President Tommy Remengesau yesterday heeded the calls to delay the implementation of the environmental impact fee and stated that he will be submitting a bill this week to the Olbiil Era Kelulau to proposed amendments to the existing law and postpone the fee until April 1, 2018.
In a press statement issued by the Office of the President, it said that the president
after consultation with his Finance Minister, Tourism Minister, Economic Advisors, the Palau Visitors Authority, the Bureau of Tourism, and his senior officers,” agrees to a delay in the implementation of the fee mandated to take effect this coming April 1 by RPPL 9-62.
“I agree that implementing the EIF on April 1st of this year is not the most opportune time to be increasing tourist fees. With global market activity affecting dollar values across our top tourism markets in Asia including Japan, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Korea, and the People’s Republic of China (PRC), it would be wise to hold off on the EIF for now until more positive indicators of inbound tourism from Asia convince us otherwise,” Remengesau said in the statement.
The statement further added that Remengesau decision was also made based on Palau Visitors Authority tourist arrival data and market forecast research indicating that with or without the EIF implemented in April, Palau would see at least a 10 percent decline in tourist arrivals for the year 2017.
The statement said the global market was also a factor in the decision.
“Global markets, trade, and tourism structures are being reassessed world-wide, and although the EIF would have great positive impact in our economic structure, it would be hasty and ill-advised to move forward in April with major global market players still assessing and arranging what will become the new global market status quo. Furthermore, there is additional work that can be carried out to facilitate the smooth transition to and implementation of the EIF such as incorporating the EIF into the airline ticket of passengers. We need to give another year of observation to be certain that more positive impact will come from the EIF,” adds President Remengesau.
Last week, several sectors that included the BTA, Japanese community, United Airlines and The International Airline Transport Association (IATA) called for either the delay or repeal of the fee citing dwindling tourism numbers.
The EIF mandates that every tourists over the age of 13 years old visiting Palau pay a $100 fee. The EIF is part of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS).
This early, support from lawmakers for the delay of the fee is mounting.
Senator Mark Rudimch, chair of the Committee on Ways and Means and Vice President of the Senate said the fee should be delayed and the law that mandates it should be revised.
“Palau has seen a decline in the number of visitor arrivals in the last months that I believe is a result, within a year’s time, of conflicting policies made worse by the political demand to implement a visa requirement obviously tied to political promises of money into the economy with a side order of an earmark for the pension plan. The tourism industry was ping-ponged for political reasons and now we are left with a policy that is now questionable,” Rudimch said in an email.
Delegate Jonathan Isechal, chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means , agrees to the delay.
He however said that he has yet to see the bill.
Isechal added that though he agrees with the intention of the implementation of the new fee, “it is not a good time to do it.”
He said a year to postpone the collection of the new fee would give the government time to monitor the tourism numbers. [/restrict]