Palau Correspondent


KOROR, Palau — 2020 is an election year for Palau, and with eight months to go before the primary elections, four candidates have declared their intention to seek the presidency.

Surangel Whipps Jr., a former politician and a businessman, is once again running for the presidency. He is believed to be the strongest candidate.

Whipps, 51, who is President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr.’s brother-in-law, ran and lost against the current president with a slim margin in the previous election. He is also the CEO of Surangel and Sons Co., one of the most successful Palauan-owned companies in Palau.

Whipps’s career in politics began in 2008 when he made history by becoming the first senator to win by write-in. He also garnered the highest percentage of votes in the senate races in 2008 and 2011.

According to his Facebook page, his motivation is “fueled by our citizens’ need for real change that can uplift their quality of life in our homeland. This past year, we are encouraged by people’s initiatives that affirm the movement for that change.”

Another candidate that threw his hat into the presidential ring is the sitting Vice President, Raynold Oilouch Jr.

Oilouch, 54, announced his candidacy in October 2019. A lawyer by trade, he spent two terms as a senator before winning the vice-presidential post in 2016. If he wins, Oilouch said that one of his biggest priorities is to support housing projects. He also wants to continue the programs that Remengesau put in place.

“There are some good policies and good projects that are currently on-going that we need to continue, and we need to also improve upon because housing projects are one of the biggest priority projects so that’s a good thing to do,” he said.

Oilouch, as vice president, also holds the portfolio as Minister of Justice.

Former President Johnson Toribiong, 74, is also making a comeback as one of the candidates for 2020. Toribiong served as president from November 2009 to January 2013. He ran several times for president, including 1992, 1996, 2008 and 2012. He won in 2008, but only served one term after being defeated by Remengesau in the 2012 election.

Toribiong is a lawyer and vowed to reform the foreign investment law in Palau if he wins the election. He also said he will make sure that Palauans take more part in the development of the private sector, which he said is occupied mostly by foreign workers.

He plans to liberalize the investment law to allow corporations to sell their shares. “I am a free enterprise man,” he said. He wants Palau to be an investment-friendly country, where it will be easier for investors to come in, he added.

Businessman Alan R. Seid, 62, is the fourth candidate and said that economics and business-related ventures are his forte. He served in the Palau Senate from 2005 to 2009 and the House of Delegates from 1989 to 2000 and was also the running mate of Elias C. Chin in the 2008 presidential election.

Seid — chairman of the Micronesia Investment and Development Corp. — said he would be focusing his agenda on creating more revenues for the country by reforming the National Development Bank of Palau to allow Palauans to have access to capital to start a small business.

He is also betting on blockchain technology, gaming and cannabis as potential industries for the country. “I consider myself pro-business, pro commerce and trade, pro foreign investments and pro-entrepreneur,” Seid said. mbj