The law that created PPLA is “likely invalid because it seems to violate the Palauan Constitution due to an over robust insulation of the PPLA members from the President’s control,” states Senate Legal Counsel in an opinion requested by the Senate.

Senate earlier this October approved two presidential appointments to the PPLA Board to replace two Board members that President Whipps removed in August due to a difference in opinion regarding the leasing out of lots in Ngebudel, Airai, near the airport.

President Whipps believes that these lots are within an area purchased by the Republic to support airport services.  The area was subdivided and leased by the PPLA board to individuals and businesses within the last two years.  According to the PPLA Board letter to President Whipps, the area is designed as joint-use by Palau and the United States, and the United States was notified of Palau’s intent to use it.  Furthermore, it said that the previous administration had supported the proposal to lease lots within the area.

The differing positions led to the removal of the PPLA board members.  Three (3) resigned voluntarily while three (3) did not and the Whipps wrote them a letter terminating them from the PPLA board.

The law that created PPLA (35 PNC Section 204 and 205 states that the PPLA Board is appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate.  It further states that the Board members may only be removed for “inability to serve, neglect, misconduct or gross inefficiency” by ⅔ of members of the PPLA Board.

Members that were terminated contend that the President’s termination was in clear violation of the law as only the majority of PPLA Board members can remove other members.

In the legal counsel’s opinion, the law removes the President entirely from the removal process entirely.  “The legislature may restrict the President’s ability to dismiss a superior officer except for cause, protect superior officers with terms of service, and in certain circumstances delegating the removal power to another officer. However, the President must have the ability through some mechanism for removal as to maintain control over officers that serve an Executive Branch.”

He stated that the law seems to restrict the President’s vested power to remove members, “removing the President from the process entirely.”

“The President’s firing of the PPLA board is likely in line with the Constitution, though not explicitly permitted by the statute.” stated the opinion.

Meanwhile, the portion of the area around the airport designated as Exclusive Use Area for the United States under the Compact was recently awarded by the Court to private claimants.  The area covers the section where Civic Action Team is located and houses next to the airport.

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