By Bernadette H. Carreon

Palau leaders along with the traditional chiefs vowed to unite together to respond and plan the future to respond to the threats of COVID-19.

In a June 17 statement, President Tommy Remengesau Jr., Senate President Hokkons Baules and House Speaker Sabino Anastacio joined by Paramount Chiefs Idebul Yutaka Gibbons, Reklai Raphael Ngirmang , Governors Association Chairman Temmy Shmull, and State Speaker Association Chairman Sylverius Tellei showed unity to “consider the long road ahead.”

The leaders thanked the frontlines for making sure that the repatriated Palauans came home safely. Despite the initial debate on the move, bringing the citizens home did not put the Palauan here at risk.

“We are one here in Palau. Together we have faced a variety of challenges through our nation’s long history, just as we have overcome those, so too we will overcome the challenge we face today as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

They also said they are thinking of the future and how to balance “Palau’s needs to open its borders with its need for safety.”

“We depend on international travel, which connects our families, supplies our supermarket and help staff our local business,” they said.

The continued border closure, they noted can also hamper development and causes a shortage of workers.

The statement promises working together to find a way to function through the pandemic for the rest of 2020.

Earlier Finance Minister Elbuchel Sadang said it projected zero tourism arrivals and that it’s not expecting tourists to come back to Palau until after the Year 2021.

From now until December, if we have some, that’s good, but we projected it to be zero, and it even getting worse in 2021, why, because of fear and number two, they might not have money to travel.” Sadang said. “Tourism may rebound in 2022, but not as much.”

The joint statement of unity startled some members of the Senate which has been adamantly against the timing of the repatriation effort to the day of the flight arrival. Most of them did not know of the letter signed by the Senate President Baules and were only made aware by posted copy on Facebook.

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