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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Palau

Article 6 of Palau’s constitution features provisions for the protection of the environment. It reads: “The national government shall take positive action to attain these national objectives and implement these national policies: conservation of a beautiful, healthful and resourceful natural environment; promotion of the national economy; protection of the safety and security of persons and property; promotion of the health and social welfare of the citizens through the provision of free or subsidized health care; and provision of public education for citizens which shall be free and compulsory as prescribed by law”

The Palau National Code (PNC) consists of a combination of laws passed by the Olbiil Era Kelulau (OEK), colonial law implemented under a succession of Spanish, German, Japanese and American administrations and domestic laws.

Featured Legislation

1981:The Environmental Quality Protection Act was adopted. The legislation features three divisions: i) general provisions, ii) wildlife protection and iii) and protected areas. Division 1 provides for the establishment, functions and operation of the Palau Environmental Quality Protection Board (EQPB). Division 2 provides framework legislation concerning endangered species and includes an Endangered Species Act providing for both animal and plant endangered species. Division 3 covers the only two legally protected areas in Palau, the Ngerukewid Islands Wildlife Reserve and the Ngerumekaol Spawning Area.

1984: The Sewer Use Act was enacted. Under this legislation, no person, other than the Director of Public Works, is permitted to uncover or make connections to a public sewer without a permit from the Environmental Quality Protection Board (EQPB).

1988: The Palau Wildland Fire and Forest Management Bill was promulgated. The Bill empowers the Head Forester to manage wildland fire protection and suppression,  suppressing wildfires within one mile of roads, or in other areas deemed (by the Minister or, in his absence, the Director) to be harmful to soil or forest resources.

1991: The Natural Heritage Reserves Systems Act was instituted. The legislation acknowledges the uniqueness of Palau’s geographical and natural resources and, under the Act, proposes that a system of reserves and sanctuaries must be identified, developed and strengthened. Additional terrestrial, freshwater and marine areas suitable for the preservation should be set aside and administered for the protection of the environment and natural resources of Palau.

1994: The Marine Resources Protection Act was passed and amended in 1995, administered by the Division of Marine Resources within the Bureau of Natural Resources and Development. The legislation regulates the taking of certain species of marine (coconut and mangrove crabs, clams, hump-head wrasse and lobster are covered by the Act), and terrestrial organisms, protecting coral reefs and regulating certain fishing methods. The Act is supplemented by three Regulations:

  • The Collection of Marine Resources for Aquaria and Research Regulations
  • Reporting and Labeling of Exports of Marine Resources Regulations
  • Marine Resource Export Regulations

2001: The Palau Natural Resource Council Act was established. Council membership includes the Bureau of Natural Resources and Development, Department of Agriculture/Forestry, EQPB, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Palau Community Action Agency, PALARIS (Bureau of Lands and Survey), Palau Community College (Agricultural Science Program and Cooperative Research and Extension Program), Palau Conservation Society and the Peace Corp Volunteers.

2015: Palau Climate Change Policy. This Climate Change Policy is a national policy with a cross-sectoral approach at community, state, national and international levels. The timeframe of the Palau Climate Change Policy and Action Plan for Climate & Disaster Resilient Low Emission Development is 5 years between 2015 and 2020. The main objective of this Policy is to build the resilience of Palau to climate change and disasters by (i) enhancing adaptation and resilience to the expected impacts of global climate change across all sectors, (ii) improving Palau’s ability to manage unexpected disasters and minimize disaster risk, and (iii) mitigating global climate change through low carbon emission development, energy efficiency, protection of carbon sinks, and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

2016: Palau Energy Act. This Act amends Title 37 of the Palau National Code to insert a new Chapter, which establishes an Energy Administration. The Energy Administration is responsible for reporting and coordinating with the relevant executive branch climate change office such energy-related climate change information as is specified by applicable international and regional initiatives to which the Government of Palau has made a commitment and shall set energy efficiency benchmarks for public utilities and develop and disseminate the National Energy Policy. The objectives of the NEP are the delivery of clean, secure, and affordable energy within Palau, and to respond to the risks of climate change through adaptation and mitigation measures that enhance social and economic resilience and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector.

