President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. in a letter to Koror State Zoning & Building Commission expresses support for the Four Seasons project at Ngerchelngael island and urging a closer working relationship between the developers and the community to reach common grounds.
“Four Seasons is the exact type of development we are trying to attract to Palau. It is a high end, high-value resort, and it will attract visitors who are willing to pay for a unique experience. A quality resort like this will not attract huge numbers of budget travelers like the crowds that overwhelmed us several years ago. Its guests would be more likely to respect and appreciate the beauty of Palau’s pristine environment,” stated Remengesau.
He added that “even when one has the right idea, it still has to be done the right way” commending Koror States Zoning and Planning Commission for conducting a public hearing to inform the public about the project.
President said he “recognizes that the people of Ngerbeched are rightfully protective of this important area. They are right to be concerned about their access to this area and its resources, which they’ve enjoyed for generations.” He added that he also recognized the great value Koror State places on the UNESCO World Heritage designation of the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon.
In the letter, Remengesau expressed his belief that closer discussion and collaboration between the developers and the stakeholders to address the concerns can result in achievement for Palau. “If they (developers) are successful in engaging this community and in addressing the community, cultural, environmental issues that were raised during your hearing, this resort could be a great achievement for Palau.”
Citing Palau Pacific Resort, Remengesau said it faced similar skepticism but today is “one of the best local employers, one of the most active community partners, and one of our most environmentally friendly businesses. PPR turned out to be a benefit to Ngerkebesang and the Republic…and with increased involvement by the local community, Four Seasons can be just as much a benefit to Ngerbeched.”
Koror State Zoning and Planning had conducted a hearing on the proposal to rezone Ngerchelngael island, a privately-owned island within the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Rock Island Southern Lagoon, from a conservation zone to resort center zone. A landowner with Four Seasons Resort seeks to develop an eco-tourism resort on the site.
The proposal was opposed by many of the participants at the hearing citing impact to local community use of the area, potential impact on the UNESCO World Heritage designation status and environmental concerns.
In the communication, Remengesau said he had instructed EQPB and Palau’s UNESCO Commission to work with them to ensure that things are done the right way.