By: L.N. Reklai
The second debate held last night with the four 2020 presidential candidates revealed key differences and similarities between the philosophies and policies of the four (4) candidates for the Office of the President, particularly their plans to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and to get the country back on its feet economically.
The event conducted by Palau Media Council in partnership with Palau Community College, brought back the candidates to share their plans for the new post-COVID Palau.
The four presidential candidates Mr. Alan Seid (former delegate and senator), Mr. Johnson Toribiong (former President of the Republic of Palau), Mr. Raynold Oilouch (current Vice President/Minister of Justice and former Senator) and Mr. Surangel Whipps Jr. (businessman and former Senator) addressed topics such as the economic recovery after COVID-19, raising the standard of living for Palauans, outlook on the future of diplomatic relations with United States and with Republic China- Taiwan, priorities for the upcoming second Compact review, and the growing outmigration of Palauan citizens to United States.
All the candidates agree that the new government will inherit a country economically ravaged by the COVID-19 impact. How to get the country to survive, rebound and move forward, each candidate was able to reveal his philosophy and outlook based on solutions he offered.
On the economic recovery Mr. Alan Seid and Mr. Johnson Toribiong, both offered to open new industries such as Cannibis industry advocated by Mr. Seid and Kayangel Oil exploration by Johnson Toribiong. Enactment of corporate registry, online gaming and cyber industries were advocated as means to bring in new revenue to address economic recovery and to provide job opportunities for Palauans.
Mr. Raynold “Arnold” Oilouch and Surangel Whipps Jr. saw loans and grants from allies to offset the budget difference in the first year and both also saw working with allies like United States, Taiwan and others to seek funding to assist Palau recover from COVID impact and grow its economy. Mr. Whipps also saw new industry such as finance centers, corporate registry as potential source of revenue to get Palau to recover and grow its economy.
Mr. Oilouch emphasized working with United States using the Compact Review process to help address economic impact of COVID-19.
Every candidate advocated helping Palauans acquire their own homes, as means of measuring improvement in quality of life but also as incentive for Palauans to remain home or to return back home. Candidate Toribiong calls it, “Lukel a klengelakel” or nest of the family. Candidate Seid calls it “man’s castle, a man’s source of security”.
Candidates all agree to the negotiation with United States on the Second Compact Review.
Candidate Oilouch sees the second Compact Review as an important component of the Palau’s economic recovery from COVID-19. Surangel Jr. also agrees with Compact Review negotiation as component of recovery plan and urges firmer approach saying that our negotiation with United States is based on mutual benefit and not from a beggar standpoint.
Seid advocated greater self-sufficiency based on independent economic growth.
He said that Palau will have stronger negotiation position if it was not beholden to “the person paying for lunch”.
Candidates were able to clearly articulate their positions on China-Taiwan relationship debate. Candidate Johnson Toribiong said that Palau is a “friend of all, enemy of none.” He said a country “can’t switch without a good cause” and that he was committed to Palau’s friendship with Taiwan and he won’t switch unless “there’s a good cause.”
Candidate Seid said that he will not switch and he supports friendship with Taiwan. “A country doesn’t just change relationships constantly.”
Candidate Oilouch supports friendship with Taiwan citing their generous support over the years, in particular, through this COVID-19 pandemic. He added that Palau has no enemy and anyone who wants to invest in Palau, “cooperate and collaborate” is welcome.
Whipps Jr. echoed support of Taiwan but felt that Taiwan could do more to assist Palau, through other schemes or means.
Each of the candidates have proposals to improving the quality of life for Palauans. Whipps Jr. advocated prioritizing Palauans through job placements and upgrading Labor Division to Labor Ministry, increasing access to opportunities, housing assistance such housing grants to help improve peoples’ home and upgrading PCC to a 4-year college.
Oilouch pushed for improvement of existing programs such as college internship programs, housing loans and capacity building tied to development loans.
Adding that higher wages, better homes, education and better health are key indicators that Palauans quality of life has improved.
Seid believes that his proposals for new industries will provide all Palauans access to wealth and better quality of life for Palauans.
Toribiong echoed Seid’s sentiments but banking on the discovery of Kayangel oil to provide wealth to all Palauans.
Candidates proposals to address the impact of the pandemic in their first year of office, reveal the differences in their political philosophies and show similarities in what they saw as important issues to be addressed.
Another presidential debate is contemplated for after the primary election in September.