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Palau

28th Independence Day celebration on September 30 questioned

Island Times - Mar, 27/09/2022 - 9:03am

Palau will celebrate its 28th Independence Day a day earlier, on September 30, according to Presidential Directive No, 22-52.

Palau’s Independence Day, an official holiday established on October 1st, celebrates the “historic reclamation of Palauan sovereignty,” states the Directive, with the theme this year of “Ensuring Safety and Security. 

The annual holiday has been celebrated every October 1st since 1994, and changing the date to September 30 has spurred questions and objections.

At the recent Senate session on September 22, Senator TJ Imrur Remengesau voiced objection to the change of date, saying it contradicts the significance and the importance of October 1st, Independence Day. 

“October 1st is when we achieved our Independence.  We cannot destroy the significance of October 1st,” lamented Senator TJ Remengesau, seeking clarification as to why the October 1st Independence Day is moved to September 30.  September 30th falls on a Friday, while October 1st falls on Saturday.

A press release from the Ministry of Human Resources, Culture, Tourism and Development (HRCTD) outlines the schedule of activities for the September 30th celebration of October 1st Independence Day.

Minister Ngirai Tmetuchl of HRCTD said that idea of moving the celebration to Friday was to give people a longer 3-day weekend and has nothing to do with SDA or religion.

The celebration activities will take place at the Koror Side of KB Bridge on Friday.  Activities include brief opening statements, state booths, and the annual boat races.  Fireworks will be in the evening, courtesy of the Republic of China – Taiwan.

The 28th Independence Day will be the first Independence celebrated with both the President and the Vice President out of the country.   (By: L.N. Reklai)

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Categorie: Palau

Kesolei joins leadership of Pacific Anti-Corruption Journalists Network

Island Times - Mar, 27/09/2022 - 9:01am

Ongerung Kambes Kesolei, a seasoned journalist from Palau was elected Secretary of the Pacific Anti-Corruption Journalists Network (PACJN) during the meeting of the 6th Pacific Media Summit in Honiara, the Solomon Islands, this week.

Palau Media Council’s nominee Mr. Kesolei to the Board of the Pacific Anti-Corruption Journalist Network was elected during the PACJN’s AGM held alongside the 6th Pacific Media Summit.

Kalafi Moala of Tonga was elected Chairman, Solomon Islands nominee was elected Vice Chairman, and Fiji’s nominee became Treasurer.

Mr. Kesolei, also on behalf of the Palau Media Council, was a presenter in the panel on “Media Role in Investigating the Management of Public Resources.”

The 6th Media Summit is the meeting of all the registered members of the Pacific Islands News Association. 

“The Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Ltd is the premier regional organisation representing the interests of media professionals in the Pacific region. It links radio, television, newspapers, magazines, online services, national associations and journalism schools in 23 Pacific island countries.”

Its President is Mr Kora Nou (PNG) and its Manager is Ms Makereta Komai (Fiji).

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Categorie: Palau

Palau’s stablecoin set to enter pilot phase

Island Times - Mar, 27/09/2022 - 8:59am

KOROR/HAGATNA, 26 SEPTEMBER 2022 (PACIFIC ISLAND TIMES)—Setting a digital currency trend in the region, Palau is slated to launch a dry run of its stablecoin in October, according to Kaleb Udui Jr., the country’s finance minister.

“Initially, we are starting a very small pilot program,” Udui said. “It’s a very controlled launch, with only government people involved in the pilot, so we control what they do.”

Once fully rolled out, the stablecoin will allow Palauans to purchase goods in local shops or conduct local transactions using their phones in the same way PayPal operates, Udui said.

“The stablecoin is meant to provide more access to financial technology,” Udui said, speaking at the Pacific Judicial Conference at Dusit Thani Resort on Guam. 

“Basically, what it means for us is being able to take your dollar and digitise it. It is basically a digital representation of whatever dollar you have in your pocket,” Udui said.

The process involves linking the bank account to a stablecoin account.

“Meaning, you are already vetted through your bank. If the bank trusts you, then we trust you,” Udui said. “The stablecoin is on the blockchain, so the computer assigns the number and address to your transactions.”

Palau has teamed up with Ripple on the U.S dollar-backed digital currency programme using the XRP Ledger. 

“I know the name (Ripple) raises concerns to a lot of people,” Udui said.

In 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed an action against Ripple Labs Inc. and two of its executives, alleging that they raised over US$1.3 billion through an unregistered, ongoing digital asset securities offering.

But Udui said Ripple “is not just one company. We are working with a subsidiary that deals with a central bank currency. We don’t have a central bank and we’re doing something like what a central bank does.”

Udui said Palau’s stablecoin is government-controlled and “not just some company creating this thing and doing business in Palau under the stablecoin using blockchain.”

The initial rollout of the stablecoin will be exclusive to local residents’ domestic transactions, Udui said.

“Later on, when we see the potential for using Palau stablecoin with tourists, maybe in the future, we will use this as a way to transfer money to different places,” Udui said. “It’s a cheaper way to transfer money through banks.”….PACNEWS

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Categorie: Palau

Palau concerned about China’s pressure but committed to Taiwan

Island Times - Mar, 27/09/2022 - 8:57am

KOROR, 26 SEPTEMBER 2022 (PACIFIC ISLAND TIMES)—Despite pressure from China to do otherwise, Palau intends to continue diplomatic relations with Taiwan, said Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr. 

