The Palau Senate has agreed on a compromise version of House Bill No. 10-22-1, HD1, SD1 in a unanimous 12-0 vote. The $100 Environmental Impact Fee is repealed and replaced with $100 Palau Visitor's Fee, which will encompass $30 Green Fee, $20 Departure Tax, and additional $50 to be collected upon implementation on 1 April 2018.
Palau National Congress Building
Where EIF detailed its allocation - $25 for pension, $10 for PNMS Fund, $12.50 for State Governments, and $2.50 for ROP General Fund - the Palau Visitor's Fee avoids specific earmarking, except reluctantly to the Fisheries Protection Trust Fund.
The $100 will be the Palau Visitor's Fee and collected into the Palau Security Fund, with priority allocation to go first to finance projects related to aviation, transportation, immigration, and border security.
The remainder of the fund will be disbursed at the discretion of the Palau Congress for projects and undertakings that will ensure the security and well-being of the national and state governments. '"For example, the Committee envisions this Fund to be allocated for things such as, but not limited to, sustaining social programs such as healthcare programs and Social Security, safety net programs such as the Civil Service Pension Plan, and other government obligations," the Senate ways and means committee report states.
However, an amount of $10 from the Departure Tax shall become a component of the Palau Visitor’s Fee, and the remaining $10 shall be restricted and earmarked for the Fisheries Protection Trust Fund. The restoring of the earmark for trust fund is believed to have removed concerns that PNMS will be without is main funding mechanism.
While the senators agreed to earmark $10 to the Fisheries Protection Fund, it still raises concern that the revenue derived from visitor fees is not guaranteed to replace fees that will be lost from the closure of EEZ to commercial fishing.
The bill has been transmitted to the House of Delegates for action.
President Remengesau has yet to issue a comment on the matter, in which he earlier said that EIF is key component of the PNMS.