Palau operates on autopilot with both President Surangel Whipps Jr. and Vice President J. Uduch Sengebau-Senior out of the country at the same time.
President Whipps left for Japan this weekend to attend former prime minister Shinzo Abe’s funeral and after will leave for the United States to attend the Pacific Leaders meeting with U.S. President Biden. Whipps is leaving for Singapore after his meeting in the US, where he is expected to sign memorandums of agreements with airlines to provide airline services to Palau.
Vice President J. Uduch Sengebau-Senior is in the Philippines taking care of her husband, who suffered an accident and had to be medivac off-island for emergency medical care. Mr. Senior is under the specialized care of a neurosurgeon and may not be able to return before October 8, according to Vice President Uduch Sengebau-Senior.
President Whipps had previously expressed that with current communication advancements, he could stay in contact with his ministers while away from the country. After he visits Singapore, President Whipps will be going to Taiwan for a state visit. He had reported that he would be going for a medical check-up after the state visit and is expected to return to Palau toward the end of October.
According to local legal experts, Presidential constitutional powers are non-delegable. While President is away from the country, his ministers can keep doing their routine work, but the responsibilities of the President can only be carried out by the President.
The only time the order of succession occurs is when the President dies, is removed, or is disabled and cannot perform the duties of the Presidency.
“The absence of the President from Palau had broken all the records of Palau and all Pacific island nations,” noted a local political observer of the President’s traveling schedule this year.
Meanwhile, Palau will be celebrating its national Independence Day for the first time without its President and Vice President present.