He noted, however, that the number of countries with a similar policy toward Taiwan has dropped from 30 to 14 since Taiwan and Palau established diplomatic relations in 1999.

“(The drop in the number of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies) is concerning because it’s really a sign of escalation in this fight between Taiwan and China in thinking ‘the status quo is unacceptable and we need to change that,’” Whipps told the Pacific Island Times. 

“That’s concerning to us because that means are we headed to a more difficult situation. We’ve seen the aggression in Russia and Ukraine, and of course, nobody in the Pacific wants to see that happen out here.”

Whipps said Palau appreciates Taiwan’s friendship and the assistance it has provided in health care, agriculture, fisheries, infrastructure, education, and such investments as hotels, he said. 

“They’ve had a Chinese agriculture mission on Palau since the early ‘80s, before Palau became independent,” he said. “Food security is important.”

China views Taiwan as a defiant, breakaway province and has told Whipps that Palau should break ties with Taiwan. 

“I’ve told the Chinese, ‘We’re friends with everybody; we don’t have any enemies,’ but at the same time, you cannot tell us we cannot be friends with Taiwan, that’s our choice,’” Whipps said. “They say, ‘We want to have diplomatic relations with you but you need to stop your illegal activities and not recognize Taiwan.’”

China says it considers diplomatic ties with Taiwan to be illegal. 

“And I said, ‘We’re a free country and we believe in freedom and democracy,’” Whipps said. “’We’re free to choose who our friends are and we’re going to continue to choose who our friends are and nobody’s going to tell us who they should or shouldn’t be.’ We share the same values, we promote freedom and democracy, and we believe in a free and open Indo-Pacific and we need to cooperate and continue to work toward that.”

The Chinese have told him to “join the rest of the world in doing the right thing” like the United States, Australia, Japan,” he said.

Palauans are, of course, not unaware of the size and capabilities of China in virtually all areas. “One of the concerns for the Palauan people is that now that the U.S has decided to put a radar site in Palau, we’ve become a bull’s eye,” Whipps said. “Before, we weren’t a bull’s eye.”

“We continue to stand by Taiwan,” Whipps said. “They’ve been a strong partner and a strong ally for the last 23 years. We share the same values and the same culture too, in a lot of ways.”….PACNEWS

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Categorie: Palau

Palau on autopilot with President and Vice President off-island

Island Times - Mar, 27/09/2022 - 8:55am

Palau operates on autopilot with both President Surangel Whipps Jr. and Vice President J. Uduch Sengebau-Senior out of the country at the same time.

President Whipps left for Japan this weekend to attend former prime minister Shinzo Abe’s funeral and after will leave for the United States to attend the Pacific Leaders meeting with U.S. President Biden.  Whipps is leaving for Singapore after his meeting in the US, where he is expected to sign memorandums of agreements with airlines to provide airline services to Palau.

Vice President J. Uduch Sengebau-Senior is in the Philippines taking care of her husband, who suffered an accident and had to be medivac off-island for emergency medical care. Mr. Senior is under the specialized care of a neurosurgeon and may not be able to return before October 8, according to Vice President Uduch Sengebau-Senior.

President Whipps had previously expressed that with current communication advancements, he could stay in contact with his ministers while away from the country.  After he visits Singapore, President Whipps will be going to Taiwan for a state visit. He had reported that he would be going for a medical check-up after the state visit and is expected to return to Palau toward the end of October.

According to local legal experts, Presidential constitutional powers are non-delegable.  While President is away from the country, his ministers can keep doing their routine work, but the responsibilities of the President can only be carried out by the President.

The only time the order of succession occurs is when the President dies, is removed, or is disabled and cannot perform the duties of the Presidency.

“The absence of the President from Palau had broken all the records of Palau and all Pacific island nations,” noted a local political observer of the President’s traveling schedule this year.

Meanwhile, Palau will be celebrating its national Independence Day for the first time without its President and Vice President present.

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Categorie: Palau

Philippines to allow inter-terminal transits

Island Times - Mar, 27/09/2022 - 8:53am

The Philippines government is expected to issue a travel advisory that lifts the restrictions and allows travelers to travel through Manila to Palau or other destinations.

The change to the travel advisory will allow for more flight options for passengers that transit to connecting airlines to other destinations, including coming to Palau.

According to Keith Sugiyama, Palau’s charge d’affairs in Manila, Philippines, “the passengers are now permitted Inter-terminal transits and permitted to enter as long as health and travel protocols are complied with.”

The previous advisory stated that “Philippines entry rules … did not include guidance for passengers transiting between two international flights.  A transit journey that requires you to clear immigration in the Philippines…is restricted  and you may be denied permission by the Bureau of Immigration.”

“It’s been lifted.  We are now able to transit,” confirmed Mr. Sugiyama.

Such policy would allow easier travel to other destinations via Manila and enable easier travel of contracted workers from other destinations to and from Palau.

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Categorie: Palau

MOE Partners Up With FRIENDS and Sam’s Tours for the 9th Palau Pledge Dive Camp

Island Times - Mar, 27/09/2022 - 8:51am

The FRIENDS of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary collaborated with the Ministry of Education to host the 9th Palau Pledge Dive Camp during the first fall intersession this September. The camp (September 17 – September 23, 2022) had thirteen (13) young Palauan students from Palau High School, ranging from 16-18 years old.

