The Senate committee on tourism and development had recommended the passage of a bill that seeks to cut the $100 Pristine Paradise Environmental Fee (PPEF) refunds for Palauans and their spouses to $75.

The senate committee, in its report dated April 9, stated that it believes that the proposed changes to the PPEF are “necessary for they generate additional revenues while fairly applying the principles that originally justified the full PPEF refund.”

It also stated that the proposed extra $25 charge from the PPEF refunds that Palauans currently receive is bearable to them.

“Many of those who do travel via airplane are capable of affording what are already expensive prices. An additional $25 on top of a ticket valued at $800 is approximately 3% of the ticket value – a percentage that decreases as the airfare increases,” the report stated.

Under the current law, every international airline operating in Palau is mandated to include the $100 fee in their ticket price but those who are eligible for refunds can claim it back fully. But that might not be the case for Palauans and their spouses anymore if the bill is to become a law as this means that instead of receiving the $100 refund, they will only receive $75. The purpose of the refund cut, however, is to be able to redirect a fund to support the Palau Visitors Authority (PVA) in the promotion of the country’s tourism.

“The committee believes that in this time of need, we, as a people, have an obligation to support our country and its tourism industry,” the report read.

It also supported the bill’s move to retain full PPEF refund privileges to pilots and crew members of airlines that are legally operating in Palau, diplomats with diplomatic passports, and transit passengers, citing different reasons for each group that is eligible for the refund.

It also supports the recommendation to not refund individuals “travelling on behalf of any organization or entity that received funding from the national government”, stating that the committee “feels there is a moral responsibility to not refund this fee.”

The tourism and development committee is chaired by Senator Camsek Chin and Vice chaired by Senator John Skebong. Among the members of the committee are senators Kerai Mariur, Stevenson Kuartei, Aric Nakamura, Mark Rudimch, and Phillip Reklai.

The senate is currently gathering public comments on the proposed legislation and is set to conduct a public hearing. (By Rhealyn C. Pojas)