KOROR STATE OPPOSES NATIONAL CONSERVATION FEE

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SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, May 29) – Members of the Eighth Koror State Legislature have recently adopted a Resolution expressing their opposition to a proposed US$50 conservation fee to be collected from every tourist in connection with a Bill amending the Protected Areas Network (PAN) Act.

Resolution No. 8-32, which was introduced by Legislator Roman Yano and the other Koror lawmakers, is also to request the Olbiil Era Kelulau to refrain from taking action to adopt House Bill No. 7-156-9,HD2.

The Koror Legislators are also requesting that the OEK to include express language to allow States to collect fees from tourist if the tourist conservation fee would be implemented.

The legislators explained that the national constitution gives the States the exclusive owners of all living and non-living resources, except highly migratory fish, from the land to 12 nautical miles seaward from the traditional baselines.

They also noted that Koror State Constitution provided the same exclusive right for Koror State, which they said is in the best position and has the capability to develop in a sustainable manner, promote and protect its resources for the purpose of increasing tourism in Palau.

Koror State Government, they said has promulgated a Rock Islands Southern Lagoon Area Management Plan for the conservation, environmental protection and management of the rock islands and marine areas within the state.

The Resolution explained that KSG over the years has enacted legislation for such conservation management and is now in the process of adopting comprehensive regulations to implement the management plan for the rock islands.

KSG has been collecting Rock Island Use permit fee of $25 from tourists and an additional $10 while visiting Jellyfish Lake.

Such fees generate an estimated $1.2 million in annual income to Koror State.

These fees are being used to maintain and build summerhouses, recreational facilities, bio-toilets and to install and maintain mooring buoys. It is also to preserve the rock island environment for long term, sustainable uses of the rock islands and to provide funding for law enforcement activities.

The Koror lawmakers explained that the PAN financing provisions may automatically repeal the provisions of State law charging a tax or fee on tourists and tourist activities.

The same financing provision of the proposed House Bill on PAN had been the main concern by the Governors Association saying that this may prohibit the States from charging future fees for tourists to visit sites and engage in recreational activities within the States.

The Koror lawmakers express fears that the PAN was to allow the States to decide which areas would be designated as part of the PAN but as of this time no states have designated any area for inclusion in the PAN.

They also said that the implementation of the proposed new measures would also create needless layers of bureaucracy, which will not serve the interest of the public or of tourism industry.

They said that the national government has a responsibility to financially assist the States rather than alienating them and the national government they said has the duty to insure the fiscal autonomy of the States.

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