Information supporting the 2.6 million dollar grant source of the FY 2022 Supplemental Budget Act bill comes nearly two months after its submission to Olbiil Era Kelulau.
Grant Agreement and letter of support from Palau’s environmental organization partners were signed and submitted after the supplemental budget had passed the 3rd reading in the House, transmitted to Senate, and assigned to Senate Committees.
The Grant Agreement between The Nature Conservancy and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Environment (MAFE) Minister was executed on July 1, 2022. The letter of support from the three (3) donor organizations was signed last on June 24th and sent to President Surangel Whipps Jr.
The supporting documents were provided after the Senators raised questions about the funding source during the Senate’s 6th Special Session on June 7, 2022. Senator Secilil Eldebechel said that in line with the Financial Accountability Act, they must ensure that there are documents guaranteeing the payment and that they are aware and informed of any conditions that may be attached to the grant agreements.
As such, some senators sought to remove references to the Palau National Marine Sanctuary law in the proposed supplemental budget, HB 11-64-7S, and to address proposed changes to the PNMS in separate legislation.
“The devil’s in the details,” noted Senator Umiich Sengebau of the limited information available about the plan at the time. To avoid delaying the passage of the supplemental budget bill, the amendments to PNMS should be addressed in separate legislation, added Sengebau.
However, the recently produced grant agreement makes removal of some of the amendments to PNMS moot.
In addition to giving $2.6 million after the initial signing of the agreement, the Grant Agreement makes payment of the funds contingent on the “full and final passage and adoption of legislation authorizing Marine Spatial Planning process as contemplated by this Grant Agreement.”
The grant agreement states it will help Palau with funding during the Marine Spatial Planning and Blue Prosperity Plan process in order “to maintain the ban on commercial fishing in the Palau National Marine Sanctuary” except for allowance of four permitted longline fishing vessels for purposes of experimental fishing, the“testing of next-generation fishery management models”. The grant agreement also states that the awardee – MAFE will ensure that all longline fishing vessels follow regulations and have 100% on-the-water monitoring.
Letter of support from Palau’s three (3) environmental partners, The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, and Neo Terra, said that in recognition of the “acute budget shortages” Palau faced as a result of the pandemic, the 2.6 million dollars a year grant funding will remove the pressure from Palau to “reintroduce wide-scale commercial fishing” during the development of the marine spatial planning.
They also pledged technical and fundraising support for Palau’s Blue Prosperity Plan.
The Grant Agreement will provide an overall $7.8 million in four payment plans based on the achievement of milestones and timetables stated in the agreement.
The initial 2.6 million will be disbursed 30 days after the signing of the Agreement. The funds are restricted to conservation program works.