The Dive Camp is to excite Palau’s youth to re-engage and to do so in support of high value, high return tourism. The camp started with an online e-learning course, where the students learned the importance of being a safe diver before getting into the water.  During the week, dive masters at Sam’s Tours refined what the participants learned, including practicing in the water before the official two tank dives.  On the last day, the kids participated in a fun dive day at Ulong Channel and the sandbar dive spot, where they experienced their first open water dive and also learned about the importance of taking care of our ocean, what the work in the tour operation entails, and what they can do now to protect and care for Palau’s fragile marine environment.

The FRIENDS/Palau Pledge, alongside the Ministry of Education and Sam’s Tours, would like to thank all the sponsors who made this program available to the young participants. Our biggest thanks goes out to the Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan), the Embassy of Australia, NCD grant, Globus, Bank of Guam, WCTC, Palau Central Hotel, NDBP, the Palau Shipping Company, and Bel-Pacific for making this opportunity possible. It is through their financial support the camp was provided free of charge to participants. We also extend our thanks to all of our guest speakers and lecturers who shared their invaluable knowledge and expertise, namely the CRRF, PCS, Ngatpang PAN, BOFI, PICRC, PCC-CRE, Marine Law, and the Aimeliik Eco-Tour. Last but not least, we thank the professional dive masters who helped the participants earn their Open Water diving certifications.The Dive Camp was a success because of their hard work and dedication to Palau’s young learners and newly-certified divers!

ABOUT THE PALAU PLEDGE – The Palau Pledge is a world-first initiative that requires all visitors to the country to make a commitment to protecting Palau’s natural environment and respect local traditions. The Palau Pledge asks guests to take responsibility for their actions and make a conscious effort to tread lightly – to have minimal impact and help conserve Palau (respecting the modern-day BUL) during their stay – so that they can enjoy the many marvels of Palau without taking away from them. The Pledge aims to conserve the country’s natural and cultural resources so citizens and guests can enjoy them for years to come.

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Categorie: Palau

Australian Embassy Republic of Palau donates to the 1st Pacific Ecological Security Conference

Island Times - Mar, 27/09/2022 - 8:49am

The Australian Embassy Republic of Palau provided a generation donation worth of

$ 36,000 towards the 1st Pacific Ecological Conference Security Conference. The Embassy will cover accommodation costs up for two (2) delegates from Pacific Island Forum Member Countries.

The donation was communicated by her Excellency Richelle Turner to Minister Steven Victor.  On behalf of Palau, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, & the Environment would like to express its gratitude to Her Excellency Ambassador Turner and the Australia Embassy for their continued support for the conference working groups as well as promoting regional wide strategies to prevent, control, and eradicate invasive species in the region.

The conference will take place from October 3 -5, 2022 and will bring island leaders, agricultural and natural resource managers, technical partners, and regional organizations towards the theme ““Promoting Pacific Island Climate Resilience, Food Security, and Sustainability”

For more information please contact Leena Mesebeluu at 767-5435 or email leenamesebeluu@gmail.com

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Categorie: Palau

Palau Community College

Island Times - Mar, 27/09/2022 - 8:47am

PCC President Dr. Patrick U. Tellei, HR Director Marie Anderson-Nabeyama, Tobed Smith, and Gerald R. Smith

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Categorie: Palau

Palauans are smart

Island Times - Mar, 27/09/2022 - 8:45am

Credit to:  Editorial from the Marshall Islands Journal, September 23, 2022 edition.

Palau had the advantage of a later cycle for renewing the funding arrangements of their Compact of Free Association, that didn’t end until 2009 — six years after the RMI and the FSM. And Palau took full advantage of this to improve its Compact set up with the United States.

Palau leaders were smart. They watched the RMI and FSM negotiations and avoided some of the obvious pitfalls.

Perhaps most important, they did not accept the economic package the US government offered initially. Palau negotiators understood the power of standing up and walking away from the negotiating table, which they did in the early going as their way of rejecting the initial US proposal. In contrast, the RMI and FSM focused on completing their new Compact funding agreements before the expiration of the first agreement on September 30, 2003. This handcuffed negotiators for the islands, giving the US the upper hand in Compact Two talks (and now, again, our negotiating team is rushing to conclude an agreement with the US government).

The stated reason for the RMI policy to wrap up the economic talks by September 30, 2003 was to ensure no disruption in US funding when Compact One funding expired. What the Palau experience demonstrates is that the expiration of the Compact funding agreement did not result in the US halting funding. Palau, even after the two governments agreed on a new funding agreement, went years without Compact approval. The US government continued to appropriate funding on an annual basis at the levels established.

But back to the negotiations. The US wanted Palau’s funding agreement to include a similar set up to the RMI’s JEMFAC and the FSM’s JEMCO, US-controlled committees that were in charge of deciding and approving the annual Compact budgets for these two freely associated states. Both JEMFAC and JEMCO give the US government a three-to-two majority (and as we’ve seen over time, this has been a source of friction).

Palau negotiated wisely to gain US agreement to establish a “Palau Economic Advisory Group” (EAG). The structure is like night and day compared to JEMFAC and JEMCO. First and foremost, is the set up. It doesn’t cede a majority to the US, and includes people with broad economic and development policy experience.

Meanwhile, JEMCO and JEMFAC are chaired by the Director of Insular Affairs at the Interior Department and the two other US members are representatives of the State and Health and Human Services Departments. While US government bureaucrats make the final budget decisions for RMI and FSM in the JEMFAC/JEMCO process, there are no US government representatives on EAG — let’s repeat this point: No US government officials on Palau’s EAG.

