The online petition against the controversial plans of reopening the Palau National Marine Sanctuary to commercial fishing has gained over 1,000 signatures.

With the petition, a youth-led Ocean activism campaign to hold  #SaveMySanctuary signs during the April 13 and 14 Our Ocean Conference is set.

President Surangel Whipps Jr. told reporters during Wednesday’s press conference said while he welcomes the online petition,  he is “trying to understand” the basis of the petitioners’ opposition to proposed changes to the Palau National Marine Sanctuary.

The president urged petitioners to listen to science and work with the government to find solutions.

‘I don’t know what they’re protesting. But anyway, that’s just there. It’s a bill in the House, right? We want to come up with a solution. So I don’t know if they’re opposing the solution or they’re opposing something else. What we’re doing is providing a solution. So I hope we can all work together to solution that benefits everyone. That’s really the goal. So I think a lot of times we do petitions or we run around doing things being misinformed,” he stated.

Ebiil Society started a petition in the hope of getting the national government to stop its move to reopen an additional 50% of Palau’s EEZ to foreign fleets.

 By Friday early morning, the petition has garnered 1,351 signatures. 

“The Steering Committee of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary is asking you to please sign the petition and help save the Palau National Marine Sanctuary, the largest percentage of fully protected EEZ marine protected areas in the world,” the petition stated.

The petition highlighted that the PNMS was a “massive grassroots initiative,” putting into law the ancient Palauan practice of BUL.

Under the PNMS, 80 percent of  Palau EEZ has been designated as a no-take zone, while 20 percent is set aside for the domestic fishing zone.

The petition said House Bill No. 11-30-2S would only provide  “short-term and marginal profits and has not positively identified any dollar amount in potential revenues. “

“While it is understood that there is a need to seek ways to bolster our revenue earning capacity, short-term solutions should not jeopardize well thought out long-term policy objectives established for our Republic by the Palauan people,” the petition added,

Proponents to reopen the PNMS said the move would find additional revenues for the country impacted by COVID -19.

Whipps said the government, including Congress, has lofty goals in reassessing the PNMS.

“ Because ultimately, there is no other goal. I don’t think there’s any other goal in the House’s position or in the senators’ position or the President’s. We all want what’s best for the people to follow,” Whipps said.

He said the plan for the PNMS will ensure that all sectors in the society will benefit and will be more economically viable and will put Palau in a “better position long term.”

“For the people that signed the petition, look at the press conference, and I believe we’re all on the same team, everybody has the same goal, So you know, we should welcome petitions. Petitions are good because that’s what our government is all about coming up with ideas and being free to express how you feel,” he added. (Island Times)

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