Opinion Editorial: Partnership for the Environmental Protection of the Pacific

By Marstella Jack
Delegates to the Pacific Islands Forum and Post-Forum Dialogue flying into
Pohnpei might notice the great hulking wreck that was once the PING DA 7, aground for nearly two years now atop Pohnpei's circular fringing reef. This ship is an environmental time-bomb and the subject of an ongoing emergency in the FSM. The people of Micronesia want it removed, but whose responsibility is it?
However sympathetic, what development partner is willing to shoulder such a problem and incur such a liability, real or implied? It's a conundrum, but one that might finally have a solution. That possible solution is PEPP.


Partnership for the Environmental Protection of the Pacific, or PEPP, is a new Micronesia-based not-for-profit corporation. Its mission is to help the people of the Pacific address crosscutting environmental issues critical to our sustainable economic development and physical well-being. Working directly with Pacific Islanders, our governments, intergovernmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations, international financial institutions, development partners, private industry, and charitable donors, PEPP seeks to increase awareness of environmental management issues confronting Pacific Island nations and bridge gaps in local capacity, in order to help address the region's most pressing environmental issues.
Our Board of Directors, the "PEPP Squad," consists of gifted men and women who know the Pacific well and generously serve pro bono. Their expertise is manifested in the new and innovative ways they seek to address the vulnerabilities of Smaller Island States, often without the need for additional public funding. With buy-in from state and national governments, and the support of our international development partners, these can be game-changing strategies to effectively address the challenges of Pacific island nations in ways that support regional integration, strengthen local capacity, and promote environmental sustainability.
PEPP's innovative and collaborative approach to problem-solving can be seen in its inaugural project, designed to address the long-term electrical power needs of Pohnpei.
With its electricity rate among the highest in the world, most of its people suffering from daily electrical power outages, an emergency declaration by the governor, and a tangle of lawsuits and recriminations, Pohnpei's energy needs were grossly unmet. Without fanfare, PEPP launched a whirlwind of consultations with stakeholders who swiftly coalesced around our plan to construct a solar power farm at Pohnlangas that would slash electricity costs to Pohnpei consumers, reduce Pohnpei's carbon footprint significantly, and safeguard Pohnpei's energy needs for many years to come. PEPP's ambitious 5MW plan paved the way for today's more modest 600KW solar power plant in Pohnlangas, Madolenihmw, funded by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) through its Pacific Partnership Program. The solar project in Pohnlangas proves that PEPP has the imagination to visualize the needs of Pacific Island societies and the technological and broad social understanding to bring this vision to reality.
PEPP is vitally concerned with the health and wellness of Pacific Islanders. We draw attention to the health disparities of Pacific Islanders relative to other ethnic groups, including higher cancer and infant mortality, greater prevalence of diabetes and Hepatitus B, and a high incidence of HIV/AIDS. PEPP emphasizes holistic and natural approaches to preventing and treating depression and mental
illness, as well as non-communicable disease, through lifestyle and dietary changes, nutritional counseling, and culinary health education.
PEPP's proposed new program, titled "UrCare," would dramatically broaden the availability of health care to Micronesians. Micronesia's sole health insurance provider, MiCare, presently protects only about 20 percent of Micronesia's population. In coordination with MiCare, UrCare would provide coverage to the rest—principally subsistence farmers and fishermen and their families—through guaranteed payments replenished by membership premiums and donations.
UrCare's proposed regional diagnostic facilities would dramatically reduce the number of expensive off-island referrals. This expanded coverage and on-island diagnostic treatment would enable UrCare to improve health, save lives, and lessen the strain of Micronesian indigents on the social safety net in U.S. states and territories.
Another innovative PEPP concept is a new public-private initiative to strengthen collective maritime security in the Pacific. It's called NAVATARS, which stands for "Naval Auxiliary Transport, Asset Recovery, and Search." The heart of the NAVATARS concept of operations is the deployment of accredited vessels and other assets as an auxiliary "virtual navy," or Micronesian Coast Guard, in support of subscribing Pacific Island governments. Building on the successes and experiences of Pacific Island governments and the U.S. Coast Guard in their joint "shiprider" naval patrols, NAVATARS vessels would embark host country law enforcement officers on patrols of their countries' Exclusive Economic Zones. NAVATARS would then assist these police in helping to curb the exploitation of Pacific EEZs by organized international criminal elements. With the consent of participating governments, NAVATARS' operations would span multiple EEZs, sometimes in the course of a single extended patrol. This tactic will defeat the current practice of poachers, which is to evade law enforcement routinely by slipping across contiguous EEZs.
NAVATARS would be self financed, funding its operations through subscriptions, grants, merchandising, and a percentage of all new proceeds it brings to subscribing governments. No governments want to accept the responsibility for the clean-up of environmental hazards like derelict vessels and unexploded ordnance. But all could contribute to those efforts, at arm's length, by funding PEPP to undertake the clean-up on their collective behalf.
PEPP is seeking new board members passionate about preserving the beauty, and confronting the challenges, of the Pacific. We also seek public and private development partners interested in real solutions.
Learn more about PEPP at www.pacificpartnership.org