How are Palau’s EAG members chosen? Palau selects two, the US government selects two, and the fifth member is chosen by the US government from a pool of three people nominated by Palau.

Palau put its Finance Minister, Kaleb Udui, on the EAG. But its second appointee is worthy of special mention: This is Dr. Naoyuki Yoshino, an emeritus economic professor from a Japan university and former Dean and CEO of the Asian Development Bank Institute in Tokyo. This gives Palau not only a top-notch economic advisor, but links Palau to Japan, a key partner.

The US government named two representatives: Dr. Peter Watson, former President and CEO of the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation and presently an investment banker and policy adviser, and Dr. Denise Eby Konan, Dean of the College of Social Sciences, professor of economics, and former Chancellor of the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. 

The fifth member, appointed by the US from Palau’s list of nominees, is Dr. James K. Galbraith, the Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr. Chair in Government/Business Relations at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, professor of Government at the University of Texas at Austin, and former executive director of the Joint Economic Committee of the United States Congress. 

Unlike JEMCO and JEMFAC, Palau’s EAG members select their chairman. So while the RMI and FSM have been saddled with a US government official as chair of their finance committees, Palau’s EAG chose Dr. Galbraith as its chair.

What can we conclude about Palau’s Economic Advisory Group? Unlike the JEMFAC/JEMCO operations, which are budget committees not economic advisory groups, Palau’s EAG is a group that will provide serious, thoughtful and nuanced economic advice based on this group’s 100+ years of experience in US, Japan and global finance and economic development. This is why Palauans are better off with their Compact than the RMI and the FSM, which have no qualified economic advisors in the JEMFAC/JEMCO makeup.

Marshall Islands Journal 9/23/2022 edition p15.

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Solomons ‘unfairly targeted’ since recognising China, its Prime Minister tells UN

Island Times - Mar, 27/09/2022 - 8:43am

NEW YORK, 26 SEPTEMBER 2022 (REUTERS)—The prime minister of the Solomon Islands complained on Friday that his country had been subjected to “a barrage of unwarranted and misplaced criticisms, misinformation and intimidation” since formalising diplomatic relations with China in 2019.

In an address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Manasseh Sogavare said the Solomons had been “unfairly targeted” and “vilified” in the media. He said such treatment “threatens our democracy and sovereignty.”

The Solomons formerly had diplomatic relations with Chinese-claimed, self-governed Taiwan, but switched recognition to Beijing in 2019. It has since appeared to move ever closer into China’s orbit, to the alarm of the United States and other Western countries concerned about Beijing’s security designs in the Pacific.

“This decision was reached through democratic processes by a democratically elected government,” Sogavare said of the recognition of China. “I reiterate the call for all to respect our sovereignty and democracy.”

Sogavare said the Solomon Islands had adopted “a ‘friends to all and enemies to none’ foreign policy.”

“In implementing this policy, we will not align ourselves with any external power(s) or security architecture that targets our or any other sovereign country or threaten regional and international peace. Solomon Islands will not be coerced into choosing sides,” he said.

“Our struggle is to develop our country. We stretch out our hand of friendship and seek genuine and honest cooperation and partnership with all.”

The Pacific islands region has become a new theater of geopolitical competition between China and the United States and its allies.

This competition intensified this year after China signed a security agreement with the Solomon Islands, prompting warnings of a militarisation of the region. read more

Sogavare has since repeatedly appeared to snub the United States, heightening Washington’s concerns.

Last month he skipped a planned appearance with a senior U.S official at a World War Two commemoration. His government then did not respond to a U.S Coast Guard vessel’s request to refuel and then announced he was barring all foreign navy ships from port – while he was welcoming a U.S Navy hospital ship on a humanitarian mission.

Sogavare has been invited to take part this week in a summit that U.S President Joe Biden will host with Pacific island leaders, through which Washington aims to show a stepped up commitment to the Pacific region.

Biden’s chief policy coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, Kurt Campbell, said last week he looked forward to conversations with Sogavare and said the Solomons would benefit from a variety of planned new initiatives.

However, he added: “We’ve also been clear about what our concerns are and we would not want to see … a capacity for long-range power projection.”

Beijing and Honiara have said there will be no Chinese military base under the security pact, although a leaked draft refers to Chinese naval ships replenishing in the strategically located archipelago….PACNEWS

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Categorie: Palau

Micronesia leaders pleads with U.S, China to work to save the planet

Island Times - Mar, 27/09/2022 - 8:41am

NEW YORK, 23 SEPTEMBER 2022 (RNZ PACIFIC)—The President of the Federation States of Micronesia (FSM) has told the United Nations the US and China need to resume communication for the sake of climate change.

David Panuelo said America and China are the two biggest superpowers in the world and therefore have the biggest say on target emissions.

He told the United Nations General Assembly in New York the two countries need to work together.

“Micronesia cannot understand why partners and friends cannot get along on this issue of total international importance.

“I have urged the United States of America and People’s Republic of China to consider climate change as a non-political and a non-competitive issue to solve the climate change crisis.

“So, President Xi and President Biden, both of you are friends of Micronesia, I respect both of your people and countries.

“As the two superpowers in this world, you set the tone and cadence for global conversations. It is my wish that you can respect each other.

“It ultimately requires both of these superpowers to work together.

