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By Nazario Rodriguez Jr.

KOROR Palau (Palau Horizon, Feb. 3) — Most residents of Kayangel state are not in favor of the bill that would allow foreigners to lease lands up to 99 years.

This was according to Vice Speaker Okada Techitong, chairman of the House Committee on Commerce and Trade, following last week’s public hearing on the bill authored by Sen. Alfonso Diaz.

[PIR editor’s note: Kayangel, one of 16 states in Palau, is the country’s northernmost island.]

S.B. 7-7 proposes amendments to allow non-citizens and corporations to lease private land for a term of up to 50 years, and to lease government land for a term of up to 99 years.

Aside from Techitong, the other lawmakers who conducted the public hearing included Speaker Augustine Mesebeluu, House Floor Leader William Ngiraikelau, Dels. Kerai Mariur, Noah Idechong and Florencio Yamada.

Techitong said there were only two persons who expressed support for the bill but they raised "interesting points that have to be considered.

"One gentleman asked why we allow selling the land…but (against) leasing it for several years," Techitong said.

Close to 40 residents attended the hearing, which was broadcast live on government radio station T8AA.

Also part of the discussion was the Senate bill that seeks certain exceptions to the prohibition against transfer of nonresident workers.

Techitong said there were other concerns raised by residents in Kayangel like how their local products — coconuts and handicrafts – can be more competitive in the market.

Techitong said that there are only about 20 households in Kayangel and their opinions may not reflect the overall sentiment of Palau regarding the land lease bill.

February 3, 2006

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