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Coordinates: 7°30′N134°30′E / 7.500°N 134.500°E / 7.500; 134.500


Republic of Palau
Beluu er a Belau  (Palauan)
Anthem:  Belau rekid
"Our Palau"
Palau on the globe (Southeast Asia centered) (small islands magnified).svg
Palau - Location Map (2013) - PLW - UNOCHA.svg
Capital Ngerulmud
7°30′N134°37′E / 7.500°N 134.617°E / 7.500; 134.617
Largest city Koror
7°20′N134°29′E / 7.333°N 134.483°E / 7.333; 134.483
Official languagesNational:
Ethnic groups
(2015 [1] )
(2015) [2]
Demonym(s) Palauan
Government Unitary presidential constitutional republic under a non-partisan democracy
Surangel Whipps Jr.
Uduch Sengebau Senior
 Senate President
Hokkons Baules
 House Speaker
Sabino Anastacio
 Chief Justice
Oldiais Ngiraikelau
 Chairman of Council of Chiefs
Legislature Olbiil era Kelulau
House of Delegates
from the United States
18 July 1947
2 April 1979
 Establishment of the Republic of Palau
1 January 1981
1 October 1994
459 km2 (177 sq mi)(179th)
 Water (%)
 2018 estimate
17,907 [3] [4] (224th)
 2013 census
46.7/km2 (121.0/sq mi)
GDP  (PPP)2018 estimate
$300 million [5]
 Per capita
$16,296 [5] (81st)
GDP  (nominal)2018 estimate
$322 million [5]
 Per capita
$17,438 [5]
HDI  (2019)Increase2.svg 0.826 [6]
very high ·  50th
Currency United States dollar (USD)
Time zone UTC+9 (PWT)
Date formatDD-MM-YYYY
Mains electricity 120 V–60 Hz
Driving side right
Calling code +680
ISO 3166 code PW
Internet TLD .pw

Palau ( /pəˈl/ ( Loudspeaker.svg listen )), officially the Republic of Palau (Palauan : Beluu er a Belau) [7] and historically Belau, Palaos or Pelew, is an island country in the western Pacific. The nation has approximately 340 islands and connects the western chain of the Caroline Islands with parts of the Federated States of Micronesia. It has a total area of 466 square kilometers (180 square miles). [8] The most populous island is Koror, home to the country's most populous city of the same name. The capital Ngerulmud is located on the nearby island of Babeldaob, in Melekeok State. Palau shares maritime boundaries with international waters to the north, Micronesia to the east, Indonesia to the south, and the Philippines to the north west.

The country was originally settled approximately 3,000 years ago by migrants from Maritime Southeast Asia. [9] [10] Spain was the first European nation to invade the islands in the 16th century, and they were made part of the Spanish East Indies in 1574. Following Spain's defeat in the Spanish–American War in 1898, the islands were sold to Germany in 1899 under the terms of the German–Spanish Treaty, where they were administered as part of German New Guinea. After World War I, the islands were made a part of the Japanese-ruled South Seas Mandate by the League of Nations. During World War II, skirmishes, including the major Battle of Peleliu, were fought between American and Japanese troops as part of the Mariana and Palau Islands campaign. Along with other Pacific Islands, Palau was made a part of the United States-governed Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in 1947. Having voted in a referendum against joining the Federated States of Micronesia in 1978, [11] [12] the islands gained full sovereignty in 1994 under a Compact of Free Association with the United States.

Politically, Palau is a presidential republic in free association with the United States, which provides defense, funding, and access to social services. Legislative power is concentrated in the bicameral Palau National Congress. Palau's economy is based mainly on tourism, subsistence agriculture and fishing, with a significant portion of gross national product (GNP) derived from foreign aid. The country uses the United States dollar as its currency. The islands' culture mixes Micronesian, Melanesian, Asian, and Western elements. Ethnic Palauans, the majority of the population, are of mixed Micronesian, Melanesian, and Austronesian descent. A smaller proportion of the population is of Japanese descent. The country's two official languages are Palauan (a member of the Austronesian language family) and English, with Japanese, Sonsorolese, and Tobian recognized as regional languages.


The name for the islands in the Palauan language, Belau, derives from the Palauan word for "village", beluu, [13] or from aibebelau ("indirect replies"), relating to a creation myth. [14] The name "Palau" entered the English language from the Spanish Los Palaos, via the German Palau. An archaic name for the islands in English was the "Pelew Islands". [15] Palau is unrelated to Pulau, which is a Malay word meaning "island" found in a number of place names in the region.


