transporting vaccines and staff via helicopter and boat to reach the remote areas.

As with much of its aid, Australia is working within the PNG system, where it is heavily embedded, but this approach leaves it exposed to accusations of interference.

Weeks after China accused Australian advisers of interfering in Papua New Guinea’s vaccine programme, PNG’s Opposition Leader said the government needed to ensure national security was “not compromised by foreign interests”. 

In response, Australia said its technical advisers in the defence force, police and treasury were there at the request of the PNG government to support its priorities. 

The biggest issue for Papua New Guinea’s COVID-19 response is not who is supplying vaccines but the number of people receiving them. Less than 1 per cent of the population has had a vaccine.

An initial COVAX donation of 130,000 AstraZeneca doses expired last month and thousands more will have to be destroyed because they were not used in time.

High rates of hesitancy and logistical issues have been blamed, and the country is now establishing more pop-up clinics in the capital to make vaccinations more accessible.

More than 300,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will arrive this week under COVAX. It is expected these will be used to target people in remote areas, as they only require a single dose.

PNG is also feeling the financial impact of the pandemic. It was already in a difficult financial position before COVID-19 hit and the global closing of borders has made it even tougher.

After almost two decades of not providing direct financial support, Australia has given more than $500 million in concession loans in the past two years.

And more may be on the way.

When he visited PNG last month, Pacific Minister Zed Seselja told the ABC Australia was having discussions with authorites there.

“We stand ready to respond to reasonable requests for support and we’ll continue that dialogue with PNG,” he said…. PACNEWS

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Categorie: Palau

Rising baseball player, inspired by Ayana

Island Times - 13 ore 6 min fa

In 2019, Roki was an 8-year-old that was attending Koror Elementary School; an avid baseball player, singer, and all-around active young kid. When the school year ended, Roki moved to Taiwan to live with his grandmother, Ambassador Dilmei L. Olkeriil, Palau’s Ambassador to the Republic of China (R.O.C), Taiwan.  He began third grade in Shi-dong Elementary School, a public school within walking distance from the Palau Embassy.  Since then, Roki has excelled in his studies, speaking Mandarin and active in all school activities, especially sports. 

This year, due to the pandemic, he had an opportunity to watch a live streaming of the graduation ceremony of his cousin Ayana Rengiil.  Watching all the awards Ayana received during her graduation inspired this active young man.  Ms. Ayana Rengiil, graduated Summa Cum Laude in electrical engineering from Alabama Agriculture & Mechanical University.  Ayana is the daughter of Ernestine Rengiil, Palau’s Attorney General. 

After watching his cousin’s graduation, Roki also learned that Ayana was on a fully paid tennis scholarship from the University. He became determined to do as Ayana did. Upon looking up what Suma Cum Laude meant, it inspired him even more. He told his grandmother that night that he wanted to go to a University in the United States on a scholarship just like Ayana but for baseball. 

So just like in 2019, Roki decided to change schools to attend one with a with baseball team.  After some search, Ambassador Olkeriil found Fulin Elementary school, a public school that has a very good baseball program. The school is located in the Shilin District which close to the Palau Embassy and Shin Kong Hospital. Ambassador Olkeriil immediately enrolled her grandson into Fulin Elementary School and signed him up for their baseball training program. 

After completing his fourth-grade year at Shi-dong Elementary School, Roki started baseball training camp at Fulin this summer.  The training camp has a rigorous daily training schedule that starts at 2pm until 6 pm, rain or shine.  The baseball field is made of astro-turf, so no one gets dirty.  Roki is committed and disciplined.  His grandmother and his cousin Umiich are there to support him throughout the camp.  His cousin Umiich has been documenting this training through pictures and video.

Here’s to you Roki! Keep going!  We are all rooting for you!  Roki is the son of Ambassador Olkeriil’s daughter, Kristy Olkeriil, who had just recently graduated with her bachelor’s degree from the San Diego State University program at Palau Community College. There is no doubt she too is an inspiration for her son, Roki, to work hard to reach his dreams. 

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Categorie: Palau