Congressional Delegation Reaches Out to Remote Island Communities in Yap

Colonia, Yap. September 29, 2014 – A delegation from the 18th FSM Congress from mid-August to early September conducted meetings throughout the outer islands of the State of Yap providing updates and information on issues including the challenges of climate change, of immigration and trafficking of persons, and of the termination of the US financial assistance under the Amended Compact comes 2023.

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Chairman Isaac Figir of the Ways and Means Committee, Chairman Tony Otto of the Health and Social Affairs Committee, and Chairman Joseph Urusemal of the Education Committee led the Congressional delegation.

In a report to Speaker Dohsis Halbert dated September 22, 2014, the delegation reported that the meetings were “very productive” with “great turnout and participation” from the community leaders, women’s groups, and the general population. In addition to the meetings, the delegation also reported that they were also able to visit and assess certain community projects, including schools, health clinics, and agricultural projects.

 

2023 and the End of US Financial Assistance

On the transition and challenges of 2023, the delegation shared and promoted discussions on issues related to the termination of the financial provision under the Amended Compact of Free Association comes 2023. The delegation informed the communities that despite the FSM’s financial savings under the Compact Trust Fund and other financial savings programs, it is evident that the level of funding after 2023 will not “be as much as the country currently enjoys”.

The delegation noted the initiatives of the FSM National Government including the President’s executive order and creation of the 2023 Planning Committee, composed of the National and State executive leaders to plan and recommend a course of action for the Nation in anticipation of the termination of the US financial assistance under the Amended Compact.

The delegation further reported that Congress, among other acts, including on-going initiatives to reform current National tax laws, also continues to appropriate domestic revenues into the FSM Trust Fund and its State sub-accounts. Further noting that Congress have also recently passed legislation transferring the National Government’s entire share of Compact funding, with the exception of SEG grants for the College of Micronesia, to the four State Governments. Additionally, Congress continues other burden sharing initiatives with the State governments through appropriations for debt retirements, subsidies, and other public project funding.

On raised concerns on the lack of supplies, equipment and medicines at some sites, the delegation encouraged the communities “to liaise with the State leadership to bring, especially the health and education sectors, up to satisfactory level prior to 2023” as all of the Compact money now rests with the State governments.

The delegation also encouraged the communities to utilize the programs and education extended to them, such as that of a team from the National Department of R&D, Agriculture Division who traveled with the delegation through out the outer islands distributing and promoting local agricultural products.

“Less expensive, local grown food is a key component in self-sustainability”, stated one member of the delegation, while also encouraging the notion of healthier life-styles.

Additionally and equally important as the delegation also encouraged is the need for complete and advanced education for the younger population, making note of the various National scholarships available.

“The future of the FSM could not continue on with business as usual. In our government, business, communities, and homes it is time to work harder, and do more with less”, stressed Chairman Urusemal, as the delegation emphasized the importance of less dependency, self-help and self-sufficiency from all citizens.

 

Climate Change Challenges

On issues of climate change, the delegation informed the communities of the on-going mitigation and adaptation strategies being employed by the FSM National government to deal with the challenges of climate change.

“Of course the FSM should do what it can to conserve, recycle and generally try to lessen its carbon and other resource footprint, but our best efforts will have little overall impact since our country is small. The real challenge for our country is to try, as best as we can, to adapt to the coming climate changes.”

And this, the delegation further added, demands “that all our citizens make themselves more knowledgeable about the risks and strategies to combat any negative changes.”

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“[We] need to be proactive rather than waiting for those outside to render aid”, commented one of the delegation members, while encouraging self-sufficiency and self-reliance by increasing variety and abundance of local food to tackle food security and transportation challenges already posed by climate change.

The FSM Congress in past appropriations had appropriated funds for the purchase and rehabilitation of community buildings for the outer island communities of Yap on the main island as a part of its on-going adaptation efforts.

To date there is no exact data on the current extent or assessment on the future damage of climate change on these island communities; however, common observation from the delegation on this and past visits indicate drastic effects, particularly on food crops caused by rising sea level.

Congress will continue to advocate through parliamentary mechanisms and international conferences more support and attention on the toll climate change continue to have on the people of Micronesia.

 

Concerns on Immigration and Trafficking of Persons

Interrelated to other concerns discussed, the delegation also discussed on the islands visited immigration concerns.

On immigration, the delegation shared that the FSM continues to have a huge out-migration of its citizens especially to the United States and its territories. The delegation also discussed the privileges as provided for under the immigration provision of the amended compact and encouraged the citizens be law abiding good guests while residing for school or work outside the FSM. The delegation also informed the citizens about a new FSM law (PL18-43) requiring all deported FSM citizens to register with FSM Authorities once deported back into the FSM.

The delegation also shared with the island communities a law (PL17-38) passed by the 17th Congress since its last visit to the islands concerning trafficking of persons. They also warned the citizens to be cautious and careful when deciding to travel so as to not fall victims to trafficking crimes, forced labor, and other crimes in general while on foreign ground.

For more information on the delegation’s report on their meetings, please email congresspio@mail.fm.

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