Historical affiliations

Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg Spanish East Indies c.1500s–1899

Early history

Palau was originally settled between the 3rd and 2nd millennia BCE, most likely from the Philippines or Indonesia. [16] Sonsorol, part of the Southwest Islands, an island chain approximately 600 kilometers (370 mi; 320 nmi) from the main island chain of Palau, was sighted by the Spanish as early as 1522, when the Spanish mission of the Trinidad , the flagship of Ferdinand Magellan's voyage of circumnavigation, sighted two small islands around the 5th parallel north, naming them "San Juan". [17]

After the 16th century

The next recording of the existence of Palau by Europeans came a century later in 1697 when a group of Palauans were shipwrecked on the Philippine island of Samar to the northwest. They were interviewed by the Czech missionary Paul Klein on 28 December 1696. Klein was able to draw the first map of Palau based on the Palauans' representation of their home islands that they made with an arrangement of 87 pebbles on the beach . Klein reported his findings to the Jesuit Superior General in a letter sent in June 1697. [18]

Spanish era

An 1888 map showing the Palau Islands of the Spanish East Indies (excluding the Philippine Islands). Islas Marianas Palaos y Carolinas.JPG
An 1888 map showing the Palau Islands of the Spanish East Indies (excluding the Philippine Islands).
Palau under German rule; painting by Rudolf Hellgrewe c. 1908. Palau-Inseln.jpg
Palau under German rule; painting by Rudolf Hellgrewe c. 1908.
Koror chiefs in 1915. Koror chiefs in 1915.jpg
Koror chiefs in 1915.

This map and the letter caused a vast interest in the new islands. Another letter written by Fr. Andrés Serrano was sent to Europe in 1705, essentially copying the information given by Klein. The letters resulted in three unsuccessful Jesuit attempts to travel to Palau from Spanish Philippines in 1700, 1708 and 1709. The islands were first visited by the Jesuit expedition led by Francisco Padilla on 30 November 1710. The expedition ended with the stranding of the two priests, Jacques Du Beron and Joseph Cortyl, on the coast of Sonsorol, because the mother ship Santísima Trinidad was driven to Mindanao by a storm. Another ship was sent from Guam in 1711 to save them only to capsize, causing the death of three more Jesuit priests. The failure of these missions gave Palau the original Spanish name Islas Encantadas (Enchanted Islands). [19] Despite these early misfortunes, the Spanish Empire later came to dominate the islands.[ citation needed ]

Transitions era

British traders became regular visitors to Palau in the 18th century, followed by expanding Spanish influence in the 19th century. Palau, under the name Palaos, was included in the Malolos Congress in 1898, the first revolutionary congress in the Philippines, which wanted full independence from colonialists. Palau, at the time, was part of the Spanish East Indies headquartered in the Philippines. Palau had one appointed member to the Congress, becoming the only group of islands in the entire Caroline Islands granted high representation in a non-colonial Philippine Congress. The Congress also supported the right of Palau to self-determination if ever it wished to pursue such a path. [20] Later in 1899 as part of the Caroline Islands, Palau was sold by the Spanish Empire to the German Empire as part of German New Guinea in the German–Spanish Treaty (1899). During World War I, the Japanese Empire annexed the islands after seizing them from Germany in 1914. Following World War I, the League of Nations formally placed the islands under Japanese administration as part of the South Seas Mandate. In World War II, Palau was used by Japan to support its 1941 invasion of the Philippines, which succeeded in 1942. The invasion overthrew the American-installed Commonwealth government in the Philippines and installed the Japanese-backed Second Philippine Republic in 1943. [21]

United States era

During World War II, the United States captured Palau from Japan in 1944 after the costly Battle of Peleliu, when more than 2,000 Americans and 10,000 Japanese were killed and later the Battle of Angaur. In 1945–1946, the United States re-established control on the Philippines, and managed Palau through the Philippine capital of Manila. By the later half of 1946, however, the Philippines was granted full independence with the formation of the Third Republic of the Philippines, shifting the US Far West Pacific capital to Guam. Palau passed formally to the United States under United Nations auspices in 1947 as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands established pursuant to Security Council Resolution 21.[ citation needed ]


TTPI High Commissioner and staff, 1960s. TTPI High Commissioner and staff.jpg
TTPI High Commissioner and staff, 1960s.

Four of the Trust Territory districts joined together and formed the Federated States of Micronesia in 1979, but the districts of Palau and the Marshall Islands voted against the proposed constitution. Palau, the westernmost cluster of the Carolines, instead opted for independent status in 1978, which was widely supported by the Philippines, Taiwan, and Japan. It approved a new constitution and became the Republic of Palau on 1 January 1981. [22] It signed a Compact of Free Association with the United States in 1982. In the same year, Palau became one of the founding members of the Nauru Agreement. After eight referenda and an amendment to the Palauan constitution, the Compact was ratified in 1993. The Compact went into effect on 1 October 1994, [23] making Palau de jure independent, although it had been de facto independent since 25 May 1994, when the trusteeship ended. Formal diplomatic relations with the Philippines was re-established in the same year, although the two nations already had diplomatic back channels prior to 1994.[ citation needed ] Palau also became a member of the Pacific Islands Forum, but withdrew in February 2021 after a dispute regarding Henry Puna's election as the Forum's secretary-general. [24] [25]

Legislation making Palau an "offshore" financial center was passed by the US Senate in 1998.[ citation needed ]

