Palau Correspondent

John C. Aquilino visited Palau on Feb. 23 and was received by President Surangel Whipps Jr.
Photo by Bernadette H. Carreon

KOROR, Palau — Adm. John C. Aquilino, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, visited Palau for six hours on Feb. 23 to deliver personal protective equipment to the country – at the same time lauding the nation for handling effectively the COVID- 19 pandemic and recognizing the country as an important partner of the United States.

  “I understand the importance of this historic place: the importance of our people to people ties, the importance of our common values of freedom, of human rights of all people to have the ability to have an opinion and a voice, the adherence to international rules-based order -all of those things we share,’ Aquilino said in his short remarks during the visit.

Aquilino handed 30,000 N95 masks to the Government of Palau.

“I’m honored to be able to deliver these masks on behalf of the United States, helping support the COVID response effort here on Palau,” Aquilino said. “This delivery is about taking care of people and the work that’s been done on the COVID front by the people of Palau is nothing short of admirable.”

According to IndoPacom,  U.S. government assistance to the Pacific Islands for COVID-19 response amounted to more than  $118 million, including more than $90 million funding support to the U.S. Freely Associated States – the Federated States of Micronesia,the  Marshall Islands, and Palau from the U.S. Department of Defense, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Education, and the Department of Labor.

President Surangel S. Whipps Jr. received the admiral and was present for the handover of the COVID-19 masks.

“Palau and the United States share a very special relationship and that relationship continues to grow,” Whipps said. “During this time of COVID, it has been on display more than any other time. When we received the first vaccines last January from the U.S., that was the first ray of hope that we would be able to make it through this.”

The president also thanked the admiral for defending the nation in the face of threats from “people disrespecting” Palau’s boundaries. “We’re thankful and grateful to the partnership; some partnerships with the United States are grateful for the security that you provide. As you know, we are faced with threats all the time, especially people disrespecting our boundaries and our territorial borders, which seems to be a problem around the world. “

Aquilino and Whipps also discussed how Palau plays an important role in ensuring maritime security in the region.

The commander also was present the same day for the groundbreaking for the Tinian Divert Airfield. mbj