The Palau International Airport Improvement Project, a $28 million renovation project which broke ground in April 2019, is “on track” to be completed, according to the Bureau of Aviation (BOA).
The project is in its final stage, according to the BOA, and is projected to be finished at least by the end of January.
Right now, the government is working on bringing in special engineers who will be responsible for installing the final components of the improved terminal, including air conditioning, lights, water, fire systems, and security systems in the airport buildings.
The improvement project was originally scheduled to be finished by mid-2020, in time to host the Our Ocean Conference, before the Conference was pushed back to an unspecified time in 2021. However, the global pandemic and travel restrictions has caused some delays in bringing in essential workers.
“This disease has halted and altered a lot of our plans,” said Peter Polloi, Special Adviser on Aviation. “But we’re continuing to work with the Ministry of Health to bring in folks who are essential to these development projects in Palau.”
The actual expansion is finished, says Mr. Polloi. This includes a new terminal building for departures, renovations to the existing terminal for visitor arrivals, and new airline offices as well as space for Immigration and Customs.
Funding for the project was administered through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and sponsored by the Japan Airport Terminal Co., Ltd. (JATCO) and Sojitz Corporation.
Mr. Polloi says that there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the airport when a commercial flight schedule has been re-established in Palau, rather than “opening the airport and closing it down again and turning off the lights”.
Right now, the airport is only seeing arrivals and departures of occasional charter flights, such as the AirAsia repatriation flight to the Philippines which took off yesterday. However, the BOA has said that it is working with the Ministry of Health to create a “quarantine certification system” to safely manage a more regular flow of incoming passengers while the pandemic is still a problem, in which passengers pay for their own flights, and only some pay for their quarantine accommodation. The BOA has said that returning residents and visiting citizens will not have to pay for their quarantine accommodation, while workers and visiting non-citizens will pay for their accommodations.
President-Elect Surangel’s Transition Committee has stated that the incoming President is interested in reopening Palau to visitors and tourists in the coming months, and is looking for a safe way to do this. The Committee has cited the Pfizer vaccination for COVID, which, pending regulatory clearance, might be available in Palau early next year, as a sign that a return of tourists to Palau could be possible sometime soon.

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