Palau, historically Belau or Pelew), officially the Republic of Palau, is an island country with a population of 17,948 on 465 km2, located in the western Pacific Ocean. It contains approximately 250 islands, which form the western chain of the Caroline Islands in Micronesia. The most populous of these is Koror. The capital Ngerulmud is located on the nearby island of Babeldaob, in Melekeok State. Palau shares maritime boundaries with Indonesia, the Philippines, and the Federated States of Micronesia.
The country was originally settled approximately 3,000 years ago by migrants from the Philippines and sustained a Negrito population until around 900 years ago. The islands were first explored by Europeans in the 16th century, and 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 Imperial Germanyin 1899 under the terms of the German–Spanish Treaty, where they were administered as part of German New Guinea. The Imperial Japanese Navy conquered Palau during World War I, and the islands were later made a part of the Japanese-ruled South Pacific 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 against joining the Federated States of Micronesia in 1979, 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 bicameralPalau National Congress. Palau's economy is based mainly on tourism, subsistence agricultureand 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 Japanese, Micronesian and Melanesian elements. The majority of citizens are of mixed Micronesian, Melanesian, and Austronesian descent, with significant groups descended from Japanese and Filipino settlers. The country's two official languages are Palauan (member of the wider Sunda–Sulawesi language group) and English, with Japanese, Sonsorolese, and Tobian recognised as regional languages.
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 miles to the south. About two-thirds of the populationlive 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 375 miles (604 km) from the main islands, make up the states of Hatohobei and Sonsorol.
Palau has a tropical 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.
Typhoons are rare, as Palau lies outside the main typhoon zone. The strongest typhoon that struck Palau since reliable records was Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. A mandatory emergency evacuation was issued for Kayangel. A storm surge damaged several houses. Despite residents' refusal to evacuate safely, no fatalities or major injuries were reported.
|Climate data for Palau Islands|
|Average high °C (°F)||30.6|
|Daily mean °C (°F)||27.3|
|Average low °C (°F)||23.9|
|Source: Hong Kong Observatory,|
The population of Palau is approximately 21,000, of whom 70% 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. 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 Nepalesemigrant 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 Filipinos, Chinese, Bangladeshis and Nepalese coming to Palau as unskilled workers and professionals. There are also small numbers of Europeans and Americans.
The German and Japanese occupations of Palau both subsidized missionaries to follow the Spanish. 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. 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.
According to the 2005 census 49.4% of the population is Roman Catholic, 21.3% Protestant, 8.7% Modekngei and 5.3% Seventh-day Adventist. Only 1% of the population was estimated to be Buddhist in 2010, with the Chinese community also practicing Chinese folk religion as well. In 2009, the small Jewish community sent two cyclists to the 18th Maccabiah Games.
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 financial 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 infrastructuredevelopment.
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. United Airlines now provides near-daily service to and from Guam, and once-weekly service to Yap. Also, Delta Air Lines provides service three times per week to Tokyo.
In November 2006, Palau Saving Bank officially announced bankruptcy. On 13 December of the same year, the Palau Horizon reported that 641 depositors had been affected. Among them, 398 held less than $5,000 USD, with the remainder ranging from $5,000 to $2 million USD. 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 $1 million USD, which originally was for assisting Palau's development, $955,000 USD 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 $4,000 USD in an account.
The income tax has three brackets with progressive rates of 9.3%, 15%, and 19.6% respectively. Corporate tax is 4%, and general sales tax is 0.0%. There are no property taxes.