BY BERNADETTE H. CARREON
KOROR, Palau — Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts is looking to invest in Palau by building 50 bungalows on a 14-acre area, which will be situated over the water in Ngerchelngael Island.
President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. in a letter to Koror State Planning Commission for building and zoning on March 6 has thrown his support behind the Four Seasons project at Ngerchelngael Island, following some opposition from the community regarding where the resort will be built.
“Four Seasons is the exact type of development we are trying to attract to Palau. It is a high end, high-value resort, and it will attract visitors who are willing to pay for a unique experience. A quality resort like this will not attract huge numbers of budget travelers like the crowds that overwhelmed us several years ago. Its guests would be more likely to respect and appreciate the beauty of Palau’s pristine environment,” Remengesau said.
He said that he is optimistic that the commission and the hotel developer can reach a “workable” agreement that will be amenable to the community.
He added that, “Even when one has the right idea, it still has to be done the right way,” commending the Koror State Planning Commission for conducting a public hearing to inform the public about the project
Four Seasons said that it is seeking to build “a low impact, self-sustaining facility on the island,” during a presentation during a public hearing in February.
In the presentation, the chain said that the “project seeks as much as possible to minimize impact to the environment and the cultural landscape while delivering an authentic experience for its visitors.”
The developer highlighted its “environmental track record in its various properties in other environmentally sensitive sites around the world,” like the Maldives and several Asian countries.
Remengesau said that people in Palau are recognized for being protective of the area, specifically citing Nikko Bay, which is a UNESCO World Heritage designation of the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon.
“If they (developers) are successful in engaging this community and in addressing the community, cultural, environmental issues that were raised during your hearing, this resort could be a great achievement for Palau,”
He cited Palau Pacific Resort — one of the high-end resorts in Palau, which a few years ago also faced opposition when it was being built. Like PPR, he said he believes that Four Seasons will also develop an environmentally friendly business, which will benefit the community.
The commission had conducted a hearing on the proposal to rezone Ngerchelngael Island, a privately-owned island within the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Rock Island Southern Lagoon.
The rezoning would classify the area from a conservation zone to a resort center zone.
Founded in 1960, the Four Seasons chain operates 117 hotels and resorts with “more than 50 properties [in] planning or development,” according to its website. mbj