BY BERNADETTE H. CARREON
KOROR, Palau — While Palau is planning a travel bubble with Taiwan, it will be instigated only after Palau has completed repatriation of its stranded citizens and residents, Taiwan’s Ambassador to Palau, Wallace Chow, said during a meeting with the Palau Chamber of Commerce on July 14.
Chow told the Chamber members that there are “four key factors for the two countries to setup travel bubble.”
He said these factors are the capability to contain COVID-19, political will and the confidence in the society, global COVID-19 situation, and vaccine and medicine.
Most importantly he said, “Palau needs to finish repatriating its … people from Guam first before both governments start the negotiation on travel bubble.”
Taiwan has provided aid and to Palau to combat the threats of the pandemic from medical experts to supplies such as PCR machines, ventilators, test kits, surgical masks, and protective clothing.
Chow said Taiwan will also be on hand to help boost Palau’s economy through the financing of infrastructure projects, such as construction of interstate roads and stimulus projects that provide jobs.
He said Taiwan is also considering the suspension of government debt payment so Palau can relocate those resources to the urgent needs of its people.
Taiwan has provided $5 million in soft loan for women, youth or small and medium enterprises to fund businesses.
He said the Taiwan Technical Mission, Aquaculture Project and Animal Production Project are also continuing to work with local farmers … to “safeguard Palau’s food security and preempt food shortage. “
Palau’s Gross Domestic Product is expected to drop by 23% in 2020 and 2021 if its borders remain closed, according to economic analysis.
Although it is still unclear when Palau would open borders to low-risk countries like Taiwan, Chow and chamber members agreed that health and safety are always the top priority.
President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr., a press conference on July 15, said that is why the government took several measures to ensure the nation is COVID-19 free.
At the same time, he said the government has a duty to ensure that its people have jobs.
“We cannot stand idle and sit still; we have to address what is the best interest of all sectors of our national responsibility, it’s the health of the people, it’s the health of the economy , the livelihoods of families, making sure they are not unemployed and services education, public safety are all there,” he said.
Given Taiwan’s success in containing the virus, a travel bubble with the nation is the best option for Palau, he said.
Rememgesau said the country is looking to the future and assessing how the bubble can be introduced safely, and there is a lot to be discussed before the country opens to a travel bubble.
Palau chartered a flight from Guam on July 23 to repatriate its nationals and residents stranded overseas, with some of them coming from the United States.
Press Secretary Olkeriil Kazuo said the list is yet to be finalized there are about 87 who are flying home this month.
The second flight will almost double compared to the first batch of repatriated nationals and residents in June.
In earlier interviews, the Palau government said there are about 143 trapped nationals and residents that wanted to fly home. mbj