In 2001, Palau passed its first bank regulation and anti-money laundering laws.[ citation needed ]

In 2005, Palau led the Micronesia challenge, which would conserve 30% of near-shore coastal waters and 20% of forest land of participating countries by 2020. In 2009, Palau created the world's first shark sanctuary, banning commercial shark fishing within its waters. In 2012, the Rock Islands of Palau was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. [26]

In 2015, Palau became a member of the Climate Vulnerable Forum under the chairmanship of the Philippines, and at the same time, the country officially protected 80% of its water resources, becoming the first country to do so. [27] The protection of its water resources made significant increases in the country's economy in less than two years. [28] In 2017, the nation became the first to establish an eco-promise, known as the Palau Pledge, which are stamped on local and foreign passports. [29] In 2018, Palau and the Philippines began re-connecting their economic and diplomatic relations. The Philippines supported Palau to become an observer state in ASEAN, as Palau also has Southeast Asian ethnic origins. [30]

In November 2020, Surangel Whipps Jr was elected as the new President of Palau to succeed President Tommy Remengesau. [31]

Politics and government

Capitol of Palau, the seat of government. Capitol, Melekeok, Palau.jpg
Capitol of Palau, the seat of government.

Palau is a democratic republic. The President of Palau is both head of state and head of government. Executive power is exercised by the government, while legislative power is vested in both the government and the Palau National Congress. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. Palau adopted a constitution in 1981.

The governments of the United States and Palau concluded a Compact of Free Association in 1986, similar to compacts that the United States had entered into with the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. [32] The compact entered into force on 1 October 1994, concluding Palau's transition from trusteeship to independence [32] as the last portion of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands to secure its independence pursuant to Security Council Resolution 956.

The Compact of Free Association between the United States and Palau [33] sets forth the free and voluntary association of their governments. It primarily focuses on the issues of government, economic, security and defense relations. [34] Palau has no independent military, relying on the United States for its defense. Under the compact, the American military was granted access to the islands for 50 years. The U.S. Navy role is minimal, limited to a handful of Navy Seabees (construction engineers).[ citation needed ] The U.S. Coast Guard patrols in national waters.

Foreign relations

President Thomas Remengesau with Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016. Zong Tong Jie Shou Bo Liu Gong He Guo Zong Tong Lei Meng Jie Suo (Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr.) Zeng Li  (27163347055).jpg
President Thomas Remengesau with Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016.

As a sovereign nation, Palau conducts its own foreign relations. [32] Since independence, Palau has established diplomatic relations with a number of nations, including many of its Pacific neighbors, like Micronesia and the Philippines. On 29 November 1994, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 963 recommending Palau's admission to the United Nations. The United Nations General Assembly approved admission for Palau pursuant to Resolution 49/63 on 15 December 1994. [35] Palau has since joined several other international organizations. In September 2006, Palau hosted the first Taiwan-Pacific Allies Summit. Its President has made official visits to other Pacific countries, including Japan. [36]

The United States maintains a diplomatic delegation and an embassy in Palau, but most aspects of the countries' relationship have to do with Compact-funded projects, which are the responsibility of the U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Insular Affairs. [37] For example, as part of this Compact, Palau was granted zip codes 96939 and 96940, along with regular US Mail delivery.

Flags of countries who have foreign relations with Palau, Palasia Hotel Palasia Hotel Palau.JPG
Flags of countries who have foreign relations with Palau, Palasia Hotel

In international politics, Palau often votes with the United States on United Nations General Assembly resolutions. [38]

Palau has maintained close ties with Japan, which has funded infrastructure projects including the Koror–Babeldaob Bridge. In 2015, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited Peleliu to honor the 70th anniversary of World War II. [39]

Palau is a member of the Nauru Agreement for the Management of Fisheries. [40]

In 1981, Palau voted for the world's first nuclear-free constitution. This constitution banned the use, storage and disposal of nuclear, toxic chemical, gas and biological weapons without first being approved by a 34, or 75 percent, majority in a referendum. [41] This ban delayed Palau's transition to independence, because while negotiating the Compact, the U.S. insisted on the option to operate nuclear propelled vessels and store nuclear weapons within the territory, [42] prompting campaigns for independence and denuclearisation. [43] After several referendums that failed to achieve a ¾ majority, the people of Palau finally approved the Compact in 1994. [44] [45]

President Remengesau with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in 2018. Palau Pres Thomas Remengesau with PH President Rodrigo Duterte.jpg
President Remengesau with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in 2018.

The Philippines, a neighboring ally of Palau to the west, has expressed its intent to back Palau if ever it wishes to join ASEAN. [30]

In June 2009, Palau announced that it would accept up to seventeen Uyghurs who had previously been detained by the American military at Guantanamo Bay, [46] with some American compensation for the cost of their upkeep. [47]

Only one of the Uyghurs initially agreed to resettlement, [48] but by the end of October, six of the seventeen had been transferred to Palau. [49] An aid agreement with the United States, finalized in January 2010, was reported to be unrelated to the Uyghur agreement. [50]

In 2017, Palau signed the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. [51]

Administrative divisions

The sixteen states of Palau States of Palau.jpg
The sixteen states of Palau
Republic of Palau. Palau-CIA WFB Map.png
Republic of Palau.

