President-elect Surangel Whipps Jr. said he sees the United States continued presence in Palau as boosting the country’s economy.
He also said military tourism can be part of Palau’s diversification efforts.
Whipps told local reporters last week in his first press conference after election victory, that he is on the same page with outgoing President Tommy Remengesau Jr. on agreeing that Palau needs to continue its collaborative partnership with the United States, including welcoming military personnel visits to fill the tourism void.
“Part of diversifying our economy is finding new visitors, the military is an opportunity for us,” he said.
“When it comes to the military, the US has been clear about the strategic importance of Palau, Palau has been a very good partner. In general, the people of Palau are very fond of the United States,’ he said.
He however doesn’t see the US building a big military base here.
“I don’t think the US will build a big base here, I don’t think that is ever the attempt, but we know they are building radar sites here. Their ships roam around, and I know they are looking for places to visit.” He added.
The military, he said will be a mainstay in the region as part of the Indo-Pacific strategy, which is an opportunity for Palau to enhance its relationship with the United States,
“People coming in for training will continue and we should work with them, in return they improve our facilities,“ he noted.
Outgoing President Tommy Remengesau Jr. said military tourism can benefit Palau especially during those times of low tourism arrivals.
With the tourism industry devastated by the COVID-related border closures, President Remengesau said visits from the US military is a welcome change.
Remengesau said with the continued partnership with the U.S. Palau can also benefit from “mutually beneficial infrastructure projects.”
Earlier, President Remengesau has urged the U.S. to build military facilities in Palau, including port facilities, secondary airfields, law enforcement training grounds and maritime enforcement and surveillance facilities.
The offer was made during the visit of former Defense Secretary Mark Esper in Palau in August.
He reiterated the same offer to US Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite during his visit in mid-October. ( B. Carreon)

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