Minister Umiich Sengebau

Minister of Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism (MNRET) Umiich Sengebau claimed proponents of the move to delay the implementation of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS) are “misinformed” by citing that revenues that Palau obtains from the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) will diminish.

“You pass a law delaying something without understanding how it works,” Sengebau said in response to the issue raised by the Senate committee on Resources, Commerce, Trade, and Development (RCTD that the revenue that Palau enjoys under the PNA’s VDS will also diminish due to the fishing activities ban by 2020.

Sengebau said the issue that the senators are raising now has been addressed during the deliberation of the proposed PNMS bill five years ago.

He said there has been communiqués and letters that assure PNA member countries support the PNMS and assurance that Palau would continue to receive revenues from the    VDS.

He said senators do not understand how the VDS operation works.

“It’s quite possible that you have no fishing at all and still make revenues, and that is what is happening right now,” Sengebau stated.

Palau can continue to earn money from the VDS through directly selling its vessel days directly to companies and any surplus days can be traded to another PNA member country.

He said whether there is a marine sanctuary or not, Palau will continue to benefit from the PNA’s VDS.

Sengebau also pointed out most of the senators that are behind the PNMS delay are the very same senators who voted in support of the marine sanctuary in 2015.

The Senate committee has endorsed the passage of the bill that will delay the implementation to five years citing economic conditions related to a decrease in tourist numbers.

The Senate said it would pass the measure despite the unlikely support from the House and President Tommy Remengesau Jr.

Once the PNMS law takes effect, commercial fishing on over 500,000 square kilometers or 80 percent of its maritime waters will be prohibited.

The remaining 20 percent of Palau’s seas will be reserved for domestic fishing.   (Bernadette Carreon)