President Surangel Whipps Jr of Palau. PHOTO: Richard Brooks
Palau installed a new president on Thursday and first in his agenda is assuring close allies like the United States and Taiwan that the nation will stand strong with them.
At about 11 am, on January 21, on an overcast sky, President Surangel Whipps Jr, was officially installed as the new head of state of the country.
He vowed to rise above the Covid-related economic hardship and run a government that will be focused on the Palauan people.
While he did not mention China, Whipps said Palau will rebuff any foreign aggression and will stick to its friends, the US, Japan, Australia, and Taiwan.
"Our friendships have not always been taken well by others; some nations have tried to muscle their way into our country as they have elsewhere. Palau has rightfully rebuffed these aggressive actions and will continue to do so, he said.
"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest form of appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them; and so, we shall."
The Republic of Palau stands strong with the United States, Japan, Australia, Taiwan, and every other member of the international community that supports freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and unwavering respect for human rights," he said in his inaugural speech.
Whipps also said that Palau and Taiwan's friendship will be showcased in the planned travel bubble between the two countries.
"That friendship will soon be on full display, as Palau and Taiwan become two of the first countries to fully reconnect since this pandemic.
The "sterile corridor" between our countries will revitalize personal, medical, educational, and business relationships between our countries. It will boost Palau's economy, in our time of desperate need. Perhaps most of all, it will show the world the strength, and depth, of this bilateral partnership."
He said under the new sterile corridor, the travel between Palau and Taiwan is likened to a domestic flight.
"One short trip between two Covid-19 safe cities, within a single Covid-safe system. I don't think I need to elaborate on the message that sends. I think it speaks for itself."
The schedule of the bubble is not yet known.
Whipps thanked the US for its assistance from the US CARES (The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act to the vaccines.
The US has delivered a total of 6,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine in Palau. By the end of this week, Palau is aiming to vaccinate 3,000 people.
Whipps said the vaccine will be instrumental to the country's economic recovery.
"And it is with their help that we are ready, now to begin a swift recovery. Through partnership and vigilance, we have kept our people safe from this deadly pandemic.
"We have become one of the last countries on earth to remain Covid-19 free.
Now, it's time to become one of the first countries on earth to recover. It's time to get our people vaccinated, it's time to open a sterile corridor, and it's time to get our lives back on track," Whipps added.