Palau Customs Director calls for stricter border controls

Aerial view of Palau (Photo: Supplied)

The Director of Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, John Tarkong Jr last week recommended that Palau’s president stop issuing waivers of entry permits to persons, vessels and aircraft coming into the country.

In a notice to airlines, shipping agents and agencies, Tarkong said recent events showed that there have been private or military crafts arriving and departing Palau without following the proper procedures of notifying Customs, Immigration and Biosecurity in advance and obtaining clearance prior to their arrival or departure.

‘I recommend that the President stop issuing waivers and only do this for emergency or distress.”

He also said that all vessels, persons or aircrafts entering and departing Palau should follow the rules.

The issuance of waivers by the president, he said “contradicts our efforts in law enforcement and I believe our process would be in line with the U.S entry requirements that requires U.S Customs and border agencies to be required to inspect and clear all military crafts to also under a complete border clearance.”

He said that information is published in 2020 under the Defence Transportation Regulations-Part IV Chapter 502 requiring a complete border clearance inspection of all military vessels prior to arrival and departure at any port of entry.

Tarkong also said in the notice that no craft will be allowed to enter or depart Palau without first obtaining clearance from the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection and this includes Immigration and Biosecurity.

“There should be no international flights to Peleliu and Anguar allowed until we are able to establish presence in Peleliu and Angaur as they are considered international Ports of Entry. It is unacceptable anywhere in the world as a sovereign country to have crafts come in and out of a country without clearance from our border agencies,” he said.

“For the greater good of our society and economy and if you value the border regulatory services and operations that must be established, I ask that we establish our Customs, Immigration and Biosecurity presence at all the ports of entry,” he added.

Earlier, Palau National Security Office Coordinator Jennifer Anson said that during the course of the summer, a total of 400 military personnel from the United States will be deployed in Palau to conduct a series of small-scale training and humanitarian missions.

In the notice, Tarkong said the bureau has met with the national security coordinator and the military representatives to discuss a number of issues and requirements, he however said he has not received a response from them about the issues discussed.

Tarkong added that non- compliance of the protocols “cannot continue unless we can effectively put in place official measures, mechanisms and communication channels to ensure that regulatory processes are streamlined and effective. If we want to improve and have a Coordinated Border Management structure in place, these issues need to be addressed.”

Anson said her office “is trying to make sure all agencies get the information they require.”

First Lt. Duane Kampa of Task Force Koa Moana 21, in an email response last week, when asked about the military’s mission to Palau said that he can’t comment on how many military personnel are arriving to Palau.

He also said that “specifics” of the visit can’t be revealed as the mission is “still in the planning process.”

He stated that Task Force Koa Moana 21 is “comprised of U.S Marines and Sailors from I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) partnered with the U.S Coast Guard, is deploying to the Indo-Pacific to conduct theater security cooperation activities in the Republic of Palau in 2021. “

He added that the personnel ensure that it will adhere to strict COVID-19 mitigation measures of Palau that include vaccinations, pre-deployment restriction of movement, screening and testing of all Marines, Sailors and Coast Guardsmen assigned to the task force.