Palauans, including netizens, lambasted the proposed 50-year commercial sand mining project in Ngarchelong State that is seen to bring severe environmental impact.

People from different parts of Palau had travelled to Ngarchelong State on Saturday evening, November 10, just to participate and voice their concerns during the public hearing on the proposed 50-year sand mining project by the RAM Corporation, a Japanese-run company.

The public hearing was also aired live on social media which has garnered over 3,000 viewers as of Monday evening, November 12, making it possible for citizens abroad to participate in the discussion in real time.

The project is believed to impact an area as big as the stretch from Malakal in Koror to the end of Airai and it is also estimated to extract 465,125,000 cubic yards of sand in reef areas about the size of Koror, according to a press statement issued to Island Times.

Concerns are even more amplified as the areas to be utilized for the project are home to endangered species namely dugongs, turtles, stingrays, and eagle rays, among others.

The project is also estimated to yield a profit of $35-Million yet will only contribute 35% of it to the state.

“With zero lease, zero royalty, basically zero income tax.  [This] makes you wonder how much the same area would be worth if Ngarchelong state would lease it for sustainable development in such pristine environment?” the press statement reads.

Members of the public also pointed out that the company will be able to recover its investment in two years’ time, hence raising their profit to 65%.

A representative of RAM Corporation who was present at the public hearing also disclosed that the project may be attached to other development. This further sparked disapproval among the public who viewed it as a case that could potentially reduce sales and profit of the state.

The contract, according to the press statement, also indicates that RAM Corporation is in charge of “managing the books and will make it available to the state for periodic review.”

“There was so much anger and frustrations as the community felt that their own elected and traditional leaders went behind their backs to sign a contract with RAM, a Japanese corporation that would allow sand mining in the Northern Lagoon of Ngarchelong for the next 50 years,” the press statement reads.

Palau’s Environmental Quality Protection Board (EQPB) initiated the public hearing, saying that it wanted to get the communities’ perspective on the project as the company reportedly claimed that it conducted three public hearings in Ngarchelong.

“I attended all those so-called public hearings where there [were] a total of 9 persons in one, and 11 in another, and hardly anyone voiced their opinion, except for those who were presenting the project who also told us that the contract has been completed and signed,” a female member of the community shared during the meeting.

“It is our effort to demonstrate how small communities can resist the tyranny of big corporations for resource grabbing and environmental injustice that’s witnessed too often these days and must be stopped,” the statement added. (Rhealyn C. Pojas)