Koror —It’s time to decide whether you are in or out. Whether you will help bail out the sinking boat or whether you will bail out of the sinking boat and go somewhere else.
The laws that exist and how or whether they are enforced in Palau are the result of politicians. These are politicians voted for by the Palauan people.
Environmental laws and protection are there in theory but an apparently healthy black market and export of those vulnerable species shows that nothing is being done to enforce those laws. Restaurants and hotels have been caught cooking up and serving protected species but continue to do business. Domestic trade in protected or undersized fish continues despite the culprits being known.
Bird populations continue to decline due to illegal hunting. Endemic species such as the fruit dove—our national bird—national bird and other species are threatened with extinction. We should be seeing flocks of them but instead we get occasional sighting of individuals. You know those that hunt them but do you try and stop it?
The recent Renewable Energy conference revealed to me that building developments here do not have to conform to any standard or code. Developments are hurriedly being built to avoid any future restrictions. This building work is being done by the lowest bidder and as fast as possible.
Entities responsible for assessing businesses and their environmental impact do not appear to be doing enough research into potential impacts nor do they
seem to have rudimentary understanding of what could occur.
Water quality standards? Raw sewerage is blatantly discharged in areas used for aquaculture and public swimming, teaching of scuba courses etc.
There’s talk of class action lawsuits but if this should succeed and the utility company made to pay compensation, it’s likely that PPUC will then increase their water rates to compensate themselves later.
Air quality laws? Forget about it. Vehicles are allowed to belch out poisonous fumes without check. Not only does it have negative health effects but it looks terrible to visitors who come to this “Pristine Paradise”
Given that the numbers of vehicles in Palau are increasing without restraint, I would hope that the quality and condition of those vehicles is important, but road worthiness tests are ignored. Seat belt laws? No, but who needs them when the airbag is there right? By the way, cars made by BMW, Chrysler, Daimler Trucks, Ford, GM, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota were all fitted with Takata airbags, recalled in 2014 after they were found to be defective. How many were replaced here? Think of that when driving with your baby on your lap.
If there were real car worthiness tests, some people might not be able to drive their cars because they are dangerous, but it would also mean a lot less cars on the road. There would be more business for auto shops fixing defective and dangerous cars.
Like Gambling? Certain politicians continue to push for casinos. Under the table deals with foreign entities increase, but these officials aren’t outed by concerned citizens, but continue to “work” for their people. They’re pardoned for their crimes and re-elected because they say something nice about your Gran while handing out free food just before the election. Don’t forget that they work for you not the other way around. Please don’t let them continue to insult your intelligence.
“To catch a criminal, police must think like a criminal,” is a common bit of ‘wisdom.’ Some officers have taken this literally and actually become criminals. If a population doesn’t respect its police force, we’re only a spark away from riots, looting and murders.
Front businesses are continuing to flourish despite talk of restraint. Labor, immigration and taxation laws are flouted in full view of those government offices responsible for enforcing them. Problems are made to go away and foreign workers are robbed of their human rights.
Legitimate businesses have to compete with those that break the law with impunity. The more influential the Palauan front the greater the impunity. We all know examples. It’s a perfect environment for criminal intent to flourish.
It’s a toxic stew in which crime, corruption, destruction of the environment and food resources are increasing. The economy is not benefiting from increased tourist numbers. Only a select few individuals reap any benefits from this vital industry.
It doesn’t take 99 years to destroy your land. Unchecked developments will do that in less than 10.
Palau continues to present itself to the world as an environmental advocate, a poster child for conservation. Its reefs, land and wildlife are touted as pristine but the reality is that they are barely protected and sold without shame.
It’s your country and your future. You are responsible for your own legacy.
Richard Brooks owns Lightning Strike Production, which covers everything from underwater to aerials. See his work at www.lightningstrikeproductions.co.uk