Flag of Palau

Map of Palau


After three decades as part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific under US administration, this westernmost cluster of the Caroline Islands opted for independence in 1978 rather than join the Federated States of Micronesia. A Compact of Free Association with the US was approved in 1986, but not ratified until 1993. It entered into force the following year, when the islands gained independence.


Oceania, group of islands in the North Pacific Ocean, southeast of the Philippines

Geographic coordinates:

7 30 N, 134 30 E


total: 458 sq km
water: 0 sq km
land: 458 sq km

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 3 nm
extended fishing zone: 200 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 12 nm


Tropical; hot and humid; wet season May to November


varying geologically from the high, mountainous main island of Babelthuap to low, coral islands usually fringed by large barrier reefs

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mount Ngerchelchuus 242 m

Natural resources:

forests, minerals (especially gold), marine products, deep-seabed minerals

Land use:

arable land: 8.7%
permanent crops: 4.35%
other: 86.95% (2001)

Natural hazards:

typhoons (June to December)

Environment - current issues:

inadequate facilities for disposal of solid waste; threats to the marine ecosystem from sand and coral dredging, illegal fishing practices, and overfishing

Geography - note:

westernmost archipelago in the Caroline chain, consists of six island groups totaling more than 300 islands; includes World War II battleground of Beliliou (Peleliu) and world-famous rock islands


20,016 (July 2004 est.)

Ethnic groups:

Palauan (Micronesian with Malayan and Melanesian admixtures) 70%, Asian (mainly Filipinos, followed by Chinese, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese) 28%, white 2% (2000 est.)


Christian (Roman Catholics 49%, Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Assembly of God, the Liebenzell Mission, and Latter-Day Saints), Modekngei religion (one-third of the population observes this religion, which is indigenous to Palau)


English and Palauan official in all states except Sonsoral (Sonsoralese and English are official), Tobi (Tobi and English are official), and Angaur (Angaur, Japanese, and English are official)

Government type:

constitutional government in free association with the US; the Compact of Free Association entered into force 1 October 1994


Koror; note - a new capital is being built about 20 km northeast of Koror

Administrative divisions:

16 states; Aimeliik, Airai, Angaur, Hatobohei, Kayangel, Koror, Melekeok, Ngaraard, Ngarchelong, Ngardmau, Ngatpang, Ngchesar, Ngeremlengui, Ngiwal, Peleliu, Sonsoral


1 October 1994 (from the US-administered UN Trusteeship)

National holiday:

Constitution Day, 9 July (1979)


1 January 1981

Legal system:

based on Trust Territory laws, acts of the legislature, municipal, common, and customary laws

Economy - overview:

The economy consists primarily of tourism, subsistence agriculture and fishing. The government is the major employer of the work force, relying heavily on financial assistance from the US. Business and tourist arrivals numbered 50,000 in FY00/01. The population enjoys a per capita income twice that of the Philippines and much of Micronesia. Long-run 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.

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

3.4% (2000 est.)

Labor force:

9,845 (2000)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture 20%, industry NA, services NA (1990)

Agriculture - products:

coconuts, copra, cassava (tapioca), sweet potatoes


tourism, craft items (from shell, wood, pearls), construction, garment making

Exports - commodities:

shellfish, tuna, copra, garments

Exports - partners:

US, Japan, Singapore (2000)

Imports - commodities:

machinery and equipment, fuels, metals; foodstuffs

Imports - partners:

US, Guam, Japan, Singapore, Korea (2000)


US dollar (USD)

Telephones - main lines in use:

6,700 (2002)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

1,000 (2002)

Telephone system:

general assessment: NA
domestic: NA
international: country code - 680; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean)


total: 61 km
paved: 36 km
unpaved: 25 km

Ports and harbors:


Merchant marine:



3 (2003 est.)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2003 est.)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2 (2003 est.)

Military - note:

defence is the responsibility of the US; under a Compact of Free Association between Palau and the US, the US military is granted access to the islands for 50 years