Palau Seeks Climate, Economic Partnership with Japan

TOKYO – Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr., during his official trip to Japan, emphasized the importance of collaboration between the two nations to tackle pressing issues such as climate change and economic resilience.

Speaking at a press conference held at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (FCCJ) on June 5, Whipps highlighted the shared responsibility both countries have in protecting the environment and promoting sustainable development.

“We’re a small island—20,000 people—a small nation, but we also refer to ourselves as a ‘big ocean state’ because we like to say that our ocean is the size of France or, when we talk to the U.S., the size of Texas,” he stated. “The ocean, of course, is what connects us; it connects us to Japan. And I think we all know that a healthy ocean means a healthy planet,” he added.

Whipps underscored the need to reduce the carbon footprint and explore renewable energy solutions.

“What’s most important for small islands is to address climate change issues because it’s our biggest threat,” he told the Filipino-Japanese Journal. “Japan is a leader in technology. We partnered on renewable energy projects, we’re partnering on exploring hydrogen, and just looking at how we can lessen our carbon footprint and leverage the technology that Japan has.”

The Palauan leader also stressed the significance of building a resilient economy, particularly in sectors such as fishing and tourism. Palau, renowned for its marine conservation efforts, seeks to develop a sustainable fishing industry through cooperation with Japan, ensuring economic growth while preserving marine ecosystems.

“We need to open at least 50 percent to fishing, so one of the things that Palau and Japan share is fisheries, and I think one of the opportunities that we have is to develop those fisheries together in a way that provides value to the local people, the local community, but also provides fish to the Japanese people,” he said.

Regarding tourism, Whipps mentioned to the Filipino-Japanese Journal the significance of Japanese investments in Palau’s hospitality industry, citing new projects such as the construction of hotels. He encouraged further Japanese investments in Palau, asserting that such collaborations contribute to economic stability and resilience.

“I think it’s a win-win, a win for the Japanese and a win for Palau,” he said.

Whipps visited Tokyo for a summit meeting with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, discussing ways to bolster bilateral relations, including security interests and upholding a free and open Indo-Pacific. They also concentrated on preparations for the upcoming Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting scheduled for July. - Florenda Corpuz