A letter to Guam Governor Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero from President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. assured Governor Guerrero that there is no “continuing influx” of Palauans into Guam since passenger flights between Guam and Palau were suspended on March 21st, 2020.
Furthermore, Remengesau assured Governor Guerrero that Palau is not intentionally leaving its citizens stranded in Guam but has been “looking at all options to get them home as soon as possible.”
The letter from Palau to Guam Governor was prompted by Governor Guerrero’s letter on April 6, 2020 to United State Vice President Mike Pence asking COVID-19 Taskforce, Department of State, Homeland Security and Department of Interior to intervene in the matter of citizens of the Freely Associated States (FSM, RMI and Palau) continuing to travel to Guam during COVID-19 pandemic saying Guam has limited resources to quarantine the FAS citizens.
“A benefit of such Compact is the privilege of migrating, visa free, from their home countries to the United States for the purpose of the education and employment,” stated Governor Guerrero in her letter to Vice President Pence. With Guam schools closed and only essential businesses running, Governor Guerrero said the two reasons for FAS citizens migrating to Guam were no longer there.
The letter further states that since the pandemic, the FAS countries have “implemented policies that disallow their citizens from returning to their respective country, yet continue to allow migration from their countries to the U.S.”
President Remengesau in his letter says he cannot speak for other FAS countries but Palau has prohibited its citizens from travelling abroad and that Palau’s citizens in Guam were stranded “by cancellation of United Airlines inbound service, a decision that was made by United Airlines due to “low load factor”.”
In fact, Remengesau said, Palau has been looking at all options to get Palau’s citizens home. He said that all Palau’s buildup of capacity and readiness was in anticipation of its returning citizens.
“The source of misunderstanding may our proposed charter flight which you referenced in your letter to Vice President Pence…It is true that Palau is looking to charter a flight from Guam to Palau. However, the purpose of this flight is to bring Palauan citizens from Guam to Palau and not the other way around.”
Remengesau added that UA March 22nd flight was cancelled due to Guam’s CDC Office recommendation. Only March 26th flight was allowed to fly in to Palau with no passengers and retrieve foreign citizens from Palau that had pre-booked tickets.
President Remengesau thanked Guam for hosting the citizens of Palau in Guam and for working collaboratively with Palau on COVID-19 testing. He assured Guam government that Palau is not trying to shift trouble their way and ask to work closely together to avoid future misunderstandings.
President Remengesau at April 27th situation briefing reported that Palau was chartering a United Airline flight on May 21st from Guam to Palau, bringing back stranded Palauans there. The flight is being paid for by Palau government and will not be bringing in passengers other than the stranded Palauan citizens. It will also take out foreign citizens in Palau that have been stranded here or wish to return to their home countries.
Palau remains with no confirmed case or suspected case of COVId-19.