Barely two months into the new government, the President and the Olbiil Era Kelulau (OEK) or the Palau Congress seem headed on a collision course with opposing views on the Environmental Impact Fee (EIF).
Palau's Capitol Building in Melekeok State
Earlier, the House of Delegates has made clear their position through their full support in the passage of the bill, HB No. 10-22-1, HD1, to repeal the EIF provision of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS)- President Tommy Remengesau Jr.s signature policy.
The Senate followed House of Delegates (HOD) action with a proposal to amend the same bill (SD1), which not only agreed to repeal EIF but also replaced it with “Palau Security Fund” – defined only in general terms in the Ways and Means committee report dated March 21.
The EIF is a $100 fee to be levied on tourists visiting Palau.
However despite the ambiguity of the Palau Security Fund definition, Sen. Mark Rudimch chair of the Senate Committee on ways and means said that the committee report recommendations" assures that the PNMS will remain intact." The report was signed by seven members of the committee, which is the key number for gaining approval of any bill in the Senate. The bill has passed the Senate on second reading today. It is set for third reading discussions this week.
Earlier, HOD passed on third and final reading the proposed scrapping of the EIF, on grounds that tourism numbers continue to decline and will further decrease because of the planned implementation of the added fee.
President Remengesau in a statement last week reiterated his position that the "EIF must be kept in the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act and must be implemented before April 1, 2018.."
Failure to reach an agreement on the amendment to the existing EIF law will render it effective by April 1, 2017.