BY BERNADETTE H. CARRION
KOROR, Palau — Retailers in Palau will have to remove their “reef-toxic” sunscreen from store shelves after President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. signed on Oct. 25 a proposed measure that will ban sunscreens containing chemicals that are harming the corals.
The sunscreen ban is in the new Responsible Tourism Education Act 2018 which banned the sale and importation of “reef-toxic” sunscreen effective Jan. 1, 2020.
The law stated that retailers importing or selling banned sunscreen will receive a $1,000 fine, while sunscreens found carried by tourists will be confiscated.
“The power to confiscate sunscreens should be enough to deter their non-commercial use, and these provisions walk a smart balance between educating tourists and scaring them away,” Remengesau said to leaders of Palau Congress when he signed the bill into law.
Sunscreens that are containing chemicals including oxybenzone, octocylene, 4-methyl-benzylidene camphor and parabens and triclosan will be banned in Palau.
Remengesau said that there will be regulation issued before the ban takes effect and is hopeful that by then, retailers will be able to weed out the toxic sunscreens from their stores and have found alternative products that will not kill the corals.
Under the law, the government will consult with experts during the drafting of the regulations on identifying reef-toxic sunscreen.
Remengesau said the corals are very important to the country, which relies heavily on the environment for its tourism and economy.
Palau follows Hawaii legislation, which early this year announced a ban on reef toxic sunscreens by 2021.
Craig Downs, executive director at the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory in Hawaii said Palau leads the world in protecting coral reefs.
“It’s the first country to ban these chemicals from tourism. I think it’s great, they’re being proactive,” he said.
The Responsible Tourism Education Act of 2018 also addresses plastic pollution with a requirement for tour operators in Palau to provide their customers with a reusable alternative to disposable plastic or polystyrene cups, water bottles and drinking straws.
The bill also will require tour operators to provide customers with reusable meal containers.
The new law also mandates aircrafts and vessels assist the country in notifying the passengers either through distribution of literature, playing of video or otherwise of Palau’s environmental protection, cultural preservation or other policies.
Remengesau stated that Palau’s environmental policies will be consistent with the Palau Responsible Tourism Policy Framework.
The president said Palau’s policy should revolve around a “high value, low volume tourism” and defined it as a “strategy that is characterized by smaller- and medium-scale operations emphasizing local and authentic experiences.” mbj