“But one way to get attention and action is to explicitly call out your closest friends and allies by name instead of talking without substance.

“Current efforts to mitigate gas emmissions remain wholly inadequate.

“Micronesia urges all countries to commit to the Kikali ammendment and the global methane pledge to see a 30 percent reduction of methane emmissions by 2030,” he said…PACNEWS

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Categorie: Palau

Kiribati affected by ‘self interest’: President

Island Times - Mar, 27/09/2022 - 8:39am

NEW YORK, 23 SEPTEMBER 2022 (RNZ PACIFIC)—The President of Kiribati Taneti Maamau told the UN Assembly his country is continuously hit by self-interested policies, undermining the true need of its people.

Maamau said Kiribati’s developmental agenda derives from its culture, values and norms.

He told the Assembly the country is continuously ravaged by damaging neo-colonial policies. “A system of global thinking that remains steeped with legacies of environmental destruction which our people have now inherited. As is the case of the mining of Banaba island. We must ensure that solutions and actions and work hand in hand for today’s interlocking challenges,” he said…. PACNEWS

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Categorie: Palau

Powerful typhoon leaves 6 rescuers dead in north Philippines

Island Times - Mar, 27/09/2022 - 8:37am

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Typhoon Noru blew out of the northern Philippines on Monday, leaving six people dead, knocking down power in two entire provinces, trapping villagers in floods and forcing officials to suspend classes and government work in and around the capital.

The most powerful typhoon to hit the country this year slammed ashore in Burdeos town in Quezon province before nightfall on Sunday then weakened as it barreled overnight across the main Luzon region, where more than 52,000 people were moved to emergency shelters, some forcibly, officials said.

Gov. Daniel Fernando of Bulacan province, north of Manila, said five rescuers, who were using a boat to help residents trapped in floodwaters, were hit by a collapsed wall then apparently drowned in the rampaging waters.

“They were living heroes who were helping save the lives of our countrymen in the calamity,” Fernando told DZMM radio network. “This is really very sad.”

Police said a Bulacan villager drowned after refusing to heed appeals to leave his riverside house. Authorities were separately trying to confirm another death in Burdeos town and a missing farmer in a flooded village in western Zambales province.

In Aurora province’s hard-hit Dingalan town, more than 6,000 houses were damaged and a newly built evacuation center housing more 200 displaced families was battered by the fierce wind and rain but no injuries were reported, officials said.

About 3,000 people were evacuated to safety in metropolitan Manila, which was lashed by fierce wind and rain overnight. Classes and government work were suspended Monday in the capital and outlying provinces as a precaution although the morning skies were sunny.

The entire northern provinces of Aurora and Nueva Ecija, which were hit by the typhoon, remained without power Monday and repair crews were at work to bring back electricity, Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla told President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in a televised meeting the president called to assess damage and coordinate disaster-response.

Marcos Jr. praised officials for evacuating tens of thousands of people before the typhoon hit, preventing more deaths, but expressed concern at how Noru and another storm that devastated central and southern provinces in December rapidly intensified into super typhoons.

“Is this climate change?” Marcos Jr., who took office in June, asked. “We have kept watched on these storms for a long time but it wasn’t like this before… This is something I have to deal with.”

Marcos Jr. later joined an aerial inspection of typhoon-hit provinces in the rice-growing region, where many villages and stretches of roads remained flooded.

Noru underwent an “explosive intensification” over the open Pacific Ocean before it hit the Philippines, Vicente Malano, who heads the country’s weather agency, told The Associated Press on Sunday.

From sustained winds of 85 kilometers per hour (53 mph) on Saturday, Noru was a super typhoon just 24 hours later with sustained winds of 195 kilometers (121 miles per hour) and gusts of up to 240 kph (149 mph) at its peak late Sunday.

By Monday noon, Noru had sustained winds of 130 kph (81 mph) and gusts of 160 kph (99 mph) and was moving northwest in the South China Sea toward Vietnam, according to the weather agency.

About 20 storms and typhoons batter the Philippines each year. The archipelago also lies in the “Pacific Ring of Fire,” a region along most of the Pacific Ocean rim where many volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur, making the Southeast Asian nation one of the world’s most disaster-prone.

In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest recorded tropical cyclones in the world, left more than 7,300 people dead or missing, flattened entire villages, swept ships inland and displaced more than 5 million in the central Philippines — well to the south of Noru’s path.

___

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Categorie: Palau

Partners or pawns? The Pacific islands in US strategy and the Washington summit

Island Times - Mar, 27/09/2022 - 8:35am

By Terence Wesley-Smith and Gerard Finin

WASHINGTON, 23 SEPTEMBER 2022 (DEVPOLICY.ORG)—At the end of September President Biden will for the first time host a White House summit with 12 Pacific island nations. While welcoming the initiative, island leaders may be sceptical of the claimed “deep and enduring partnership”, and suggestion that the U.S is itself a “proud Pacific nation”. U.S policy towards Oceania has always been driven by strategic interests, and Washington has long focused its resources on the strategically located American-affiliated islands, and relied on allies to sustain Western interests elsewhere in this vast region.

Washington’s new-found interest is clearly a response to China’s increased regional influence. Yet Pacific leaders are interested in what the US has to offer, especially in the face of the existential threat posed by climate change. The rise of China has provided island nations with economic options and new geopolitical leverage. They seek a regional vision that is more than a subset of Washington’s strategic policy towards China, which some argue could result in the “worst war ever”, and want to avoid being drawn into great power rivalry. As Fiji’s Prime Minister Bainimarama put it in May 2022, “our greatest concern isn’t geopolitics – it’s climate change”.

