By: L.N. Reklai
August 1, 2016 (Koror) Less than 15 days after the signing into law RPPL 9-62 repealing the visa requirement and postponing environmental impact fee implementation, a bill to restore the repealed languages of the law was passed by majority of Senators.
RPPL 9-62 (FY 2016 Supplemental Budget) amended RPPL 9-49(Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act), by repealing the visa fee requirement and postponing the implementation of EIF to April 1st, 2016.
A bill HD 9-203-22S, HD1, passed in the Senate last week, restores the visa fee requirement and returns the effective date of the Environmental Impact Fee (EIF) and visa fee collection back to October 1, 2016.
“This bill is not going to pass in the House,” stated Speaker Sabino Anastacio. “This flip-flopping back and forth is not a good thing for this Republic,” he added about the bill to reinstate the visa fee. “Also, given the down turn in arrivals, reinstating the visa fee is not going to help.”
Senator Surangel Whipps Jr. argued that Palau stands to lose $11.8 million in revenue if it does not reinstate the visa fee and the EIF collection by October 1, calling it “irresponsible leadership”.
Added on to this bill are amendments to RPPL 9-62 (Supplemental Budget Law). One clarifies the language of the Continuing Budget Authority, stating that State Block Grants under RPPL 9-46 Section 6 will continue to be funded under the Continuing Budget Authority.
Second amendment clarifies that a person reaching age 60 will receive full Social Security retirement benefit.
And the third of course, restores the visa requirement and the implementation date of both EIF and Visa fee back to October 1, 2016.
In a previous interview with Minister Elbuchel Sadang, he stated that “the government will implement the bill according to the law because that’s what we do,” when asked if they are ready to implement the EIF in October. “We will collect the fees at the door if need be,” he added.
“Visa fee was not part of the original Palau National Marine Sanctuary bill that we introduced. It was added in the Senate later on. Environmental Impact Fee is earmarked for State governments, for Fisheries Protection Trust Fund, Pension Plan and Green Fee.”
The justification raised previously by both houses to amend the visa fee was based on concerns raised by members of the tourism industry that believed that $50 visa fee in addition to $100 Environmental Impact Fee, will have negative impact on customers to Palau. The decision to delay the implementation of the EIF by OEK was that the government needed more time to finalize the process of collection, to make it more user-friendly and efficient.
The Senate and the House both passed the bill to President Remengesau Jr. and he signed it into law, RPPL 9-62, on July 11, 2016.
House bill No. 9-203-22S, HD1 amends 13 PNC Section 1208, increasing the duration of validity for diplomatic and official passports issued by the Republic of Palau from 2 to 4 ½ years. [/restrict]