Meeting of Four Governments and Two NGOs for Enhancing Coast Guard Capabilities and Promoting Eco-conscious Tourism in the Republic of Palau
First of all, I want to convey my heartfelt condolences to the people of Fiji for the loss of life and damage caused by the recent cyclone.
President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr., Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. It is my pleasure and honor to be able to attend the meeting here today.
I would also like to pay my respects to the representatives of the governments of the United States, Australia, and Japan and all who have committed time and effort to secure safety and stability in this region.
In 1990, The Nippon Foundation, as a non-governmental organization, donated a passenger ship, the Nippon Maru, which provided means of transportation for the residents of Pelilieu Island and Koror island for more than 20 years. It gives me great pleasure that Palau and The Nippon Foundation have maintained good relationship over the past quarter of a century. During all these years, I’ve always admired your beautiful islands and the surrounding ocean.
As you are all aware, the beautiful waters of the Pacific Ocean are facing a serious crisis. In recent years, illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing operations by foreign vessels have become rampant in the Pacific and this is having a devastating effect on the region’s marine resources, and criminal activities such as illegal dumping of waste from vessels at sea, are also damaging the marine environment. These activities which place great pressure on the oceans, must not be tolerated if we are to achieve coexistence with the marine environment.
The territorial waters including the exclusive economic zones of the three nations of Micronesia, namely, the Republic of Palau, and Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Marshall Islands make up a total of 6 million square kilometers, an area far greater than the combined landmass of the countries.
It would be difficult, even with the aggregated resources of the three nations, to protect this vast area to make sure that it can be passed on to future generations.
Considering the sheer magnitude and seriousness of this issue, I felt that the responsibility of ensuring the sustainability of this region should not solely fall on the three nations of Micronesia alone but also on the governments and stakeholders of nations who benefit from the riches of the Pacific Ocean.
Therefore, in 2010, The Nippon Foundation and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation called upon the governments of the three Micronesian States, as well as those of the United States, Australia and Japan to come together, and several joint conferences aimed at improving coast guard capabilities have since been held.
Based on the outcomes of these conferences, The Nippon Foundation has provided various types of support to improve coast guard capabilities of the three Micronesian nations including the donation of small patrol boats to defend coastal zones, the provision of marine communication facilities, and the training of coast guards and officers for the patrol boats.
Moreover, it is my wish that Palau, which is aiming for harmony between its people and the ocean under the leadership of President Remengesau, will play a focal role for this project. In order to fulfill this goal, a Memorandum of Understanding was concluded, in February of last year between Palau government and The Nippon Foundation relating to the following 3 areas: Coast Guard Capabilities, Environmental Protection and Eco Tourism. Based on this MOU, we have been working on a new initiative from last year.
Specifically, The Nippon Foundation will provide a 40 meter medium-sized patrol boat and create a berth for it, in addition to the existing small patrol boats. In order for these patrol vessels to be utilized effectively and sustainably, The Nippon Foundation will provide support for the maintenance and fueling for the boats, and carry out the training of skillful officers and crew. We will also support the construction of a building for the Division of Maritime Law Enforcement of Palau, as a large number of personnel will be required to perform the task of ocean governance.
We would like to ask our partners, the governments of the United States, Australia and Japan, for your assistance in implementing these various forms of support by utilizing your expertise in various fields.
Another issue that must be addressed is the burden placed on the environment by the rapidly growing number of visitors to Palau.
I believe that it is crucial to give consideration to the environment while accepting tourists from overseas to promote tourism in the country. This is why, we are also conducting a study on eco-tourism to consider ways in which Palau can achieve sustainable tourism while protecting the environment at the same time. I would like Palau to be the leader in the creation of a new business model in tourism which places the ocean environment as the number one priority.
The Nippon Foundation and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation feel it is a great honor to be involved in this important initiative, in cooperating with and bringing together various governments and other stakeholders. It is our hope that this initiative in Palau will become a showcase which will contribute to the development of its neighboring countries—the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Marshall Islands—and also to the greater Pacific region. Let us make this conference an opportunity for creating new bonds amongst us which will secure the future of the oceans.