Koror – On Oct. 28, 2015, Palau President Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr. signed into law the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act, an ambitious ocean conservation initiative aimed at protecting Palau’s own marine resources as well as the world’s tuna stocks. This landmark legislation creates a no-take marine sanctuary covering 80 percent of Palau’s exclusive economic zone, where no fishing will occur. The law also creates a domestic fishing zone covering approximately 20 percent of Palau’s EEZ in which traditional and domestic fishing activities will be allowed to provide fish solely for the domestic market.
The underlying principle behind this monumental legislation is for Palau to capitalize on its leading role in environmental stewardship by turning the conservation initiative into tourism dollars. Establishing the marine sanctuary secures the cornerstone of Remengesau’s vision to realign Palau’s economic foundation into a niche market destination attracting “high value, high end” tourists.
The signing of the marine sanctuary law was an unmistakable — and unparalleled — political event held in a stylish open-sky evening on the grounds of Palau International Coral Reef Center. Many government officials and traditional leaders attended this full-blown event glutted with food, drinks and entertainment such as traditional dance and live band. It was a triumphant celebration following the long drawnout battle in the Olbiil Era Kelulau (Palau National Congress) for the approval of President Remengesau’s defining legislative achievement and where his legacy ultimately rests on.
It was in this occasion that an influential senator, Hokkons Baules, and Speaker of the House of Delegates Sabino Anastacio, key players in the passage of the marine sanctuary act, delivered statements of support that captured the political expediency of the partnership between the two congressional leaders and Remengesau.
The political alliance continued in a striking manner, bridging the previous and the current administrations as Baules took over the senate presidency alongside Anastacio’s speakership of the House. The partnership has delivered major legislative victories for Remengesau, among which are increase of minimum wage, merging of the water and sewer utilities, state of emergency declaration for drought crisis, loan financing for fiber optic cable and the five-star hotel legislation.