BY BERNADETTE H. CARREON
KOROR, Palau — The Olbiil er a Kelulau or Palau Congress has approved the purchase of a property in New York City to serve as the island’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations.
President Surangel S. Whipps Jr. told reporters on March 24 that the purchase of the building at a cost of close to $4 million was essential to the country’s engagement with the United Nations.
He said that Palau used to spend $19,000 on rental space for the UN office.
In an earlier letter to Congress, Whipps said that $2.1 million will come from the 2020 Taiwan stimulus grant, which will be added to the already appropriated sum for the operations of Palau’s U.N. Mission.
He also asked the leaders for the waiver of diplomatic or sovereign immunity to allow for the purchase to occur. The waiver has been approved by Congress.
The waiver removes the diplomatic or sovereign immunity in relation to the purchase of the real property, allowing the buyer — in this case, Palau — to be sued if it defaults on payments.
Whipps said they have identified a property in New York listed at $3.9 million- plus $550,000 estimated renovation costs of $550,000 that can be purchased to house Palau’s mission.
The property is located at 50th street and is about two blocks from the UN headquarters.
It will also serve as the house of Palau mission staff.
Aside from the New York property, the president has also asked Congress to allow funding for the purchase of properties in other countries where Palau has diplomatic missions to house Palau’s offices and staff.
“Instead of paying rent for no return on investment, owning the Permanent Mission space will be significant equity to the Republic. This model can be replicated for our other diplomatic missions and will save Palau money in the long run as our buildings accrue equity and gain value over time,” Whipps said in his letter to Congress late last year.
He added that it will make more economic sense for the country to purchase buildings.
“Up until now, the Republic has been content to be a renter and allow all equity and market increases to flow to landlords instead of the Republic, but with the Olbiil Era Kelulau’s authorization I will pursue similar property acquisitions for our diplomatic missions in Guam, Washington, D.C., and Japan,” stated President Whipps. mbj