“I have taken this opportunity to demonstrate what our people are capable of during these very difficult times. Since the ancient time of our forefathers, a good life has not been handed to us or expected. We have grasped it through hard work and creative aspirations. We sailed the seas to find our current home, we fished the open seas, and settled our lands. During these times of conception, we suffered droughts, wars and typhoons, created a strong island culture and learned to preserve our natural environment so that all our people could survive long into the future.
The lessons learned over the centuries and passed down to us today are the essence of who we are and the foundation of our future. The cultural strength that we have gained to weather the many crises of our past will hold us firm and united through the current Coronavirus emergency.
In my 2015 State of the Republic Address, I stated that “The simple truth is that the World we live in now is a very complex place and there is not a single country that does not have its share of difficulties. We must be thankful that our problems do not include civil war, terrorism, major disasters and abject poverty.” Well my friends, we are currently suffering a major disaster and we have not seen the end of it yet. We must therefore come together as never before and face this crisis together, with unity, understanding and strength. Only as a united nation will we come out of this frightening time as strong as we entered.
Fortunately, Palau is one of few jurisdictions in the World that has not had a positive test for COVID-19. Let us all pray that this fact continues. However, we must prepare for the worst with proper planning and capacity. To this end, I continue to work with the OEK, the Private Sector, our traditional leaders and our communities to respond to issues as they arise. We currently have testing capacity, thanks to the US and Taiwan and we continue to work to expand this capacity. We are also working to bring in more ventilators and are depending on an increase in international capacity over the coming weeks.
We will continue to monitor the situation in Palau, in our neighbors, and throughout the world to determine when and if, and to what degree, we can open ourselves up to economic activity and exchange. When we do make the decision to open up, it will be based on scientific and medical justifications and not for economic reasons. Our re-opening will also be gradual and will be undertaken in a staged manner and with a great deal of caution so as to ensure success. There is no room for error. We will also continue to work to bring all of our people home who wish to come home, while protecting those of us who are already here.
And while our frontline workers pit their strength against these threats to health and safety with our full support, we must fight the economic crisis just as hard. We must do so by preserving the best, and improving the rest. It is time to double-down on the policies and friendships that have brought us to the strong position we are now in, even during global crisis.
As we fight this virus together, understand that we are doing, and will do, whatever is necessary to protect the people of Palau. Together we will survive this emergency and become stronger for our effort. Let us pray that our efforts keep us and our children safe. ”
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