Palau is divided into sixteen states (until 1984 called municipalities). These are listed below with their areas (in square kilometres) and 2012 estimated and 2015 Census populations:

StateArea (km2)Population Estimate 2012Population Census 13 April 2015Notes
Flag of Kayangel State.png Kayangel 1.77654comprising islands of Kayangel Atoll
Flag of Ngarchelong.svg Ngarchelong 11.2281316northern end of Babeldaob Island
Flag of Ngaraard State.svg Ngaraard 34453413north end of Babeldaob Island, just south of Ngarchelong state
Flag of Ngardmau State.png Ngardmau 34195185on western side of Babeldaob Island
Flag of Ngeremlengui State.png Ngaremlengui 68310350on western side of Babeldaob Island
Flag of Ngatpang State.png Ngatpang 33257282on western side of Babeldaob Island
Flag of Ngiwal State.png Ngiwal 17226282on eastern side of Babeldaob Island
Flag of Melekeok.png Melekeok 26300277on eastern side of Babeldaob Island
Flag of Ngchesar State.png Ngchesar 43287291on eastern side of Babeldaob Island
Flag of Aimeliik.svg Aimeliik 44281334southwest part of Babeldaob Island
Flag of Airai State.png Airai 592,5372,455southeast part of Babeldaob Island
Flag of Koror State.png Koror 60.5211,67011,444Koror, Ngerekebesang and Malakal Islands, plus Rock Islands (Chelbacheb) and Eil Malk to the southwest
Flag of Peleliu State.png Peleliu 22.3510484comprises Peleliu Island and some islets to its north, notably Ngercheu
Flag of Angaur State.svg Angaur 8.06130119Angaur Island, 12 km south of Peleliu
Flag of Sonsorol.svg Sonsorol 3.14240comprises Sonsorol, Fanna, Pulo Anna and Merir Islands
Flag of Hatohobei.svg Hatohobei 0.91025comprises Tobi Island and (uninhabited) Helen Reef

Historically, Palau's Rock Islands have been part of the State of Koror. The Southwestern islands (Sonsorol and Hatohobei States) do not speak Palauan, but the distantly related Sonsorolese-Tobian (related to Woleaian of Woleai atoll, Yap State)

Maritime law enforcement

The Euatel, Kabekl M'tal and Bul provide littoral fishery protection. Palau Maritime Police vessel.jpg
The Euatel , Kabekl M’tal and Bul provide littoral fishery protection.

Palau's Division of Marine Law Enforcement patrols the nation's 600,000 square kilometers (230,000 square miles) exclusive economic zone. They operate two long range patrol boats, the Kedam and the Remeliik II , to hunt for poachers and unlicensed fishermen. [53] [54] [55] Smaller boats are used for littoral operations. [52] They are based on Koror. [56]

Political Future

Palau may now be seen, particularly in the indo-pacific region, as a key example of the successes of modern state building.  It has successfully transitioned peacefully from colonial rule to full admission to the United Nations. There are also pushes for Palau to have observer status to the ASEAN as a demonstration of its growing influence in the region. [57]   However, Palau’s peaceful transition to fully autonomous sovereign nation is not without debate. Palau is hugely reliant on international aid, as demonstrated by President Surangel Whipps Jr address to the UN General Assembly in 2021. [58]  American influence has also led some to contest that there are challenges to its sovereignty with its reliance on the American military under the Compact of Free Association, although not officially designated a de facto protectorate or otherwise. American influence has also resulted in huge changes to Palau’s society with vast changes to the economy and political processes and as such Palau may not yet be seen as a fully independent state or a fully realised success of modern state-building. [59]


Palau's territory consists of an archipelago located in the Pacific Ocean. Its most populous islands are Angaur, Babeldaob, Koror and Peleliu. The latter three lie together within the same barrier reef, while Angaur is an oceanic island several kilometers to the south. About two-thirds of the population lives on Koror.

The coral atoll of Kayangel is north of these islands, while the uninhabited Rock Islands (about 200) are west of the main island group. A remote group of six islands, known as the Southwest Islands, some 604 kilometers (375 miles) from the main islands, make up the states of Hatohobei and Sonsorol.


Palau has a tropical rainforest climate with an annual mean temperature of 28 °C (82 °F). Rainfall is heavy throughout the year, averaging 3,800 mm (150 in). The average humidity is 82% and, although rain falls more frequently between July and October, there is still much sunshine.

