With the postponement of the Our Ocean Conference to 2021, the Our Ocean Secretariat Office said that the original tenants will be moving back into the Global Village conference facilities in January.
The newly-renovated Belau National Gym and Olbiil Era Kelulau (OEK) Satellite Building, both of which were upgraded in order to host the Our Ocean 2020 Conference, will be returned to serve their original purposes—the National Gym to host sports events and large multi-purpose gatherings, and the OEK to host government meetings.
The original plan was to use the venues to host the Conference in December and return them to their original tenants in January, said the Secretariat Office. Although the Conference has been postponed, the return-date has not.
The infrastructural improvements, in addition to renovations of Global Village Park, Palau Community College cafeteria and classrooms, and the Asahi Baseball Field, were funded by international donors including Taiwan, Japan, Australia, India, New Zealand, and the Nippon Foundation. The over-$16 million in funds was implemented by the United Nations Office for Project Services to provide venues for the large international conference.
Our Ocean Secretariat Office, however, said that the choice of facilities was always meant to also provide permanent infrastructural improvements for Palau.
The date for Our Ocean in 2021 has yet to be determined. President Tommy E. Remengesau said that the Conference is best hosted as an in-person event, which is currently an impossibility due to COVID-19 and travel restrictions. However, the facilities are still planned to host the Conference when it does happen, with the government previously pledging to uphold the standards of the improved facilities far into the future.
The renovations of the National Gym and the old OEK both involved extensive improvements to the ceilings, the floor and carpeting, the roofing, the air conditioning systems, and the outer facilities, among other things. The National Gym has already been used to host the Fifth Anniversary of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS) in October.
The last restoration project for the Our Ocean Conference, the Asahi Baseball Field Improvement Project, is still underway. The project was originally scheduled to be finished in December, but heavy rain has caused the completion date to be pushed back to January 2021, a date which is also weather-dependent.
The baseball field, originally set to be the main venue for the Our Ocean Conference, is undergoing a “complete” facelift, with restorations to the parking-lot, the roofing, the stands, the Press-box, the field itself, and the electrical equipment and pipelines. The Our Ocean Secretariat Office said that the rain has caused delays with most of the work dealing with drainage and water runoff.
The $500 thousand facelift, undertaken by Neco Construction, will serve to host baseball games in the future, which President Remengesau has called “the most important sport to the people of Palau.”