2021: Energy and Natural Resources Sector Strategy 2021-2023. This Energy and Natural Resources Sector Strategy is a nationwide sectoral document that falls within the broader National Development Plan 2021 – 2023 endorsed by Prime Minister's Office. The energy sector in Palestine aims to advance in all its branches: generation, transmission, and distribution to achieve the Energy Authority’s mission of (i) preparing and developing appropriate policies and legislation to achieve sustainable energy security under international best practices; (ii) building an energy system capable of meeting the needs of the Palestinian citizen; (iii) achieve a comprehensive and sustainable development at reasonable prices that reflect the true cost of production, transportation, distribution, and consumption; (iv) utilizing all locally available energy sources, especially renewable and environmentally friendly energy sources, with high efficiency, quality, and reliability that meet internationally approved specifications and comply with internationally approved environmental standards. Among the most important goals to be achieved through this Strategy (i) increasing the amount of locally produced capacity, exploiting local resources and reducing dependence on imports as much as possible; (ii) increasing the share of energy produced from new and renewable energy sources in the energy balance to mitigate negative environmental impacts; (iii) efficient production, transmission, distribution and consumption of energy, and adopting a policy of rationalizing consumption and reducing waste; (iv) diversifying energy sources to ensure energy security by increasing the proportion of energy produced locally and from all sources, and increasing the proportion of imported energy through regional connectivity and energy exchange with neighboring countries; and (v) building specialized and effective institutions in the energy sector capable of implementing development programs and developing the energy sector, and separating the sector’s activities from the policymaker, executor of these policies, and the supervisory body to implement these policies. Achieving these goals helps to secure energy at competitive prices which in turn contributes to lowering the cost to the consumer. The aforementioned goals can be achieved through the following (i) provision of strategic energy reserves; (ii) energy exchange with neighboring countries; (iii) developed transmission and distribution system; (iv) applying modern technologies and automating the monitoring and control of the energy transmission and distribution system; (v) energy efficiency and rationalization of consumption; (vi) intervening on the institutions operating in the energy sector; (vii) integrated and comprehensive planning for the energy sector within a single policy framework; (viii) efficiency of the cadres working in the energy sector; (ix) increasing the economic efficiency of the sector; (x) supplying natural gas to the Gaza power station and providing natural gas resources to build power stations in the West Bank; (xi) exploitation of natural gas discovered in the Gaza Sea and potential oil resources in the West Bank; (xii) the completion of the drafting of the commercial agreement with the Israel Electricity Company regarding the import of electricity.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • In 2018, Palau completed its first formal assessment of anti-money laundering (AML) and counter terrorist-financing (CT) measures. The assessment revealed an intersection among select activities – namely, illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, trafficking in human beings and sexual exploitation, and environmental crime. While Palau is in the process of developing a written national AML/CFT policy which is guided by identified risks, the country is yet to fully adopt a risk-based approach for exemptions from AML/CFT requirements and the application of enhanced or simplified preventative measures. Presently, there is a sound level of cooperation between the government authorities, necessitating strategic efforts to curb the aforementioned crimes. The National Risk Assessment (NRA) serves as a framework for analysis of overall risk for different types of crimes, and potential linkages by way of state-facilitated crimes – that is, crimes which occur when governmental regulatory institutions fail to restrain deviant business activities, because of direct collusion between business and government. Consider, for example, tax crimes and its connections to environmental crime such as illegal fishing. Vietnamese fishers, moreover, are displaced from disputed waters in the South China Sea and are subject to human rights abuses linked to reducing labour costs, or the use of illegal gear to increase catches and revenue. In 2021, it was revealed that these illegal fishing vessels are now engaged in the over-exploitation and mismanagement of fish stocks in the waters surrounding Palau, raising concerns among government officials and the role they are poised to play in risk assessment.

References and Further Reading


Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and the Environment: Steven Victor,