Palau lies on the edge of the typhoon belt. Tropical disturbances frequently develop near Palau every year, but significant tropical cyclones are quite rare. Mike, Bopha and Haiyan are the only systems that struck Palau as typhoons on record. [60]

Climate data for Palau Islands (1961–1990)
Average high °C (°F)30.6
Daily mean °C (°F)27.3
Average low °C (°F)23.9
Average rainfall mm (inches)271.8
Average rainy days19.015.916.714.820.021.921.019.816.820.118.719.9224.6
Mean monthly sunshine hours 198.4194.9244.9234.0210.8168.0186.0176.7198.0179.8183.0182.92,357.4
Source: Hong Kong Observatory [61]


Aerial view of Ngerukewid Ngerukewid-2016-aerial-view-Luka-Peternel.jpg
Aerial view of Ngerukewid
Aerial view of Rock Islands Rock-Islands-Palau-1-2016-aerial-view-Luka-Peternel.jpg
Aerial view of Rock Islands
Rock Islands in Palau Palau-rock-islands20071222.jpg
Rock Islands in Palau
An aerial view of limestone islands Palau 2008030818 4709 (2347767520).jpg
An aerial view of limestone islands

Palau has a history of strong environment conservation. For example, Ngerukewid islands and the surrounding area are protected under the Ngerukewid Islands Wildlife Preserve, which was established in 1956. [62]

While much of Palau remains free of environmental degradation, areas of concern include illegal dynamite fishing, inadequate solid waste disposal facilities in Koror and extensive sand and coral dredging in the Palau lagoon. As with other Pacific island nations, rising sea level presents a major environmental threat. However, according to the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research average carbon dioxide emissions per person were 60 tonnes in 2019, the highest in the world and mostly from transport. [63] [ clarification needed ] Inundation of low-lying areas threatens coastal vegetation, agriculture, and an already insufficient water supply. Wastewater treatment is a problem, along with the handling of toxic waste from fertilizers and biocides.

One species of saltwater crocodile, Crocodylus porosus, is also indigenous to Palau, occurring in varying numbers throughout the mangroves and in parts of the Rock Islands. Although this species is generally considered extremely dangerous, there has only been one fatal human attack, on 28 December 1965, in Palau in modern history. [64] This attack led to a crocodile eradication program and trade in crocodile hides that ran into the 1980s. A management and conservation program running since the 1990s has led to a stabilization of the Palauan crocodile population. [65] In Palau, the largest crocodile measured 4.5 meters (14 ft 9 in).[ citation needed ]

The nation is also vulnerable to earthquakes, volcanic activity, and tropical storms. Palau already has a problem with inadequate water supply and limited agricultural areas to support its population.

On 5 November 2005, President Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr. took the lead on a regional environmental initiative called the Micronesia challenge, which would conserve 30% of near-shore coastal waters and 20% of forest land by 2020. Following Palau, the initiative was joined by the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and the U.S. territories of Guam and Northern Mariana Islands. Together, this combined region represents nearly 5% of the marine area of the Pacific Ocean and 7% of its coastline.

Palau contains the Palau tropical moist forests terrestrial ecoregion. [66] It had a 2019 Forest Landscape Integrity Index mean score of 8.09/10, ranking it 27th globally out of 172 countries. [67]


On 25 September 2009, Palau announced that it would create the world's first shark sanctuary. [68] Palau banned all commercial shark fishing within the waters of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The sanctuary protects about 600,000 square kilometers (230,000 sq mi) of ocean, [69] a similar size to France. [70] [71] [72] President Johnson Toribiong announced the sanctuary at a meeting of the United Nations. [70] [73] [74] President Toribiong proposed a worldwide ban on fishing for sharks. [70] In 2012, Palau received the Future Policy Award from World Future Council, because "Palau is a global leader in protecting marine ecosystems". [75]


A proportional representation of Palau exports, 2019 Palau Product Exports (2019).svg
A proportional representation of Palau exports, 2019
Artificially made German Channel is one of the most popular dive sites. It is also a major transport route for boats that connects the lagoon to the Pacific Ocean in south-west. German-Channel-2016-aerial-view-Luka-Peternel.jpg
Artificially made German Channel is one of the most popular dive sites. It is also a major transport route for boats that connects the lagoon to the Pacific Ocean in south-west.
Aerial view of Koror-Babeldaob Bridge in 2016. Koror-Babeldaob-Bridge-2016-Luka-Peternel.jpg
Aerial view of Koror–Babeldaob Bridge in 2016.

Palau's economy consists primarily of tourism, subsistence agriculture and fishing. Tourist activity focuses on scuba diving and snorkeling in the islands' rich marine environment, including its barrier reefs' walls and World War II wrecks. The government is the largest employer, relying heavily on U.S. financial assistance. Business and tourist arrivals numbered some 50,000 in fiscal year 2000–2001.

The population enjoys a per capita income twice that of Micronesia as a whole. Long-term prospects for the key tourist sector have been greatly bolstered by the expansion of air travel in the Pacific, the rising prosperity of leading East Asian countries and the willingness of foreigners to finance infrastructure development.

