Yap tourism development threatens culture & lifestyle
Resource: Radio Australia
Updated 5 September 2012, 17:57 AEST
On Yap island in the Federated States of Micronesia, public opposition to a major tourism development has forced the Yap State Legislature to stop all activities by the development company, the China Exhibition and Travel Group.
Leading the opposition to the hotel development which is proposed to cater for 10,000 visitors by 2020 is the Catholic Church.
Speaker:Father John Hagileiram, Yap Catholic Church
HAGILEIRAM: The reason is because it’s too massive for our island. Our island is very small, there are only 11-thousand people on this island. This project proposed to create jobs for 10-thousand people, who’s going to fill these? Of the 11-thousand people living here there are only about half of the people who are in the workforce. So obviously they’re going to bring in foreign people to fill these 10-thousand jobs, and this place is going to be over-run by foreigners, with Chinese. And yet they say that they’re going to develop their culture and help traditional values and that kind of stuff. So I don’t see how that can happen.
COUTTS: Would you agree to any kind of project? For instance if they reduced the size of it?
HAGILEIRAM: Most definitely yes, we have are for development, but one that will fit our island, that’s small enough so that we can accommodate that, that will be good, I have no problem with development and I like to encourage people who can help us to developing a way that is fitting for our island, capable for our island to sustain it, and not be overwhelmed by it.
COUTTS: Father one of the issues that you’ve raised or one of your concerns is that this huge development will hurt the quality of life in Yap and negatively affect people’s dignity. How will it affect their dignity? Is that because they have to perform traditional dances and other cultural performances for tourists alone rather than what they’re really meant for?
HAGILEIRAM: We perform traditional dances for tourists when they come, but my concern here is the people are going to lose their culture because they’re going to bring in things like casinos and golf courses and they’re going to build hotels. Now all these are massive things that we have never experienced before. And we never had these things in our culture. So that these are all foreign things, we have seen things happening in places like Tibet. Tibet is a country where it is also being developed by the same company that is proposing to work here, and the people are screaming and they’re protesting, they’re burning themselves, because it’s killing them, it’s killing their culture, it’s killing their human dignity and integrity. And that’s exactly the same things that we see that are going to happen here in Yap. We’re much smaller than Tibet, the project is proposing to make this a tourism destination. Obviously it’s going to be over-run by tourists. We’re not capable of dealing with the effects, things that come in with casinos like money laundering, human trafficking, and all these things. … on the watch-list of the US State Department for human trafficking. And Yap is part of the FSM, we’re just a small state in the FSM and we’re not capable to deal with these kind of things that come in with casinos and massive influx of tourists. So this is going to really jeopardise our own local ways of doing things, and that’s why I say our integrity, our cultural integrity, human integrity and identity, all that is going to be threatened