The top leaders of the Olbiil Era Kelulau (OEK)had threatened that they will be forced to take action by decreasing the budget of the Palau Visitors Authority (PVA) and Palau’s Embassy in Taiwan for the Fiscal Year 2019 if the Ministry of State fails to meet their requests such as adopting a uniform policy on tourism and advising Ambassador to Taiwan Dilmei Louisa Olkeriil to adhere to that policy.
Senate President Hokkons Baules and House Speaker Sabino Anastacio, in a letter addressed to Minister of State Faustina K. Rehuher-Marugg which was dated August 13, 2018, stated that they disagree with the comments made by Ambassador Olkeriil to the Taiwan media on July 23, adding that the latter’s comments misrepresented Palau’s position regarding Chinese tourism and the country’s relationship with Taiwan.
The two leaders of Palau’s National Congress were referring to the reports by Taiwan media which quoted Ambassador Olkeriil in saying that large democratic countries around the world must adopt strategies “to counter China’s bullying.”
The “majority of Palau people support the current diplomatic relations with Taiwan. We are a democratic country and we support and promote our relationship with countries with same system of government such as Taiwan,” Olkeriil was quoted saying in the same report by the Taiwan media.
Olkeriil’s comment to Taiwan media came after the Palau-based company, Sea Passion Group, announced that its airline, the Palau Pacific Airways, will stop servicing flights to Palau as the company struggles with the drastic drop of Chinese tourists that are visiting Palau after China tagged the island nation as an illegal tourist destination due to its links with Taiwan.
Palau Pacific Airways caters to the Chinese tourists through Hong Kong – Palau route.
Ambassador Olkeriil, in a social media forum, expressed as a response to the OEK leaders’ letter that as long as she is Palau’s Ambassador to Taiwan, she will support Taiwan.
Senator Baules and Speaker Anastacio, through their letter, however, regarded Ambassador Olkeriil’s comments that were published by the Taiwan media as a reflection of her own viewpoint and “are not representative of the inclusive tourism policy” that Palau encourages.
The two OEK leaders also pointed out that it was incorrect for Olkeriil to say that Palau favors countries “with same system of government such as Taiwan.”
They also urged Minister of State Rehuher-Marugg through their letter to adopt a uniform policy on tourism and apply it to all the countries which Palau has diplomatic ties with.
“We will not promote funding two entities with conflicting policies. As a nation, we must take a uniform stance,” Baules and Anastacio’s letter reads.
Baules and Anastacio are known to be China’s vocal supporters. Just July 27, during the groundbreaking ceremony of the Chinese-backed Wyndham Global Resort that was held in Koror, the two leaders of the OEK, who were among the guests of the event, had openly expressed their support for China in their separate public speeches.
What the President says
President Tommy Remengesau, Jr., during the press conference on July 15, told the media that while he was aware of the letter sent by the two OEK leaders to the Minister of State, he had not yet had the opportunity to analyze the letter. He, however, stressed the importance of having an understanding between the executive and legislative branches of the government on the issue surrounding diplomatic relationships, especially with that of Taiwan and China.
“We have been repeating ourselves in the past months and years that the diplomatic ties between Palau and Taiwan will continue as it has been and like most relationships, we strive to improve as diplomatic friends, every time,” Remengesau said in Palauan.
Remengesau said that while Palau does not have the diplomatic ties with China, the country continues to work in nurturing relationship with them as both of the countries are members of the United Nations.
“So we really cannot say that we don’t have any interaction with China. In the UN, we talk about issues of world peace, health and education that China is involved in,” Remengesau said.
The president also reminded that government officials should be more diplomatic about their words.
Remengesau reiterated that Palau welcomes all the people who come to the country and business investors, as long as they follow Palau’s policies and screening process, are also welcome. (Rhealyn C. Pojas)