By: L.N. Reklai
August 7, 2017 (Koror, Palau) President Remengesau Jr. signed an airport bill into law yesterday which included a rider authorizing $35,000 to fund 25th Annual Mechesil Belau Conference.
Adoption of the bill sailed through the House but proved contentious for the Senate when group of six senators expressed their concerns in a letter to Senate President Hokkons citing lack of transparency and public awareness of the proposals that were being presented for the improvement of the airport terminal.
Senators continued to express those concerns particularly during the discussion of the bill on its 3rd reading in the Senate. Most criticisms centered on the timeline that the information was provided to Ways & Means Committee and the time it was reported to the floor of Senate, citing that more than ample time was there for Senate Committee to conduct public hearings and to provide information to other Senators.
The bill came to vote with majority voting for its passage, including Senator Reklai who been with the minority in decrying the lack of information and transparency by the Senate Ways & Means Committee that had responsibility for the bill.
Reklai explained that he voted for the bill because he believes the bill does what the resolution has already done which authorized the President to enter into agreements to finds ways and means to improve Palau’s International airport terminal.
“President is actually already authorized by law 8 PNC Section 115 to do this. This bill only expands the language to include renovation but the loan agreement will still need OEK’s approval and there is time to conduct public hearing on that. Plus, we already approved by resolution to let him negotiate and enter into joint venture and/or Build, Operate and Transfer agreements.”
“Our concerns about transparency are still relevant. And the Committee should conduct public hearings and provide all information to other Senators so that we can make informed decision,” stated Senator Reklai.
The bill now RPPL 10-11, amended previous airport law codified under Section 115 of Title 8 PNC. The previous bill authorized President to enter into airport terminal building financing and construction agreement including entering into loan agreements up to $30 million but with final approval of OEK.
The Joint Venture Agreement was also inked today between Palau, SOJITZ Corporation and JATCO, to build, improve and manage the Palau International Airport. [/restrict]