Vaccines, typhoon, and government reorganization
As we steam into the 2nd quarter of 2021, the focus was to recover Palau’s economy by getting the people vaccinated and reaching herd immunity by the end of April.
By mid-April, we were claiming herd immunity with 70% of the adult population fully vaccinated. And while aggressive efforts to vaccinate continued, the government wooed travelers to Palau offering no quarantine for vaccinated travelers.
President Surangel Whipps Jr. announced the opening of scheduled flights between Guam and Palau allowing for vaccinated travelers into Palau.
By June, travel to Palau had further eased with the discontinuation of the Quarantine Certification Application System. Travelers only have to provide copies of required documents to airlines to purchase a ticket. No more vetting from the Palau side. All travelers to Palau must be vaccinated with exception of kids 12 and under.
In June also, US CDC expert said that Palau had beat covid, by vaccinating 96% of its total adult population.
With the opening of scheduled flights from Guam, Palau got its first scare when a passenger was tested positive for covid. It was later shown as a “historical” case or residue of someone that had contracted the COVID-19 before but had recovered. Seven travelers who arrived on the first regular flight failed to show for their Day 5 tests and were cited for violation of quarantine orders.
Natural disasters care not about pandemics and economics and what was supposed to be a tropical storm veered off its course and smashed into Palau as Typhoon Surigae. The cost of the damages was over 4 million dollars. Friends of Palau came in to help after the storm, Australia, Japan, and Taiwan offering assistance to victims and recovery after Surigae.
Meanwhile, the new administration pushes on its plans to reorganize the government, moving bureaus and divisions around from some Ministries to others and cutting others out in the name of “efficiency”. In his first State of the Republic Address, President Whipps expounded on the “re-alignment” of government ministries and bureaus as a way to improve government and create a “people-centered” government.
Kaleb Udui Jr., now Minister of Finance was appointed to lead the Compact Review Advisory Group. Ngirai Tmetuchl, Chairman of Palau Visitors Authority, was endorsed to be Minister of the new “super ministry”, the Ministry of Human Resources, Culture, Tourism and Development (HRCTD). Steven Victor was nominated as Minister of Fisheries, Agriculture, and Environment (MAFE).
At a regional level, Palau continues to refuse dialogue with PIF unless it is to reverse their decision and respect the gentlemen’s agreement and accept Micronesia’s choice. Despite attempts to talk, Henry Puna, the choice over Micronesia’s nominee came onboard PIF as the new Secretary-General of the region’s organization.
But “regular” life in Palau continued. Governor Tmewang of Airai who was involved in a car accident that left him paralyzed was asked to resign his position as governor after the court awarded the guardianship of himself and his estate to his son. Governor Tmewang responded denying that he was incapacitated and offered to resign 3 months before the next election to “save the state money”. Despite having enough numbers to remove the governor, the Airai Olbiil Ngerchumelbai decided to accept Governor Tmewang’s offer.
At the State of Ngardmau, citizens took up a petition to remove one of their new legislators for allegedly overstepping her role and intruding into the affairs of the chiefs. The petition was denied by the Palau Election Commission due to legal technicalities.
Belau Games commenced with all 16 states participating in18 different sports. The theme of the game was Belau Games 2021 and Beyond: Positioning an Active and Healthy Society.” Koror State was the overall winner with 66 medals, 26 golds, 17 silver, and 23 bronze. Peleliu State came second, Sonsorol third in overall medals.
A body of a 57-year-old man was floating in Malakal waters after having been reported missing for a couple of days.
A young boy of 13 took his own life and an elderly woman with dementia got lost during Typhoon Surigae and was found safe and sound after the storm.
Semum season was declared but only for local consumption. Outside buyers’ offers did not meet the government’s expressed price and were rejected. Proposal to open limited harvesting of kemedukl and maml was introduced and received backlash from Palau netizens.
Moving into summer, the COVID pandemic was not showing any signs of abating and efforts continued to prepare Palau for a full recovery.