TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Tsai Ing-wen met with Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. today (Nov. 12), after which she thanked him and the country for its unwavering support of Taiwan, despite increasing political pressure from China.
Remengesau Jr. led a delegation to Taiwan on Nov. 10 in a visit that will conclude this Wednesday. The trip has been the Palau president’s first since he attended the 2016 inaugural activities. The head of state was welcomed by a 21-gun military salute in the plaza in front of the Taiwan Presidential Office.
After China issued a ban on travel agencies guiding tour groups to Palau in August, the number of visitors to the archipelago dropped sharply, causing havoc among airlines that had to suspend flights due to unfilled seats. As the CPP maintains near absolute control over almost every facet of Chinese society, it has been able to “weaponize” tourism against Taiwan’s allies, many of which are tourism-dependent microstates.
For the Republic of Palau itself, tourism accounts for 42.3% of GDP, meaning the island has been feeling the pressure. Palau has long been an ally of Taiwan but was not blacklisted by China until recently.
It appears both local people and the government, however, have acknowledged that reliance on Chinese tourism is not a stable source of GDP. As well as this, Palauans have expressed more trust in Taiwan’s support; reminders of which have become enshrined around the island through signs announcing new building projects funded by the US$10 million aid package Taiwan gifts Palau each year.
In her meeting at the Presidential Office with Remengesau Jr., Tsai highlighted the fruit that mutual cooperation between their two countries has come to bear over the past two years. She noted that considerable achievements have been made in production technology and medical staff training.
The head of state's arrival was announced by a military salute in the Presidential Office plaza (CNA image)
Tsai also praised Palau’s heavy-weight policies that emphasize environmental conservation and encourage visitors to foot their share of responsibility for looking after the environment. She added that Taiwan will continue to work side-by-side with Palau over issues related to climate change, marine resources and clean energy.
Like Taiwan, Palau is extremely conscious about green conservation and sustainable development, having recently announced it is to ban sunscreen products to protect its vulnerable coral reefs.
Tsai Ing-wen expressed today that Palau’s unflagging support of Taiwan was clear during its presentations at the World Health Assembly in May and the UN General Assembly Session in September, and offered her deepest gratitude to state officials. Remengesau Jr. in turn insisted his country will continue to support Taiwan and cordially encouraged Taiwanese to consider Palau as a holiday destination.
Between June and August, China Airlines (Taiwan’s national airline) added two more flights per week to Palau in an attempt to relieve some of the economic pressure the reduction in Chinese tourism brought about. Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) at the time said helping out allies is of utmost importance to Taiwan.
Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. is set to make his way back to his home state on Wednesday, Nov. 14.