Fri. Dec 13th, 2019

US Interior Assistant Secretary visits Palau

PALAU – U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular and International Affairs Doug

Domenech concluded his first official visit to the Republic of Palau where he conferred with President Tommy Remengesau, Jr. on the Compact of Free Association relationship and met with other government and non-government officials.

Accompanying the Assistant Secretary on his trip to Palau were OIA Director Nikolao Pula and staff.

“Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and I are pleased that the Department of the Interior, the Department of State and other federal partners are working closely to conclude the Palau Compact Review Agreement as soon as possible,” said Assistant Secretary Domenech.

“The United States will continue to partner with Palau.  Our interests are closely tied to a vibrant Palau that has a sustained future,” Domenech added.

The U.S. and Palau Governments are working to update the funding schedule of the 2010 Palau Compact Agreement which required specific annual outlays of funds.  Included in the assistance are contributions to the Palau Compact Trust Fund, a capital improvement program, and an infrastructure maintenance plan.

The specifics of disbursements must be reaffirmed by the parties prior to implementation of the agreement.  As required under U.S. law, before finalizing the agreement, the State Department is coordinating closely with Interior and other federal partners to initiate what is referred to as the Circular 175 process for authority to amend and conclude the Palau Compact Review Agreement.

In addition to delivering a $323,333 grant in technical assistance to Palau President Remengesau for the Ministry of Finance record-keeping upgrades, Domenech and his team visited the Palau Energy Office and the Palau Bureau of Lands and Survey.

They also took behind-the-scenes tour of the customs and immigration system at the airport and discussed various other projects funded through the Office of Insular Affairs Technical Assistance Program.

Assistant Secretary Domenech also met with Patrick Tellei, President of the Palau Community College (PCC) and several deans and administrators where he toured the new library and learned about the college’s long history of educating students in Palau and the larger Micronesia region.  He met a mechanics class in the Maintenance Assistance Program, additional and capacity building training program at the college also funded through the Department of the Interior.

The Assistant Secretary toured portions of the Compact Road in Babeldaob, a significant U.S.funded infrastructure project completed in 2010, which provided access around the island of Babeldaob and opened up opportunities for development in Palau.  He visited the Belau National

Museum and Bai er a Airai, a traditional Palauan chief’s meeting house in Airai, listed on the Palau National Register of Historic Places and believed to be at least 180 years old.

While on island, Assistant Secretary Domenech joined U.S. Ambassador Amy Hyatt for an

Appointment Acceptance Ceremony of Palauan citizen Saxon Shay Isim into the United States

Coast Guard Academy, an example of the dedicated service that Palauans give in service to the U.S. Armed Forces in defense of global prosperity and mutual democratic ideals.  The ceremony was attended by Palau’s paramount traditional chiefs, Ibedul Gibbons and Reklai Ngirmang, each of them veterans themselves of the U.S. Armed Forces.  Numerous elected officials were also in attendance with friends and family members.

Following the USCG ceremony, Domenech and Hyatt met with Palau Vice President Raymond Oilouch, also the Minister of Justice for Palau where they discussed a variety of issues under the strong and long-standing U.S.-Palau relationship.

On the final day of his visit, Domenech toured the U.S. National Historical Landmark on Peleliu where some of the deadliest World War II battles were waged in the Pacific.  He laid a wreath in honor of the over 2000 American lives lost in the battle to capture Peleliu.  While on Peleliu,

Domenech met with Peleliu Governor Temmy Shmull and took a ride through Palau’s Rock Islands that were inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2012. The cultural and historical tours were made available courtesy of the Governors of Koror, Airai, and Peleliu and organized by the Palau Bureau of Cultural and Historical Preservation, an important partner of the National Park Service Historic Preservation Program.

“Palauans have built a democratic government based on the rule of law and democratic ideals of freedom and liberty while maintaining their unique Palauan culture and heritage.  They have also done an excellent job protecting Palau’s cultural, historical, and natural resources for future generations,” said OIA Director Pula.  “The United States values its strong relationship with this proud small island nation in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Since the implementation of the Compact of Free Association in 1994 and with the recent signing of the Palau Compact Review Agreement, the United States will have provided over $700 million to Palau. This U.S. investment under the Compact, and numerous other federal programs, have provided funds for essential government operations and law enforcement, built the Compact road, secured the airport, monitored weather patterns, immunized children, opened doors to higher education, and provided postal services.  U.S. Government support overall has helped lay the foundation for a stable government, where democratic principles and the rule of law thrive, adding a measure of economic security to the islands.   Many Palauan citizens have taken the opportunity to study, work, and serve in the U.S. Armed Forces in the United States, further strengthening the U.S.-Palau relationship and taking advantage of additional opportunities for growth and development. (PR)