Air service has at times been spotty. Palau Micronesia Air, Asian Spirit and Pacific Flier provided service to the Philippines and other destinations at various times during the 2000s, but all suspended service. [76] United Airlines now provides near-daily service to and from Guam, and once-weekly service to Yap. Also, Korean Air provides service three times per week to Incheon.

In November 2006, Palau Saving Bank officially announced bankruptcy. On 13 December 2006, the Palau Horizon reported that 641 depositors had been affected. Among them, 398 held less than US$5,000, with the remainder ranging from US$5,000 to US$2 million. On 12 December 79 affected people received compensation. Mr. Toribiong said, "The fund for the payout came from the balance of Palau government's loan from Taiwan." From a total of US$1 million, which originally was for assisting Palau's development, US$955,000 was left at the time of bankruptcy. Toribiong requested the Taiwanese government use the balance to repay its loans. Taiwan agreed to the request. The compensation would include those who held less than US$4,000 in an account. [77]

The income tax has three brackets with progressive rates of 9.3 percent, 15 percent, and 19.6 percent respectively. Corporate tax is four percent, and the sales tax is zero. There are no property taxes.

Major tourist draws in Palau include Rock Islands Southern Lagoon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, [78] and four tentative UNESCO sites, namely, Ouballang ra Ngebedech (Ngebedech Terraces), Imeong Conservation Area, Yapease Quarry Sites, and Tet el Bad (Stone Coffin). [79]


Palau International Airport Palau International Airport 1.JPG
Palau International Airport

Palau International Airport provides scheduled direct flights with Guam, Manila, Seoul and Taipei. Palau Pacific Airways also has charter flights to and from Hong Kong and Macau. In addition, the states of Angaur and Peleliu have regular service to domestic destinations.

Freight, military and cruise ships often call at Malakal Harbor, on Malakal Island outside Koror. The country has no railways, and of the 61 km or 38 mi of highways, only 36 km or 22 mi are paved. Driving is on the right and the speed limit is 40 km/h (25 mph). Taxis are available in Koror. They are not metered and fares are negotiable. Transportation between islands mostly relies on private boats and domestic air services. However, there are some state-run boats [80] between islands as a cheaper alternative.


Historical population
1958 8,987    
1970 11,210+24.7%
1980 12,116+8.1%
1990 15,122+24.8%
1995 17,225+13.9%
2000 19,129+11.1%
2005 19,907+4.1%
2015 17,661−11.3%
  • "Island Areas". U.S. Census Bureau.
  • "Census of Population and Housing".

The population of Palau is approximately 17,907, of whom 73% are native Palauans of mixed Melanesian and Austronesian descent. There are many Asian communities within Palau. Filipinos form the largest Asian group and second largest ethnic group in the country, dating back to the Spanish colonial period. There are significant numbers of Chinese and Koreans. There are also smaller numbers of Palauans of mixed or full Japanese ancestry. Smaller numbers of Bangladeshi and Nepalese migrant workers and their descendants who came to the islands during the late 1900s can also be found. Most Palauans of Asian origin came during the late 1900s with many Chinese, Bangladeshis and Nepalese coming to Palau as unskilled workers and professionals. [81] There are also small numbers of Europeans and Americans.


The official languages of Palau are Palauan and English, except in two states (Sonsorol and Hatohobei) where the local languages, Sonsorolese and Tobian, respectively, along with Palauan, are official. Japanese is spoken by some older Palauans and is an official language in the State of Angaur. [82] [83] Including second-language speakers, more people speak English than Palauan in Palau. Additionally, a significant portion of the population speak the Filipino language [84] and Bengali language.


According to 2015 estimates 45.3% of the population is Roman Catholic (due to its shared colonial heritage with the Philippines), 6.9% Seventh-day Adventist, 34.9% other Protestant (due to American administration), 5.7% Modekngei and 3.0% Muslim (due to its shared Islamic heritage with southern Philippines). [1] In 2009, the small Jewish community sent two cyclists to the 18th Maccabiah Games. [85]

The German and Japanese occupations of Palau both subsidized missionaries to follow the Spanish. Germans sent Roman Catholic and Protestant, Japanese sent Shinto and Buddhist, and Spaniards sent Roman Catholic missionaries as they controlled Palau. Three quarters of the population are Christians (mainly Roman Catholics and Protestants), while Modekngei (a combination of Christianity, traditional Palauan religion and fortune telling) and the ancient Palauan religion are commonly observed. Japanese rule brought Mahayana Buddhism and Shinto to Palau, which were the majority religions among Japanese settlers. However, following Japan's World War II defeat, the remaining Japanese largely converted to Christianity, while the remainder continued to observe Buddhism, but stopped practicing Shinto rites. [86] There are also approximately 400 Bengali Muslims in Palau, and recently a few Uyghurs detained in Guantanamo Bay were allowed to settle in the island nation.