U.S eagerness to engage reflects anxiety that strengthening relations between China and island countries will erode its strategic dominance in Oceania. The particular concern is that Beijing will establish a Pacific naval facility. In early 2022 a leaked security agreement between China and Solomon Islands included provisions for ship visits as well as the entry of Chinese forces if Chinese personnel or projects were threatened. Senior U.S officials warned that, if the agreement resulted in “de facto permanent military presence, power-projection capabilities, or a military installation”, Washington would “respond accordingly”.

U.S officials aim to nurture a relationship “based on mutual respect, mutual trust, and mutual benefits”. However, Vice President Harris’s July address to the Pacific Islands Forum caused some resentment because it appeared to contradict an earlier announcement that Forum Dialogue Partners, including the U.S and China, would not be invited to participate. The U.S-led Partners in the Blue Pacific initiative, coordinating the efforts of Western allies, also skirts established processes of regional decision-making. The invitation list for the forthcoming Washington summit is not based on Forum membership – the preferred, more inclusive model for regional engagement – but is limited to island nations that are UN members.

A significant barrier to engagement is delayed implementation of U.S programmes. It took almost a year to jump-start negotiations to renew the economic provisions of the compacts of free association with the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Palau. And it is not clear how soon other key initiatives, including new embassies and an expanded Peace Corps presence, will eventuate. Details of the headline announcement that the U.S would provide US$600 million over ten years to the Forum Fisheries Agency remain vague, particularly regarding the role of private sector contributions for commercial access to tuna stocks.

Pacific leaders celebrated the election of the Biden administration largely because of its commitment to climate change action. They appreciate Washington’s re-engagement with the COP process, and welcome Special Presidential Envoy John Kerry’s outreach to the islands. Yet they may be alarmed at how easily geopolitics can disrupt discussions between major global emitters, as when China suspended climate talks to protest House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August 2022.

Most U.S support for climate adaptation consists of contributions to organisations like the Green Climate Fund, but these resources are difficult for island states to access. Leaders are acutely conscious that Washington’s climate commitment could change dramatically if the Democrats lose their congressional majorities in the 2022 midterm elections, or fail to win a second term in 2024.

A fundamental problem in U.S-Pacific dialogue is that island leaders do not regard China as a threat to their security, and do not find US references to “rules-based order” or “bad actors” particularly relevant. Washington objects to China’s militarisation, but from a Pacific perspective it is the Pentagon upping the ante in Oceania, through the AUKUS agreement expanding Australia’s naval capacity to engage with China, increasing military activity in Guam, FSM and Palau, as well as support for the Manus naval facility in Papua New Guinea. These island places represent key nodes in US power projection networks directed by Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii – and presumably targeted by military planners in Beijing.

Pacific leaders prefer to be engaged on their own terms rather than as part of a wider endeavour to counter China. Their key challenge is to maintain regional solidarity around their own Blue Pacific narrative, which identifies islanders as primary custodians of this oceanic space, while resisting overtures to take sides. Possible lines of fracture include tension between those countries vocal in support of the US presence, and those more muted in their response. In a rare public reprimand of another Pacific island state, in March 2022 President of FSM David Panuelo asked Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sogavare to reconsider the security agreement with China, fearing that the region would become “the epicentre of a future confrontation” between superpowers.

While island countries must tread carefully in their interactions with more powerful actors, it is reasonable for the leaders to push Washington to clarify the “perilous logic of zero-sum competition” lying at the heart of the Indo-Pacific Strategy. The Biden administration might identify what it sees as a legitimate role for China, given its growing economic and political weight, instead of insisting that Beijing (and Pacific island states) simply accept the current regional order. Otherwise, Washington’s promise of a shared future with the Pacific islands region characterised by stability and prosperity seems empty indeed….PACNEWS

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Categorie: Palau

Rihanna to headline the next Super Bowl halftime show

Island Times - Mar, 27/09/2022 - 8:33am

NEW YORK (AP) — Rihanna will take center stage at February’s Super Bowl halftime show.

The singer, who declined to perform in the 2019 Super Bowl halftime show out of solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, will headline the 2023 Super Bowl, the NFL announced Sunday along with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and Apple Music. Rihanna posted an image on Instagram of an arm outstretched holding an NFL football.

“Rihanna is a generational talent, a woman of humble beginnings who has surpassed expectations at every turn,” said Jay-Z, whose Roc Nation is an executive producer of the show, in a statement. “A person born on the small island of Barbados who became one of the most prominent artists ever. Self-made in business and entertainment.”

The Super Bowl will take place at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, on Feb. 12. After years of Pepsi’s sponsorship, the upcoming halftime show will be sponsored by Apple Music.

Rihanna earlier said she turned down a similar opportunity for the 2019 Super Bowl that was ultimately headlined by Maroon 5. At the time, many artists voiced support for Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who protested police brutality against Black people and minorities by kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

“I couldn’t dare do that. For what?” Rihanna told Vogue in 2019. “Who gains from that? Not my people. I just couldn’t be a sellout. I couldn’t be an enabler. There’s things within that organization that I do not agree with at all, and I was not about to go and be of service to them in any way,” she said of the league.

Kaepernick accused the NFL of colluding to keep him out of the league in a case that was eventually settled in early 2019.

