The year 2019, an end of a decade, was an eventful year for Palau with highs and lows, as reflected by 130 news headlines of 2019. There were remarkable accomplishments and also new lows.
Environmentally, Palau gained international acclaims and accolades for its natural assets as well as its environmental policies. Palau Pledge in January of 2019 received $350K for its winning entry in the 2018 Sustainable Development Goals Lions Festival after receiving numerous awards the year before.
Jellyfish Lake maked it to Insider’s list of most beautiful places in the world in February and Palau was crowned as world’s top sustainable destination at Green’s Destination Awards.
In tourism, arrivals continue to plummet each month reaching the lowest number of arrivals since 2010 by year end. Despite decline, Palau’s Long Beach was ranked 12th best beaches in Oceania and won ITB Earth Awardout of the top ten sustainable destination awards in Berlin, Germany. At the same time it swept awards in 9 categories at Japan Marine Diving Fair in Tokyo, Japan. In July it won Pacific Asia Travel Association Gold Award.
On law and order, the year 2019 was a very challenging. Number criminal of cases involving law enforcement officers or personnel within the Ministry of Justice were filed. Charges, reports and allegations of law enforcement officials involved in physical assaults, verbal assaults, fraud, and official misconducts headlined. Despite internal challenges, MOJ conducted a number of major drug busts where charges were filed including drug smuggling charges from Philippines and charges of giving drugs to minors in exchange for sexual favors. Case of missing woman was finally resolved when the bones found were identified by FBI lab in the US to be that of the missing woman. Charge of murder was filed against her husband again for her death. There was a 14% decline in overall crime rate and very minimal number of vehicular accidents during the holidays, particularly during the New Year’s eve.
In health, Palau continues to battle dengue fever through out 2019 with the outbreak status remaining into 2020. Total of 737 persons were infected and 2 reported deaths due to dengue fever. Cancer cases doubled over 2019 including number of deaths due to cancer doubling in a year. No measles case was reported in Palau despite outbreaks in neighboring countries. MOH reported high vaccination rates for children and adults.
Two Palauan students graduated from medical school in Cuba. Ministry of Health receives $1.5 million to upgrade Palau health centers.
In politics, President Tsai Ing-Wen of the Republic of China, Taiwan visited Palau in March and in December, the Vice President Chen Chieng-jen also visited Palau to commemorate the 20th year anniversary of Palau-Taiwan diplomatic relations.
Japan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs visited Palau and Palau and Japan celebrated their 25th Anniversary through various activities including holding a reception in Tokyo to commemorate the event.
President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. was invited in a first ever State visit to meet the President of the United States of America ,President Donald Trump and United States opens COFA negotiations with Palau.
OEK passed amendments to the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act and passed a law tightening the scope of drunk driving law to include having open alcohol containers in a vehicle. Plastic ban law came into effect this year too.
Bill to support local production of meat and seafood products was signed into lawas well and bill expanding redeemable plastics expanded to include all beverage containers. Law was also passed expanding coverage of Worker’s Investment Act to include tourism and information technology certificates.
Economy, IMF predicted .05 growth in 2019 due to decline in visitor arrivals. Overall tax revenue collections dropped by 7% with local taxes dropping by 13% and employment numbers dropped by 22%.
In the SORA report, President Remengesau calls for greater ownership in Palau economic growth. Palau’s Trust Fund reached $281 million by June of 2019.
On Infrastructure, Palau received funding from the second COFA agreement for infrastructure and US approved $6 million to improve road from Airai to Meyuns and Madalaii and $2 million to repair Angaur dock.
Construction of new solid site in Aimeliik commenced as well as the construction of the new airport terminal and the repair of the old one. Construction of new correctional facility goes to second phase, construction and relocation of temporary government offices happened whilst old finance was torn down.
Palau National Housing organized and implementation of $13 million funding for housing began by NDBP and PHA.
Other headlines of 2019 include cyber-related incidents, leaked videos, creation of cyber crime units, proposals for cyber bullying laws that before were non-issue when Palau had limited internet capacity.
Fourth former President of Palau Thomas Remengesau Sr. passed away and Chief Justice Arthur Ngirakelsong was medivac to Taiwan after suffering a stroke.
Palau enters new year, new decade, another 362 days to write a new history.