Tourism project ‘too massive’ for Yap, says church
Updated Wed Sep 5, 2012 9:16am AEST
Public opposition has led to the suspension of a major tourism development on Yap, in the Federated States of Micronesia.
China Exhibition and Travel Group’s hotel development would cater for 10,000 visitors to the island by 2020.
One of the main opponents to the plan is the Catholic church.
Yap, Federated States of Micronesia
- Yap is a state of the Federated States of Micronesia, which stretches more than 950 kilometres in the Western Pacific.
- The main island of Yap is actually a group of four main islands within a barrier reef.
- According to the most recent census (2000) the state of Yap has 11,200 people.
- Yap is famous for its rai, or stone money, regarded by some observers as a form of currency and used in important social transactions
Father John Hagileiram has told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat program he thinks the project is too big for Yap.
“It’s too massive for our island – our island is very small. There are only 11,000 people on this island, and this project proposes to create jobs for 10,000 people,” he said.
“Who’s going to fill these? Of the 11,000 people living here, only about half the people are in the workforce, so obviously they’re going to bring in foreign people to fill these 10,000 jobs and this island is going to be overrun by foreigners.”
Father Hagileiram says the church would back a smaller project which he says would help the development without overwhelming the island.
An advisor hired by the China Exhibition and Travel Group (ETG)says the government invited the company to invest in Yap in 2011.
Paul Conway has indicated the company isn’t willing to downsize the proposed resort.
“Right now the project size is based upon Yap’s request to materially improve the infrastructure of Yap,” he said.
“ETG is being requested to build a new airport, a new hospital, improve all the roads and ports in Yap and as a result of the added infrastructure cost, which ETG is more than willing to do, it results in a larger resort.”
Mr Conway says the company is talking to private landowners and the government’s executive branch to secure a lease of land for the construction.
He says the development is an important step for securing Yap’s future.
“The majority of the GDP for Yap today comes from financial aid from the United States, which is expected to expire in 2023,” he said.
“So the governor of Yap and the president of Micronesia have made a bold step forward to develop tourism to help control its own destiny.”
But Father Hagileiram says he is concerned increasing tourism could lead to an erosion of Yap’s culture.
“They’re going to bring in things like casinos and golf courses and hotels – all these are massive things that we have never experienced before,” he said.
“We’ve never had these things before in our culture…the project is planning on making this a tourist destination – obviously it’s going to be overrun by tourists and we’re not capable of dealing with the effects.”
First posted Wed Sep 5, 2012 9:14am AEST