REMENGESAU CALLS PALAU OIL EXPLORATION PREMATURE

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By Bernadette H. Carreon

KOROR, Palau (Palau Horizon, Mar. 16) — President Tommy Remengesau described as "inadequate" a bill that would create a framework for oil exploration in Kayangel and for the development of Palau’s petroleum energy reserves.

The measure is pending in the House of Delegates.

According to Remengesau, an assessment of the project is necessary and yet the bill, he added, "places the cart ahead of the horse."

The measure would create a public corporation known as Palau National Energy Authority to regulate and oversee the creation, development, as well as the permitting and operation of petroleum companies in Palau.

But Remengesau said the bill does not contain an assessment of oil exploration in Palau.

Instead, he added, the bill would allow the issuance of licenses before a framework for oil exploration is established.

Remengesau at the same time said it is no longer an issue whether the project is beneficial or not.

He said the World Bank has offered funding and technical expertise to help the country create a process for petroleum exploration.

He said Palau should consider the World Bank’s recommendations.

The World Bank said the prospect of the project as well as its environmental and socio-economic impact should be assessed first. Afterward, the government should draft a petroleum code, a petroleum contract, environmental regulations and fiscal regulations.

But the bill pending in the House, Remengesau said, goes against its own legislative findings which call for a "flexible, transparent and comprehensive legal, regulatory fiscal regime applied in a consistent and predictable manner by a single authority."

According to the president, the bill would exempt Palau National Energy Authority from the Administrative Procedures Act and from the oversight of the Environmental Quality Protection Board.

Remengesau said the measure would remove EQPB’s authority to regulate any activity with potential negative environmental impact, including earthmoving, sewage discharge, discharge of any type of toxic or hazardous substance and air pollution.

Kayangel State Gov. Harris Kambalang, in a letter to Remengesau, said although oil exploration in the state would lead to several benefits, the temptation to proceed quickly with the project should be avoided.

"A hasty and reckless approach to this development could lead to Palau down a very different path — one that ends in broken promises, or worse, environmental disaster," Kambalang said.

He said it is in the best interest of the state if the World Bank’s suggestions are followed.

Despite the money that the project offers, Kambalang said they would not support a plan that will threaten Kayangel’s environment.

March 16, 2004

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

 

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