President Surangel Whipps Jr. said “environmental protection is paramount” involving oil and gas exploration.

Whipps said this when asked about the revival of efforts for exploratory drillings in Kayangel State. 

“We have laws that are in place, we should always follow the law that is in place and they are set and designed to protect the environment to ensure any exploration is done the benefits go to the Palauan people,” Whipps said.

The president however did not categorically say he supports the planned drillings, he said that there are laws in place that needed to be followed.

In 2011, former President Johnson Toribiong signed into law the Petroleum Act for the Republic of Palau.

The new law is to govern the “prospecting, exploration, exploitation, development and production of oil and gas resources, including mineral resources that are found on land, offshore within the 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone or on the continental shelf subject to the sovereign jurisdiction and exclusive ownership of Palau.”

The law was drafted with the help of World Bank. 

Kayangel State has given Palau Pacific Energy Inc. license to drill exploratory wells in Velasco Reef again, in a resolution adopted in May.

According to the resolution, 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,” which makes the company unable to meet the drilling deadline.

Robert Jordan, PPE Inc. President in a letter to Kayangel officials said that studies commissioned by the company noted that hydrocarbons have been generated “under the flanks of the Velasco area,” and the drilling will determine if oil and gas deposits are present in the Velasco Reef area of the state waters.”

Mr. Jordan added that the company and associates have invested USD $3 million for the conduct of geophysical, geological, geochemical, environmental, and engineering studies of the Velasco reef and its surrounding area.

The company also said that it will ensure environmental safety when exploratory drills are conducted.

Mr. Jordan said the company “respect and wish to preserve in our efforts with utmost attention to the environment and maintenance of the waters which provide for the welfare of all Palauans.” 

Jordan said a shallow test less than 4,000 feet can find out if the hydrocarbons are present in the Velasco Reef. 

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