Our Ocean Conference opens in Palau

Palau and the United States are co-hosting the conference which was seen as a key global event for countries, civil society, and industry to commit to concrete and significant actions to protect the ocean.

This is the seventh year of the conference and the first time it's been held in the Pacific region.

Security around the venue was tight with roads around the conference site closed.

The conference was opened by Palau's president Surangel Whipps Jr and the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry.

Palau has recorded its first case of COVID-19

The person had also tested negative three times, but tested positive on Day 21 of quarantine, the government said.

But it said this case has a low risk of infecting others.

Health official Gaafar J. Uherbelau said the patient is isolated and contact tracing underway.

He said those who had been in contact with the patient, including travel companions, had been placed in quarantine.

So far close contacts who had been tested have returned negative results, Uherbelau said.

Additional contact tracing will continue, he said.

Marshalls follows Palau, FSM in initiating Forum withdrawal

"Cabinet approved the withdrawal from the Pacific Islands Forum last Thursday," said Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Casten Nemra.

"(The) next step is for Nitijela (parliament) to endorse the move through a resolution."

The move by the Marshall Islands follows similar actions by Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) over the past week.

The five Micronesian presidents, including those from Kiribati and Nauru, met 8 February and agreed on the withdrawal, and that they saw minimal if any impact by departing the region's primary body.

Micronesian leaders united in decision to withdraw from Forum

Palau has already commenced with the process.  

A statement released today said the five Presidents of Micronesia will honour the Mekreos Communique and withdraw from the Forum as stated in a joint communique released also released today.

The leaders of Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Kiribati and the Republic of the Marshall Islands met virtually yesterday (Monday).

According to the statement, Nauru President Lionel Aingimea “believes the Forum has lost its original intent to be a regional body and what the Forum was originally set up to do.”

Palau congress backs withdrawal from Pacific Forum

The congress met ahead of today's virtual meeting of the leaders of Micronesian countries to discuss their future involvement of the sub-region in the Forum.

President Whipps Jr's decision stemmed from the appointment of Cook Islands former prime minister Henry Puna as secretary general of the Forum last week.

Palau and other Micronesian countries argued the post should have gone to their candidate, Marshall Islands' diplomat Gerald Zackios.

Palau preparing to leave Pacific Islands Forum

Republic president Surangel Whipps Jr said the move was over the decision by other Pacific leaders to ignore Micronesia's request for their candidate to take up the role of secretary general of the forum.

For months, the regional body has been divided over whose candidate should get the forum's top job.

Former Cook Islands prime minister Henry Puna was appointed secretary general on Thursday, pipping Marshall Islands' diplomat Gerald Zackios by just one vote.

Islands move quickly on Covid-19 vaccine outreach

On a per capita basis, the islands have higher vaccine rates than many states in the US, said the Marshall Islands Health Secretary in Majuro.

In the first 10 days since receiving a small number of doses to start, the Marshall Islands injected first vaccines to over 600 healthcare workers and front line government employees who work in sea and airports.

The US government is providing the Moderna brand Covid-19 vaccines to the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau.

First batch of Covid vaccines arrive in Palau

Health minister Emais Roberts said 2,800 doses of the Moderna vaccine arrived on a special flight from the United States.

"Vaccines arrived," Roberts said in a text message.

He said the ministry would start using the vaccine from 3 January, with health workers first in line to receive the jabs. Following that, the ministry said it would look to vaccinate key officials and decision makers, then the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.

Surangel Whipps Jr to be Palau's new president

Whipps's opponent in this week's election, outgoing Vice President Raynold Oilouch, has conceded the presidential race

The Pacific Island Times reported the concession came although there are still at least 2,000 absentee ballots still to be tabulated next week.

All votes cast in Palau had been tabulated by Wednesday night.

Preliminary results showed Whipps with a lead of 1,202 votes over Oilouch, who said Palauans had clearly chosen their new president.

Palau shores up defence for likely Covid-19 cases

On Sunday, the National Emergency Committee (NEC) said all hands were working on "developing and implementing plans and measures to better prepare and prevent the entry and spread of Covid-19."

On Friday, the construction of a Covid-19 testing facility began and was expected to be completed this week.

The NEC and the Ministry of Health were also working with numerous hoteliers that had offered their properties as isolation sites for passengers' 14-day quarantine.