Koror— The Covid-19 pandemic “is a window of opportunity for us to change things and has really shown us that we need to be more self-sufficient,” young activist Miel Sequeira-Holm said, keynoting the Third National Environment Symposium held on Aug. 18.
“We don’t have to always rely on imported products; we can make our own. We have so many talented and hard-working people right here in our own home,” she said.
Investing in locals and regaining local control over Palau’s natural resources topped the recommendations made during the symposium attended by over 250 participants, who crammed the standing-room-only Ngarachamayong Center.
Thirty-two presenters, interviewers and moderators spoke on the NES theme of “New Opportunities for a Resilient Palau.”
In total, more than 100 planners, experts, and volunteers from government, non-government organizations, communities, and the private sector collaborated to identify, refine, and present issues and solutions for building resilience in three spheres of national security: Economic, Food, and Energy Security.
To achieve resilience, speakers across all three NES spheres stressed the need to increase local control of production and decrease dependency on imports. Capitalizing on existing local expertise in the tourism industry, increasing local food production on land and offshore, and taking advantage of Palau’s plentiful renewable solar energy will all contribute to national security, insulate the country against future shocks like Covid-19, and more sustainable use natural resources.
Speakers at the symposium noted that continued reliance on outside goods and services (e.g., international visitors, foreign labor, imported foods, and imported fossil fuel) makes Palau vulnerable to external shock sand natural disasters (like drought and typhoons) and fuels environmental damage.