Koror Governor Concerned About Palau Marine Research Permits

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National government ‘taking’ state property, resources: Adachi

By Jose Rodriguez T. Senase

KOROR, Palau (Island Times, April 14, 2015) – Koror Governor Yositaka Adachi has written Minister Umiich Sengebau expressing his concerns with respect to the current system of marine research permitting by the national government for the study or other activities of State owned resources.

In his letter to Sengebau dated April 1, 2015, Adachi noted that in 2014 the Koror State Government (KSG) made protest about ROP’s "Agreement Between Republic of Palau" and Marine Research Permits grantees.

Adachi pointed out that the State Government specifically protested the language in the ROP agreement that states that the permittee "agrees that all materials collected pursuant to such permit and all information derived from such materials, including any patentable or licensable product or technology, shall remain the property of the Republic of Palau."

"I am concerned about the continuation of this language in permits issued by your Ministry for 2015, and about the authorization by the ROP for permittees to collect and take State Resources without the State’s knowledge and consent," the Koror Governor stated.

Adachi said that he has also learned that Bureau of Agriculture has issued at least one permit in 2015 that authorized the collection of plant samples from the rock islands of Koror, without consultation with KSG.

Adachi said these circumstances raise three issues with respect to the current system of marine research permitting by the national government for the study (or other activities) of State owned resources.

According to him, the three areas of concern are: 1) The national government issuing permits to conduct activities and to take State resources without consulting with the State beforehand; 2) The potential for the State to deny a permit after the ROP grants a permit; and 3) The ROP requirement that a researcher sign a document which says that national government is the owner of all resources collected, and all derivatives from such collected resources.

The Koror Governor said that Attorney Masami Elbelau was working with their legal counsel on these issues last year, but the ROP has not communicated with KSG about potential amendments to the permit process or permit language since that time.

He added that the National Constitution is clear and unambiguous when it comes to the ownership of marine resources.

Citing the National Constitution, Adachi said that KSG is the "exclusive" owner of all living and non-living resources (except highly migratory fish) within the twelve (12) nautical mile territorial sea, pursuant to Article I, Section 2(b) of the constitution of the Republic of Palau (as amended on November 4, 2008).

Adachi, citing the Koror Constitution, said that under Article 1, Section 4 of the State Constitution, Koror State Government has "exclusive ownership of all living and non-living resources" from the land to twelve nautical miles seaward.

"Based on the constitution, I feel that it is appropriate to amend the ROP permitting process so that the State decides whether or not to issue any permit for "taking" of State resources, before the national government issues any permit for taking State resources," the Koror Governor stated.

Adachi said that would prevent a situation from arising where the State may deny a permit after the national government has already granted the same or a similar permit.

"Additionally, the ROP should not require permittees to sign a form saying that the ROP "owns" State resources (and derivatives from State owned resources), especially when the signing of the form is a pre-requisite to obtaining a national permit to take State resources," he added.

Adachi said that he would rather work with Sengebau and the ROP on these issues, which according to him, are related to ownership by the State.

"So as to prevent confusion among permittees, and to prevent any conflicts about ownership and potential concealment from KSG by persons believing that they must deal only with the ROP," the Koror Governor stressed.

Adachi said that in the spirit of cooperation, he is suggesting that that legal counsel (Attorney General or Assistant Attorney General) communicate with their legal counsel, Mark Doran, Esq., to resolve this issue in a manner that recognizes the constitutional grant of ownership to the States.

Island Times was not able to get the comment of Minister Sengebau as of press time.

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