President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. in letters to Chief Ibedul Yutaka Gibbons, Chairman of the Council of Chiefs and Bilung Gloria Salii and the Mechesil Belau, urges the traditional leaders to reconsider the use of single-use plastics and Styrofoam products in traditional functions.

“In this Year of Environmental Action, I respectfully ask Rubekul Belau and Mechesil Belau, to examine the effects of the plastic pollution on the environment as our nest of life here in Palau, specifically, I ask you to examine the prevalence of the single-use plastics, including plastic bags and polystyrene foam (Styrofoam) products in our traditional functions.”

The use of single-use plastics and Styrofoam products, although new, have become imbedded in Palau’s cultural functions.

President states that the 2017 Plastic Bag Use Reduction Act did not include measures that would impact the traditional functions and this could not be done without input from the traditional leadership.

In the letter, President Remengesau urges the traditional leaders to consider the current law and see how it can be modified to protect the environment but at the same time not impact the traditional functions.

“Our traditional functions are rooted in the Palauan lifestyle, and in a harmonious existence with our natural environment.  I hope you can raise awareness and understanding regarding the contradictions of plastic reliance in these events, to help promote behavioral change in our daily decisions of using single use plastic and lead us toward a meaningful solution.”

Palau’s plastic bag reduction law only addressed use of plastic bags as means of transporting purchased goods from retailers and banning importation of such products.  It does not address use of single use plastic bags, Styrofoam plates, plastic spoons and other similar products at traditional functions such as funerals, ngasech or other cultural events. (L.N. Reklai)