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Palau Disaster Management Reference Handbook (January 2020)

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Executive Summary

Palau, officially the Republic of Palau, is locally known as “Belau,” and includes 340 coral and volcanic islands, located in the western Pacific Ocean, in the southwest corner of Micronesia.

While Palau is fairly protected by its extensive coral reefs, it does experience frequent natural hazards including typhoons, droughts, and tidal surges. Palau has suffered three major disasters caused by natural hazards since 2012, including Typhoon Bopha in 2012, Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, and severe drought in 2016. The country has an annual dry season from January to March which reduces the quality and quantity of potable water available to local communities. Environmental vulnerability in Palau is high due to diverse, but limited natural resources and fragile ecosystems that must withstand the pressures of a rapidly growing population, and bustling tourism industry. In the 2020 INFORM Global Risk Index, Palau had an overall risk of 2.5/10, which INFORM categorizes in the low risk class. Palau’s risk score for Hazard and Exposure was 1.7/10, for Vulnerability was 2.1/10, and for Lack of Coping Capacity was 4.2/10.

Palau has one of the highest standards of living in the Pacific Islands thanks to a strong tourism industry, an active private sector and United States (U.S.) support. Fisheries and small-scale agriculture are also important for employment and the economy. Palau is an independent country in a Compact of Free Association (COFA) with the U.S.; although the Compact grants from the U.S. are due to expire in 2024, after which fiscal expenditure is expected to be drawn from the Palau Compact Trust Fund.10 The country is an upper middle income country and one of the wealthiest countries per capita. 11 Palau has a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $287.4 million, an adult literacy rate of 99.5% and a life expectancy rate of 69 years.12 Foreign aid makes up approximately 30% of its gross domestic product and tourism accounts for approximately 50% of the economy.

Authorities in Palau are working to achieve a number of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to make development economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. The SDGs prioritized by the authorities are: Promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth (SDG #8); Building resilient infrastructure (SDG #9); Combating climate change and its impacts (SDG #13); and Conserving the ocean and marine resources for sustainable development (SDG #14). The key policy priorities in this regard are ensuring fiscal sustainability, raising potential growth and enhancing resilience, and preserving financial stability and facilitating credit extension.

Since its independence in 1994, the Republic of Palau has developed and implemented various policies for sustainable development set forth in the National Environmental Management Strategy (NEMS), the Economic Development Plan (EDP), the Palau 2020 National Master Development Plan (PNMDP), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Study, the Sustainable Tourism Policies and Action Plan (STPAP), and others. In addition, the primary objective of the 2001 Presidential Management Action Plan (MAP) was to integrate environmental and developmental planning efforts. The Palau Plan 2020 was adopted in 1996 as a long-term comprehensive plan for social, economic, and infrastructure development organized around the overarching theme of improving the quality of life for all citizens. Palau has succeeded in progressing important health and education reforms and is making progress with removing the threat of explosive remnants of war in line with its 2020 National Master Development Plan.

Palau has disaster management (DM) legislation in place to combat their disaster risks.
The 2010 National Disaster Risk Management Framework (NDRMF), amended in 2016, focuses on the strengthening of national disaster risk management structures and mechanisms to disaster management and climate change adaptation into the national budget and plans. In 2015, the government adopted the Palau Climate Change Policy for Climate and Disaster Resilient Low Emissions Development 2015 (PCCP). Its main objective is to build the resilience of Palau to climate change and disasters. The objectives of the PCCP also reiterates and expands on those in the NDRMF. Concordantly, the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) is responsible for the coordination and implementation of preparedness, response and the immediate relief arrangements, and working closely with all stakeholders.