WASHINGTON—The U.S. Department of the Interior has approved more than $1.2 million in fiscal year 2019 Technical Assistance Program grant support for the benefit of the Republic of Palau.
According to Doug Domenech, U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary, Insular and International Affairs, these funds that are made available by the U.S. Congress each year for the U.S. territories and Freely Associated States.
He said the money would help Palau better assess health needs, improve collaboration among law enforcement and public safety divisions, modernize regulations to conserve natural and cultural resources, and strengthen maritime safety and security.
He stressed that the funding is critical to strengthening public services on the islands and laying a foundation for better economic development resources and opportunities.
“This year’s projects are only a small portion of the immensely beneficial relationship that the U.S. and Palau share under the Compact of Free Association,” he said. “[Interior] Secretary David Bernhardt and I are pleased to provide [the] funding assistance.”
Both Bernhardt and Domenech met with Palau President Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr. last week as well as with President Hilda C. Heine of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and President David W. Panuelo of the Federated States of Micronesia.
The three presidents traveled to Washington for a meeting with President Donald J. Trump and other ranking U.S. officials. In these meetings, the United States, Palau, the RMI, and the FSM all reaffirmed their respective commitments to the Compacts of Free Association and continued close cooperation.
The grant funding will be used for the following:
– Palau Ministry of Justice: $364,174 to Provide Network Integration and Upgrade Data Systems. Funding will be used to develop and install networking software that will extract and share data among the four divisions under Palau’s Ministry of Justice: the Division of Immigration, the Office of Public Safety, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Division of Labor. Each division currently has stand-alone systems and enhanced electronic networking will streamline and strengthen law enforcement and security through better information sharing. Pre-requisite firewall and security systems will also be incorporated to protect the integrity of the system.
– Palau Bureau of Public Health: $240,492 to Perform a Community Health Assessment. The last such assessment was conducted in Palau over 15 years ago. Palau has worked closely with the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Pacific Islands Health Officers Association to collect health data and conduct routine assessments. However, Palau still lacks the information needed to inform decision-makers about the health status of Palauans. The community health assessment will assist the health department in determining how to prioritize needs, allocate resources, and assist communities in addressing the key social determinants of health that influence choices and behaviors.
– Palau Environmental Quality Protection Board: $75,000 to Review and Modernize the Environmental Regulations in Palau. Funds will be used to modernize critical environmental regulations for the government of Palau. Updated regulations are necessary to protect public health, conserve natural and cultural resources, and support to a sustainable high-end market tourist economy for Palau. The three most critical regulations to be updated as recommended by Palau are: the marine and fresh water quality regulations, the public water supply regulations, and the environmental impact statement regulations.
– Aids to Navigation Infrastructure: $530,000 will be provided to the U.S. Coast Guard’s 14th District, headquartered in Honolulu, Hawaii, who will work closely with the government of Palau to provide aids-to-navigation infrastructure improvements in the waters of Koror. These improvements directly support maritime safety and security development for Palau and the Western Pacific region.
“Interior is particularly pleased to be a partner in the endeavor between the U.S. government and the Republic of Palau to secure maritime safety and navigation by improving the Aids to Navigation infrastructure,” said Domenech. “Leveraging assets and expertise between the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of the Interior benefits the relationship that the United States and Palau enjoy under the Compact of Free Association.”
“The U.S. Coast Guard, with funding provided by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs, and working jointly with U.S. Embassy Koror and the Republic of Palau, have improved the Palau maritime transportation system to ensure safe navigation,” said Rear Adm. Kevin Lunday, commander, U.S. Coast Guard 14th District. “Our work together is essential to strengthening our relationship, improving regional maritime governance, and ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific.” (PR)