The Senate Committee on Tourism, Environment, and Maritime (TEM) recommended that  Oibiil Era Kelulau urge President Surangel Whipps Jr. to create a task force to oversee the implementation of the Petroleum Act, the law that will  pave the way for exploratory drillings for oil and gas in Kayangel State

According to the Senate Committee report, that while the pandemic has impacted Palau’s economy that made it is urgent for the country to identify new revenue sources for the country, Petroleum regulations and laws should reflect the country’s effort towards clean energy.

Adoption by the Senate of the House resolution is pending until a meeting and discussion among the committee, Ministry of Public Infrastructure and Industries, and Kayangel State is conducted, according to the TEM committee vice chair Sen. Mark Rudimch. 

The committee also said the implementation of the act considers safeguards of ensuring that drilling will not cause environmental hazards, at the same time create alternative economic options for the country. 

The committee report also noted that Kayangel Governor Richard Ngiraked assured the senators based on “experts”  that “ environmental impacts can be alleviated through the use minimal impact technologies and that Palau’s relatively shallow waters allow quicker and effective damage ramifications.”

Sen. Rudimch in response to a question about the exploration potentially tarnishing Palau’s long history of advocating environmental protection, said that,“it comes down to responsible and careful development and management of resources.”

He added that he would take into account, “ expertise of the environmental scientists’ recommendations to ensure that Palau  is protected from reckless undertakings in the name of perceived emergencies.” 

According to the proponents of oil drilling, a shallow test well, less than 4,000 feet, would find out if the hydrocarbons are present in the Velasco Reef. 

 But before exploratory drillings can commence, permits are required from the national government. 

Members of the Kayangel State legislature on May 20, gave life anew to the efforts of the Palau Pacific Energy Inc. to drill oil in Velasco Reef after extending its drilling license.

Former President Johnson Toribiong is assisting the company to get the necessary national permits to start the oil drilling.

According to the resolution adopted by the Kayangel State on May 13, 2021, the drilling has not commenced due to the “refusal of the appropriate agencies of the Government of the Republic of Palau to honor the requirements prescribed by the Palau Petroleum Act.”

It also stated that COVID-19 restrictions also caused “unavoidable delays” preventing the company from meeting the drilling deadline.

Renewables 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found that emissions from fossil fuels are the dominant cause of global warming.

There have been calls for nations to shift to renewable energy as a climate solution. International organizations including the Asian Development Bank (ADB have earlier said it will phase out future financing of oil and coal extraction projects and will restrict natural gas funding, as it focuses on greener initiatives.

MPII Minister Charles Obichang at a virtual meeting of high-level policy and intergovernmental representatives jointly hosted by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the Regional Pacific NDC Hub, and the UK COP26 Presidency said that Palau is reaffirming commitment to cleaner energy.

“Palau is developing a new roadmap that will ultimately result in a 100 percent fossil fuel-free energy system. The pursuit of energy security through renewable energy makes environmental, social, and economic sense for us, helping to fight climate change while creating opportunities for new industries and new jobs. Renewables are an opportunity for us to thrive in a new era of fossil fuel-free energy production.,” Minister Obichang stated during the meeting.   (B. Carreon) 

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