In 2019, the NFL partnered with Roc Nation (which manages Rihanna) to help pick performers for the Super Bowl and strategize on the halftime show. The widely acclaimed 2022 halftime show featured Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar and Mary J. Blige.

With sales of more than 250 million records worldwide, Rihanna ranks as one of the best-selling female artists ever. Her last album was 2016’s “Anti.” Rihanna last performed publicly at the Grammy Awards in 2018.

In the years since, Rihanna has occasionally teased her music return. Earlier this year, she had her first child with the rapper ASAP Rocky.

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Categorie: Palau

Ohtani vs. Judge the latest of baseball’s great MVP races

Island Times - Mar, 27/09/2022 - 8:31am

When Shohei Ohtani is pitching impressively and hitting over 30 homers, he might always be the MVP favorite unless another player in his league comes up with something awfully special.

Like hitting 60 home runs, for example.

Ohtani vs. Aaron Judge for the American League MVP figures to be the most hotly debated postseason award this year. Judge is closing in on Roger Maris’ AL record of 61 homers and might also win the Triple Crown. He’s done it while playing quite a bit of center field for a team that’s nearing a division title.

Ohtani, on the other hand, is pitching better than he did when he was the unanimous MVP last year. He may even be putting himself in the Cy Young conversation, to go along with his 34 homers.

According to Baseball-Reference’s wins above replacement stat, the two are pretty close. Judge was at 9.9 entering Sunday, with Ohtani at 9.0.

As phenomenal as he is, there are a couple factors — both last year and this year — that keep Ohtani’s WAR a bit below the Barry Bonds/Babe Ruth stratosphere. As well as he’s pitched, the Angels are careful about not overusing him. He threw only 130 1/3 innings last year and has 153 this year. His lack of defensive value also works against him.

That’s just nitpicking, of course. If Ohtani doesn’t win MVP this time, it will have taken a truly spectacular performance to beat him.

Here are a few other famous head-to-head MVP races through the years:

1941 (AL): Joe DiMaggio over Ted Williams. Perhaps the most famous MVP race came in the year DiMaggio had his 56-game hitting streak and Williams hit .406.

1961 (AL): Maris over Mickey Mantle. This was a close race even though Maris — who beat out Mantle for the 1960 MVP as well — hit his 61 home runs to break Ruth’s record. Mantle played a tougher position and, while this obviously wasn’t a factor back then, he had a significant 10.4-6.9 edge on Maris in WAR.

1987 (AL): George Bell over Alan Trammell. Trammell’s Tigers rallied past Bell’s Blue Jays for the AL East title, but the Detroit shortstop couldn’t overcome the Toronto slugger’s 47 home runs and 134 RBIs.

1998 (NL): Sammy Sosa over Mark McGwire. McGwire (70) outlasted Sosa (66) in the home run race after both broke Maris’ record, but the MVP vote was lopsided in Sosa’s favor. His Cubs made the playoffs, and he led the league in runs and RBIs.

2012 (AL): Miguel Cabrera over Mike Trout. In a contentious race pitting traditionalists against new-age stats, the Triple Crown-winning Cabrera took the MVP — and the vote wasn’t all that close. Trout settled for second place despite producing 10.5 WAR as a rookie. After finishing second to Cabrera again the following year, Trout won three MVPs of his own.

TRIVIA TIME

This past weekend, Houston’s Dusty Baker became the fourth manager with a 100-win season in both leagues. Who were the others?

LINE OF THE WEEK

Kolten Wong hit three home runs and drove in five runs to lead Milwaukee to a 5-1 win over Cincinnati on Thursday night. The Brewers finished the week 1 1/2 games behind Philadelphia for the last wild card in the NL.

COMEBACK OF THE WEEK

The Kansas City Royals scored 11 runs in the sixth inning Sunday to wipe out a nine-run deficit against Seattle. Kansas City went on to win 13-12. Not that we need advanced stats to put that in perspective, but Baseball Savant lists Kansas City’s win probability as 0.3% during that sixth inning.

The Royals had five walks and seven hits in the inning. Seattle still leads Baltimore by four games for the last AL wild card — and has the tiebreaker over the Orioles — but if the Mariners do miss the playoffs, this game will be a tough one to forget.

TRIVIA ANSWER

Sparky Anderson (1970, 1975 and 1976 with Cincinnati, 1984 with Detroit), Whitey Herzog (1977 with Kansas City, 1985 with St. Louis) and Tony La Russa (1988 and 1990 with Oakland, 2004 and 2005 with St. Louis). In addition to this year, Baker did it with San Francisco in 1993, his first season as a manager.

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Categorie: Palau

FY 2023 Budget law passed

Island Times - Ven, 23/09/2022 - 8:17am

includes wage increase for govt and state employees

The national Unified Budget FY 2023 was signed into law at the Ngerulmud Capital rotunda last night after a brief signing ceremony.  Senate and House of Delegates worked round the clock to get it ironed out in time for President Surangel Whipps Jr.’s signature.

The law, RPPL 11-24 authorized for appropriation $95,579,000 and appropriated $94,879,000 for the next fiscal year, starting October 1, 2022.  The budget exceeds the original budget submitted by President Whipps in July by $3.665 million.

The new items added to the budget included $2.4 million in subsidies to Social Security Administration and the Civil Service Pension Plan.  In addition, extending the 75 cents per hour increase in government employees’ salaries to include state governments. 

