“We are just about to start construction of our house. We got all the permits and the loan approved and were just waiting on the weather before the earthmoving can start and then we are told our lease is terminated,” stated a discouraged young Palauan man about to build his first house on his lease in Ngebudel, Airai.
“We were notified by the bank that our loan has been approved and shortly after, the bank called and said sorry, you can’t use that land for your loan,” said another young lessee who was also about to become a first-time homeowner.
This sentiment is echoed by others who were also granted leases in the same area by Palau Public Land Authority and have also had those same leases pulled out from under them by the same body. The letter from PPLA states that the area is within a “retention” area of the Palau International Airport for use of the United States Government or the Palau National Government and according to the lease agreement, the lessee once notified shall leave the property and shall have NO remedy to pursue damages on any improvements made on the property.
The 61 lessees who were all given abrupt termination letters wanted to understand why the same body (PPLA) that issued their leases over a year ago are now terminating them.
“Didn’t they know before they gave us these leases that they were in the area for use of United States government or the national government? Aren’t they [a] national government body?” questioned another victim.
The lessees held a meeting this week to try to understand why they were now victims of their government actions.
A former PPLA board member, Debed Luii, said that the PPLA Board did the research and was informed through a signed letter from Minister of Public Infrastructures and Industries Charles Obichang that the Palau government and the United States government had no intention to use the lots and to go ahead and lease them out.
Furthermore, he said, the area leased is not within the exclusive use area but the Joint-Use area of the airport.
The lease contract contained a clause that said that if the government needed the site, it can (through Resolution of Necessity) terminate the leases and the lessees have to leave within a certain time and cannot bring legal action against the government to pursue any damages or remedies related to the lease.
The leases were part of the government program aimed at solving the “housing crisis” for displaced citizens as well as first-time homeowners called the Housing Development Loan Program (HDLP).
“The letter is so cold. It just says you are terminated without even giving us any possible hope or solution. What happened to ‘A kot a rechad er Belau’ promise?” asked another bewildered lessee. “I guess it’s chad ra Merikel first then.”
32 of the 61 lessees have requested copies of minutes and other documents from PPLA on the decision to terminate their leases under the Open Government Act.