President Surangel Whipps Jr. confirmed that there are ongoing US military exercises in Peleliu and Angaur at this time when asked at this week’s press conference.
While conducting their exercises and helping with improving public facilities such as schools and roads, Whipps said that having US military presence on island serves as deterrence. “They help us guard our EEZ by their presence. Illegal fishers will not be less bold, deterred knowing that there is military presence in our waters.”
According to report in the Marianas Tribune contributed by US Air Force 36th Wing, a US 36th Contingency Response Group from US Anderson Air Force Base in Guam is in Palau conducting training of MPII and MOJ personnel on equipment received from US Department of Defense.
Locals have noted the increased military presence, and while not unwelcome, is unsettling for some who have not been made aware of the incoming visits.
Whipps reported at this week’s press conference that more ships are expected to arrive, including planned arrival of Japanese military vessel with about 800 men. “We share the same belief, value the same thing, free and open indo-pacific. These visits demonstrate that partnership and the same values that we hold,” said Whipps.
He emphasized opportunities provided by these visits, the chances for them to spend money locally before they depart. “Of course while here, we want them to spend locally before they go.”
Palau’s economy, heavily impacted by lack of tourism, is looking at military, especially US military presence to fill in some of that void created by lack of traditional tourists.