Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr has touted the nation’s ‘Blue Prosperity’ plan to Pacific leaders and delegates at the Blue Economy roundtable ahead of the Our Oceans conference, starting this Wednesday. In his welcoming address at the roundtable, held at the Ngaramayong Cultural Center, the President spoke of the potential for regional dialogue and stronger recovery from the COVID 19 pandemic.
The roundtable was also the first face-to-face Pacific meeting in almost three years.
“I do hope that soon we’ll get COVID-19 behind us. And we can continue to build up a stronger blue Pacific. I believe that it’s time that we explore regional cooperation and look at our Pacific Ocean. And really work toward 100 percent management,” President Whipps Jr said.
Speaking of the Pacific Blue Prosperity plan, he noted the need to “balance protection with production” and shared the learnings from Palau’s seven years with a protected EEZ.
“We’ve learned from our experiences and the challenges that we’ve had, that it’s about right-sizing, future-proofing, and adaptive management that really leads to a stronger and more resilient ocean, and it should be better based on community-led, science-based data-driven marine spatial planning.”
President Whipps Jr also noted how history has shown the balance of ‘practical’ approaches to ownership that appreciates the “value of the resources that we have, and benefits to our people”.
“It’s really about learning from the challenges and taking ownership of our oceans,” he said. “I think many times we get stuck in the middle between the foreign fishing fleet saying, we want to control your oceans. And then the conservation group saying, we want to control your oceans. But at the end of the day, it should be about the people, what is best for the people.”
He stressed science, such as that used by the tuna industry, can provide the best decisions on the best ways to manage a resource, for the best benefits to people.
Citing the example of the Majuro-based PNA, President Whipps Jr recalled being in the room when the then-President HE Johnson Toribiong had signed the Parties to the Palau Arrangement complementing the Parties to the Nauru Agreement.
“And I think that was a big statement to the world that said, ‘we own the tuna, we’re going to dictate how we fish it sustainably–but yet the benefits go to the people,” he said.
He says ensuring more of the value chain from ocean to supermarket is Palau or Pacific based creates more value and benefits for Pacific people, “ and ultimately, hopefully, we fish less, but provide more economic benefit to the people that depend on these resources,” he added.