“This wasn’t everything we wanted, but it is a good first step,” said Whipps of the wage increase.  “We will continue fighting for further wage increases for those not included in this salary hike.”

Additional funds were appropriated to fund state audits, support Palau National Youth Council, support the national bus service, fund the transitional facility and pay to conduct a comprehensive study on the ROP’s hemodialysis program.

The budget also includes subsidies that extend the PPUC’s automatic fuel price adjustment and lifeline subsidy program. 

It amended the Biosecurity Act to authorize police officers to board vessels with customs officers to inspect facilities.  This is a “first step drug interdiction measure” to help with reducing illegal drug entry into the Republic.

The law allocated funds to establish a permanent office to manage NCD funds.

Sources of funds for the SS and Pension Subsidies, the extension of salary increases to state governments, and other items listed above come from the Fisheries Protection Trust Fund, NCD Funds, Cyclical Reserves fund, and local revenue.

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Categorie: Palau

330 people declared undesirable aliens

Island Times - Ven, 23/09/2022 - 8:09am

Three hundred thirty (330) people have been declared undesirable aliens according to the Office of the Attorney General’s list of undesirable aliens as of April 2022.  President Surangel Whipps Jr. approved the list on July 6, 2022.

The declared undesirable persons come from nine (9) countries: People’s Republic of China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Philippines, USA, Malaysia, Nepal, India, and Yap (FSM).

Of the 330 declared undesirable, 300 are Chinese (PRC) nationals, seven (7) are Bangladeshi nationals, four (4) are Vietnamese, twelve are Philippine nationals, two (2) Malaysians, one (1) Indian, one (1) Nepalese, one (1) FSM and one (1) American.

According to Palau law, the “President may deny entry or an entry permit to any person or revoke an entry permit upon substantial evidence of any of the following: (a) the wilful furnishing of false, incomplete, or misleading information in an application for an entry permit; (b) the advocacy of the overthrow or alteration of the government of the United States or the government of the Republic by unlawful means; (c) the commission of, or attempt or preparation to commit, an act of espionage, sabotage, sedition, or treason against the government of the United States or the government of the Republic, or conspiring with or aiding or abetting another to commit such an act; (d) performing or attempting to perform duties, or otherwise acting to serve the interests of another government, to the detriment of the United States or the Republic…deliberate unauthorized disclosure of classified defense information; (f) membership in, or affiliation or sympathetic association with, any foreign or domestic organization, association, movement, group or combination of persons, …  serious mental irresponsibility evidenced by having been adjudged insane, or mentally irresponsible, or an incompetent, or a chronic alcoholic, or treated for serious mental or neurological disorders or for chronic alcoholism, without evidence of cure; (h) addiction to the use of narcotic drugs without adequate evidence of rehabilitation; (i) conviction of any of the following offenses under circumstances indicative of a criminal tendency potentially dangerous to the security of a strategic area containing military establishments: arson, unlawful trafficking in drugs, espionage, sabotage, treason, murder, kidnapping, blackmail, or sex offenses involving minors or perversion;the applicant or entry permit holder has been convicted of committing, attempting to commit, or conspiring to commit an offense which would be a felony if committed in the Republic or a crime of moral turpitude.”

Two people, who had seen their names on the list, expressed confusion about why they were on it.

“I don’t understand.  I’ve lived here for years, have a Foreign Investment License, and have never been charged with a crime, yet my name is on the list.  Why?” questions an investor who has been here for decades.

The Office of the Attorney General had not responded to the request for information as of press time.

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Categorie: Palau

Palau needs better financial assistance from US- State Minister Aitaro told world leaders

Island Times - Ven, 23/09/2022 - 8:07am

Palau said it needs better “financial and programmatic assistance” from the United States to build infrastructure and grow its economy.

In an address to the United States, General Assembly on Wednesday, State Minister Gustav Aitaro said that in the ongoing Compact of Free Association negotiations, the U.S. administration “proposed unacceptably inadequate assistance.”

“We need better financial and programmatic assistance and require these for the foreseeable future and for as long as free Association continues. But what we want most are governed measures and public and private investment to grow our economy,” Minister Aitaro said as he addressed world leaders at the UN in New York.

He said Palau’s economy had suffered especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and some he said can also be attributed to geopolitics. While the US and other allies have helped Palau achieve development, its economy has not grown.

“But our economy has not grown sufficiently and is fragile as demonstrated by contraction of more than 30% during the past five years.”

Aitaro said that the country is hopeful that the Compact renegotiations will meet Palau’s minimum needs and provide people “a decent standard of living without having to leave.” 

He also noted that Palau needs its allies like US, Japan, and Taiwan to fight the impacts of climate change.

Minister Aitaro also reiterates the calls to the UN to recognize Taiwan.

“I reiterate in the strongest terms that this body can demonstrate leadership to accepting Taiwan into the UN system as a valuable contributor to our collective efforts and promoting peace and collaborating on international matters,” he said.

Palau is one of the few nations in the Pacific that has diplomatic ties with Taiwan. 

“Most UN member states accept Taiwan passports, so too should the UN system recognize and incorporate the Taiwanese people and enrich this body with the benefits of their participation.” 

He said the UN core principle is to be inclusive.

The Taiwanese people are a part of the global community and an invaluable partner in combating climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic. With the many challenges facing our planet and people, we need every person including 23 million people of Taiwan.” 

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Categorie: Palau