A traditional Palauan bai A traditional Palauan hut, 2012.jpg
A traditional Palauan bai

Palauan society follows a very strict matrilineal system. Matrilineal practices are seen in nearly every aspect of Palauan traditions, especially in funeral, marriage, inheritance and the passing of traditional titles. The system probably had its origins from the Philippine archipelago, which had a similar system until the archipelago was colonized by Spain.

The cuisine includes local foods such as cassava, taro, yam, potato, fish and pork. Western cuisine is favored among young Palauans and the locals are joined by foreign tourists. The rest of Micronesia is similar with much less tourism, leading to fewer restaurants. [ citation needed ] Tourists eat mainly at their hotels on such islands. Some local foods include an alcoholic drink made from coconut on the tree; the drink made from the roots of the kava; and the chewing of betel nuts.

The traditional government system still influences the nation's affairs, leading the federal government to repeatedly attempt to limit its power. Many of these attempts took the form of amendments to the constitution that were supported by the corporate sector to protect what they deemed should be free economic zones. [ citation needed ] One such example occurred in early 2010, where the Idid clan, the ruling clan of the Southern Federation, under the leadership of Bilung, the Southern Federation's queen, raised a civil suit against the Koror State Public Lands Authority (KSPLA). The Idid clan laid claim over Malakal Island, a major economic zone and Palau's most important port, citing documents from the German Era. The verdict held that the island belonged to the KSPLA.

Traditional government

StateTitle [87]
Koror Ibedul
Melekeok Reklai
Ngaraard Maderngebuked
Ngerchelong Uongerchetei
Ngiwal Uongruious
Ngchesar Ngirakebou
Airai Ngiraked
Ngeremlengui Ngirturong
Peleliu Obak
Angaur Ucherbelau
Aimeliik Rengulbai
Ngatpang Rekemesik
Ngardmau Beouch
Kayangel Rdechor
Sonsorol Nurap
Hatohobei Heimong

The present-day "traditional" government of Palau is a continuation of its predecessors. Traditionally, Palau was hierarchically organized. The lowest level is the village or hamlet, then the chiefdom (now politically referred to as a state) and finally alliances of chiefdoms. In ancient times, numerous federations divided power, but upon the 17th century introduction of firearms by the British, an imbalance of power occurred.

Palau became divided into northern and southern federations. The Northern Federation is headed by the high chief and chiefess of the ruling clan Uudes of Melekeok state, the Reklai and Ebilreklai. They are commonly referred to as the king and queen of the Northern Federation. This northern federation comprises the states of Kayangel, Ngerchelong, Ngardmau, Ngiwal, Ngaraard, Ngatpang, Ngeremlengui, Melekok, Aimeliik, Ngchesar and Airai. The Southern Federation is likewise represented by the high chief and chiefess of the ruling Idid of Koror state.

The Southern Federation comprises the states of Koror, Peleliu and Angaur. However, fewer and fewer Palauans have knowledge of the concept of federations, and the term is slowly dying out. Federations were established as a way of safeguarding states and hamlets who shared economic, social, and political interests, but with the advent a federal government, safeguards are less meaningful. However, in international relations, the king of Palau is synonymous with the Ibedul of Koror. This is because Koror is the industrial capital of the nation, elevating his position over the Reklai of Melekeok.

It is a misconception that the king and queen of Palau, or any chief and his female counterpart for that matter, are married. Traditional leaders and their female counterparts have always been related and unmarried (marrying relatives was a traditional taboo). Usually, a chief and his female counterpart are brother and sister, or close cousins, and have their own spouses.


Palau has several newspapers: [88] [89]


Baseball is a popular sport in Palau after its introduction by the Japanese in the 1920s. The Palau national baseball team won the gold medal at the 1990, 1998 and 2010 Micronesian Games, as well as at the 2007 Pacific Games.

Palau also has a national football team, organized by the Palau Football Association, but is not a member of FIFA. The Association also organizes the Palau Soccer League.


Primary education is required until the age of 16. Schools include both public and private institutions as well as some fields of study available at Palau Community College. For further undergraduate, graduate and professional programs, students travel abroad to attend tertiary institutions. Popular choices among Palauan scholars include the San Diego State University, University of the Philippines, Mindanao State University, and the University of the South Pacific. [90]


Palau has its own cuisine, for instance, a dessert called tama. [91] Palauan cuisine includes local foods such as cassava, taro, yam, potato, fish and pork. It is also influenced by neighboring Philippines' cuisine, notably on its Asian-Latin dishes. Fruit bat soup is a commonly referenced Palauan delicacy. [92]

See also

Related Research Articles

Micronesia Subregion of Oceania

Micronesia is a subregion of Oceania, consisting of thousands of small islands in the western Pacific Ocean. It has a close shared cultural history with three other island regions: the Philippines to the west, Polynesia to the east, and Melanesia to the south—as well as with the wider community of Austronesian peoples.

History of Palau Historical account of the island country Palau

Palau was initially settled around 1000 BC.

Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands United Nations trust territory in the western Pacific administered by the United States from 1947 to 1994

The Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI) was a United Nations trust territory in Micronesia administered by the United States from 1947 to 1994.

Koror State in Palau

Koror is the state comprising the main commercial centre of the Republic of Palau. It consists of several islands, the most prominent being Koror Island.

Peleliu State in Palau

Peleliu is an island in the island nation of Palau. Peleliu, along with two small islands to its northeast, forms one of the sixteen states of Palau. The island is notable as the location of the Battle of Peleliu in World War II.

Angaur State in Palau

Angaur or Ngeaur is an island and state in the island nation of Palau.

Roman Tmetuchl Palauan politician and businessman

Roman Tmetuchl was a Palauan political leader and businessman. He grew up in Japanese-controlled Palau and joined the Kempeitai, the Japanese secret police, during World War II. After the war, he became the leader of Palau's Liberal Party. He worked in the Congress of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands from 1964 to 1978 and advocated for Palau gaining a separate status from the rest of Micronesia. He became governor of Airai and engaged in three unsuccessful Palauan presidential campaigns. As a businessman, Tmetuchl led several construction projects for his business holdings and for the Palauan community, including the Palau International Airport and a Seventh-Day Adventist clinic.

Palau–United States relations Bilateral relations

Palau–United States relations are bilateral relations between the sovereign nations of Palau and the United States. Palau has an embassy in Washington, DC, whilst the United States has an embassy in Koror. The current US ambassador to Palau is John Hennessey-Niland

Outline of Palau Overview of and topical guide to Palau

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Palau:

Index of Palau-related articles Wikipedia index

The following is an alphabetical list of topics related to the Republic of Palau.

Belau National Museum National museum in Koror, Palau

The Belau National Museum (BNM), previously Palau Museum, is a museum in Koror, Palau. It is the oldest continuously run museum in Micronesia.

Ngerulmud Capital city of Palau

Ngerulmud is the seat of government of the Republic of Palau, an island nation in the Pacific Ocean. It replaced Koror City, Palau's largest city, as capital in 2006. The settlement is located in the state of Melekeok on Babeldaob, the country's largest island, located 20 kilometers northeast of Koror City and 2 km northwest of Melekeok City. It is the least-populous capital city of a sovereign nation in the world.

There is a small Japanese community in the Pacific Island country of Palau, which mainly consists of Japanese expatriates residing in Palau over a long-term basis. A few Japanese expatriates started to reside in Palau after it gained independence in 1994, and established long-term businesses in the country. Japanese settlement in Palau dates back to the early 19th century, although large scale Japanese migration to Palau did not occur until the 1920s, when Palau came under Japanese rule and administered as part of the South Seas Mandate. Japanese settlers took on leading administrative roles in the Japanese colonial government, and developed Palau's economy. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, virtually all of the Japanese population was repatriated back to Japan, although people of mixed Japanese-Palauan descent were allowed to remain behind. People of Japanese-Palauan descent constitute a large minority of Palau's population as a result of substantial intermarriage between the Japanese settlers and Palauans. They generally identify with, conforming to cultural norms and daily lives with the Palauans.

Chinese have been settling in Palau in small numbers since the 19th century. The early settlers consisted of traders and labourers, and often intermarried with Palauan women. Their offspring quickly assimilated with the local populace and generally identify themselves as Palauan. In recent years, Palau has seen a growing expatriate business community from Taiwan, after Palau established formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1999.

The sport of baseball is widely played in Palau, having been introduced by the Japanese during their occupation of the island nation. The highest level of league play in Palau in represented by Palau Major League (PML), which is overseen by the Belau Baseball Federation. The country is represented in international play by the Palau national baseball team.

Koror City City in Koror

Koror City (KAW-rawr) is the largest city and its commercial center in Palau, home to about half of the country's population, located on Oreor Island. During the interwar period it served as the capital of the South Seas Mandate, a group of islands that made up the League of Nations mandated territory held by the Empire of Japan. It was subsequently the capital of Palau until it was replaced by Ngerulmud in 2006.

Mirair Gabriela Ngirmang was a peace and anti-nuclear activist from Palau.

Palau–Spain relations Bilateral relations

Palau–Spain relations are the bilateral and diplomatic relations between these two countries. Palau currently has no diplomatic or consular representation in Spain. However, Spain has a consulate in Koror, while the embassy representing Spain for Palau is installed in Manila, Philippines.

Palauan nationality law is regulated by the 1980 Constitution of Palau, as amended; the 1994 Palau Citizenship Act, and its revisions; and international agreements entered into by the Palauan government. These laws determine who is, or is eligible to be, a national of Palau. The legal means to acquire nationality, formal legal membership in a nation, differ from the domestic relationship of rights and obligations between a national and the nation, known as citizenship. Palauan nationality is typically obtained either on the principle of jus soli, i.e. by birth in Palau or under the rules of jus sanguinis, i.e. by birth abroad to parents with Palauan nationality. It can be granted to persons with an affiliation to the country through naturalization.


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