By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Adm. John C. Aquilino, commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, led a team that delivered Covid-19 supplies to Palau during a brief visit on Feb. 23.
Delivering brief remarks, Aquilino acknowledged Palau's role in the United States' security strategies in the region.
"When you thank me for providing security to Palau, let me thank you for contributing to the security we provide," Aquilino said, noting that Palau's enlistment rate per capita is higher than the United States.
"It is my duty to thank the people of Palau. I understand the importance of this historic place, the importance of our people-to-people ties," he added.
Joining Aquilino during the handover of the personal protective equipment supply was U.S. Ambassador to Palau John Hennessy-Niland. The donations were received by Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr. and Health Minister Gaafar Uherbelau.
Aquilino visited the Pacific island nation to discuss regional challenges and reaffirm the United States' "strong, longstanding commitment to supporting the people of Palau in combating Covid-19. The delivery, in the form of 30,000 N95 masks, was provided at the request of Palau," according to a press release from Indo-Pacom.
“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.”
To date, total U.S. government support to the Pacific islands for Covid-19 response stands over $118 million, including over $90 million funding support to freely associated states-- the Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, and Palau.
This Covid-relief aid were provided by the Department of Defense, Department of the Interior, Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Education and Department of Labor.
Over the past 20 years, the U.S. has invested over $5.21 billion in assistance to the Pacific Islands.
“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."
Palau and the United States are in the process of negotiating the expiring provisions of the Compact of Free Association.
“There is no better example in the Pacific, and I dare say globally, than Palau in terms of how it has met the challenge of Covid,” Hennessy-Niland said. “I want to thank Indo-Pacomand Adm. Aquilino for this delivery and continuing that whole of government Covid approach with the Republic of Palau.”