PALIKIR, POHNPEI. May 6, 2021. The 11th Special Session of the 21st Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia convened on May 3, 2021 as set by Speaker Wesley W. Simina.Following the formalities to open and convene a session, Speaker Simina appointed Vice Speaker Esmond B. Moses to head the Committee to Wait on the President with Senator Robson U. Romolow, Senator Joseph J. Urusemal and Senator Aren B. Palik.
The meeting began with President David W. Panuelo thanking the members of the Committee for attending, present as well were the Members of the Executive Cabinet. Vice Speaker Moses informed the President that the Congress was in session and was ready to transact business. President Panuelo provided an executive agenda to the Committee primarily focusing on vaccinations, repatriation of stranded citizens, and the executive supplemental budget, along with other national issues.
Discussions began with the recent secession of the FSM’s membership from the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in February this year, resulting in other countries of Micronesia namely, Palau, the Marshalls, Kiribati and Nauru to follow suit in a show of solidarity. The FSM’s initiative to withdraw from PIF stems from a breach on a gentleman’s agreement to appoint a delegate of the sub region of Micronesia to the position of PIF Secretary General, “as there is no level playing field for candidacy,” stated President Panuelo. Though there were sincere efforts to convey the disappointment of other countries on Micronesia’s decision to withdraw from PIF, President Panuelo’s stance on the issue was that Micronesia should stand firm with its decision, unless monumental reforms in equitable sub regional representation and lobbying are addressed. President Panuelo assured the Committee that the decision was initiated with careful consideration, and that the economical impact of the secession from PIF will be little to none. The FSM’s withdrawal will take one year for complete membership dissolution according to the PIF treaty.
The 2nd item on the President’s Provisional Agenda is an update to the Committee on the recent decision by Pohnpei State and the FSM National Government to move forward with the repatriation of patients and resident diplomats come May 13, 2021. The decision was based on preventive protocols currently in place to accommodate incoming citizens from Covid infected regions, in this instance from Guam. With quarantine sites at the ready and with more than enough vaccines for the populace, “the only challenge now is getting people vaccinated,” reported Acting Secretary Marcus Samo. As it stands now, vaccinations for citizens 18 years and older nation wide is 35% for the 1st dose, with 24% for the 2nd dose. At the state levels, Kosrae State leads with 45% for the 1st dose, with 33% for the 2nd dose; second is with Yap State with 43% for the 1st dose, and 40% for the 2nd dose; Pohnpei State comes next with 36% for the 1st dose, and 22% for the 2nd dose; and finally Chuuk State with 31% for the 1st dose, and 21% for the 2nd dose. It has been decided that Pohnpei will be the hub for repatriation as the other states are currently not up to par with repatriation protocols and infrastructure. The President reported to the Committee that since the ban on travel for incoming citizens was implemented over a year ago, the number of outgoing citizens traveling outside of FSM since then has topped 2047.
The next item on the President’s agenda expresses the concerns of the executive on the submitted nominations not being addressed this session, this will require the nominations to be resubmitted for next session with the 22nd Congress. The President is seeking passage of this legislation this session and requesting Congress to address the executive nominations prior to the inauguration of the 22nd Congress.
The 4th item on the President’s agenda is the Executive seeking support for the passage of protocols for the International Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. There are 11 countries that have not signed the protocols with FSM being one of them, in addition to another legislation for passage the Executive is seeking is regarding the Tax Reform Process on the Foreign Investment bill.
The last item on the on the President’s Provisional Agenda is the Executive’s supplemental budget regarding travel, essential subsidies and congressional approved increased salaries of the Justices of the FSM Supreme Court.
The meeting concluded with a mutual agreement to move forward expeditiously to address these issues of the Nation.
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