Dear Fellow Citizens:
We would like to share our deep concerns about the statement released by Ngchesar State Delegate, Honorable Sabino Anastacio, the current Speaker of the House of Delegates of the Olbiil Era Kelulau (OEK).
The statement titled “Press Release: Correcting the Record on Recent Media Articles about Proposed PNMS Bill (HB No. 11-30-2S, HD1)” was published in local newspapers on May 3, 2022. Our concerns with this statement are manifold.
First, the document’s label “press release” is without an official seal or logo to identify the organization that the opinionated statement represents. Further to that point, the document does not indicate what Delegate Anastacio is a “speaker” of – indeed nowhere in the document does he identify himself as formally representing the OEK.
In fact, nowhere in Delegate Anastacio’s statement does he align himself to any entity – not his state of Ngchesar, nor as a representative of the 16 Delegates of the OEK in his capacity as Speaker of the House. We can only assume that Delegate Anastacio did not write the statement or that he is trying to make his own personal statement appear as if it is an official statement of the OEK. This behavior is highly questionable.
And yet, even though this is clearly not a statement of the OEK, somehow public funds were used to pay for the publication and procurement was still handled by the OEK. To use public money to fund a rant of unfounded accusations in any capacity is cause for serious concern. But when the public’s money is spent to voice the personal opinions of an individual acting outside his official capacity, it is a matter for investigation.
What is appalling is that Delegate Anastacio is very well versed of the Sanctuary Act as he, as Speaker rounded up consensus on the legislation through dozens of sessions throughout the course of nearly two years, ultimately garnering its unanimous passage in the House of Delegates in 2015. Anastacio is deliberately being disengenious and disinforming in his entire statement. A statement like this during a pandemic and economic downturn is his intention to leverage peoples’ fears and cause people to lose their judgment. In his mentioning of “the region’s colonial experience” and “solidarity with indegionous peoples” in contrast to the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act is a huge contextual misapplication of the region’s history and an egregious representation of Palauan culture and the will of the Palauan people – as the Sanctuary Act was envisioned and created by the Palauan people.
Delegate Anastacio paints an awfuly distorted observation of civil society and the community of citizens who have worked to help address our developmental challenges in the best interest of the Republic. And to single-out a particular NGO with acclaim undermines and discredits the work of all other NGOs, including those that help us address issues other than environmental conservation and fisheries. And to be so deliberate with unprovoked unfounded accusations of civil society and the national grant funding system overseen by the executive branch including the Attorney General’s role – is an outright misemployment of power as a congressman and as Speaker of the House.
The Delegate accuses NGO’ s for co-opting media. We would like to remind the Delegate of the status quo of the PNMS legislation and the media as the proverbial 4th arm of the government has done nothing more but highlight the implementations and plans of the existing law, its administrator(s) and partners – that is an actual example of partnership in execution of a national goal.
In his fourth paragraph, the Delegate lays a deceptive criticism of the PNMS describing how it was not set up to be financially sustainable and that the proposed bill is designed to develop a “realistic” vision of the PNMS.
In reality the PNMS took effect in 2020 – Delegate Anastacio knows this. 2020 was the beginning of a global pandemic that we are still barely coming out of – the Delegate knows this very well. For him to argue that the PNMS has not lived up to its potential is like complaining about the number of fish you have not caught. As if the global pandemic was not enough, the PNMS has been given no support by this administration. Why has the local domestic fishery not been stood up within the 20% domestic fishing zone? Why have they abandoned the project as part of the current PNMS? These are questions for MAFE and TNC that Delegate Anastacio should be asking.
The financial core of the PNMS was to replace state fishing revenue through the PPEF. But a majority of the effective history of the PPEF, Palau’s tourist numbers have been non-existent. President Whipps recently announced that tourism will be back at the end of this year – how can the Delegate judge the PNMS’ financial sustainability before allowing it to work.
We need to remind the Delegate of the tremendous benefits of the PNMS brought even through the wind-down period. The direct benefits of the PNMS even before full implementation have been well documented including establishing international partnership, strenthening of marine law enforcement, fostering community engagment in conservation and entrpreneurship, ground-breaking marine research, tens of millions in PPEF revenues and over $70 million worth of assiatance. It has encouraged policies on single use plastics and toxic sunscreens that inspired the world. It inspired the Palau Pledge giving the nation a global advertisement campaign reaching tens of millions of people.
These are real benefits we can build upon. These are real benefits that Palauans have received even before the PNMS has been given a chance to work – but the Delegate wants to throw that away, and based on what ? There are no scientific studies cited in the proposed bill, there are no scientific studies cited in the “prosperity” plan. The truth is the Delegate has no plan, because there is no plan.
Delegate Anastacio’s paid opinion piece can be found here: https://islandtimes.org/correcting-the-record-on-recent-media-articles-about-proposed-pnms-bill-hb-no-11-30-2s-hd1/
The Concerned Majority