Press Release - Tourists holidaying in Palau since November last year have helped raise over a million dollars for the protected areas of the territory. Palau now has 1.3 million USD from a Green fee tax that began on 1 November 2009, all of which will help conservation efforts in Palau.There are 23 conservation sites to preserve the marine and land based environment of Palau under their protected areas network, which encompass the catchphrase for the Pacific territories' tourism catchphrase - "Experience the Wonders." It's a fitting slogan as the visitors and tourists to Palau now play a role in helping the preservation of the pristine environment.
The Green Fee is part of the 35 USD departure tax for non-Palauan passport holders to pay when leaving the territory. Of this amount 15 USD is the Green Fee that is paid into a national account managed by the Protected Area Network Fund (PANF) board of directors. Community conservation groups are now submitting applications for the 1.3 million USD which has been raised in a nine month period.
Palau has approximately 1,269 species and varieties of plants in Palau, of which 830 species are native. It has 141 species of birds of which 20 different types are endemic and it has 40 species of freshwater fish of which four are endemic.
The territory is a member of the Micronesia Challenge which is a commitment by the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Palau, Guam and the Northern Marians to effectively conserve at least 30% of the near-shore marine resources and 20% of the terrestrial resources across Micronesia, by 2020.
6.7 million square kilometres of the Pacific Ocean is covered by the Micronesia Challenge which represents more than 20% of the Pacific islands region. 1,300 species of fish live in the waters of Micronesia along with 60% of all known corals. On land, Micronesia combined has 85 species of birds, half of them are endemic and 1,400 species of birds for which 200 different types are endemic.'
"We have 1.3 million in a fund, which has come from the Green fee alone. Then we have the endowment which is what we have raised to make the Micronesia Challenge happen. When you combine those two figures together we have close to two million dollars," said Joe Aitaro, the Protected Area Network Coordinator of Palau.
"It took us almost four years to work with the community and the people, and then we had to work with our government to put this Green fee into effect and raise support for it. Now it's done and showing good results, I am pleased! It was worth it!"
Palauan communities play a leading role in carrying out the conservation efforts for the protected areas however there are costs. The green fee came about as a solution for ongoing financing to help apply the necessary activities to keep the protected areas in the Palau network going.
Communities are to submit management plans as part of their funding application for the Board of directors to review before awarding amounts for conservation community efforts. During the planning stages it was ensured the funds would be available three months after green fee collection began. To date there are now applications before the board for six of the community conservation areas.
"I'm very happy to see that all the stakeholders have agreed to make concessions to ensure that not only will the future generations benefit from this scheme but the rest of the global community," said Aitaro. "It's a true testament that islanders do live in harmony with its limited resources.'"
The board is made up of two representatives from the international community that are The Nature Conservancy and Conservation International, the Palau Minster of Natural Resource Environment and Tourism, Minister of Finance as well as five other members.
The regulations that govern the board are specific in that the number of government representatives should not outnumber the other members of the board, and the Minister Representatives are not able to vote as they are ex-officio members.
The Board of Directors are advised by a technical committee, their role is to review the management plan submitted by the community and provide advice to the Board about applications. The technical committee will assess the management plan and whether the community conservation group has the right personnel to carry out the activities. If the capacity is not available, the technical committee will advice other options to help this area and advise projects such as workshops or training.
"We want to make sure that the activities can be implemented properly before awarding the funds because at the end of the day we are accountable to the people who pay the 15 dollars."
It's the visitors to Palau over the past nine months to "Experience the Wonder" that have helped the territory succeed in their green fee initiative. If birds could talk, the 141 species in Palau would say thank you.
For more information on the Green Fee and the Protected Areas Network Fund please contact joe Aitaro at email@example.com