Committee to Wait on President discusses Covid19 Change to Quarantine Procedure

POHNPEI, PALIKIR. The Third Regular Session of the 22nd Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia convened on January 13, 2022 as set by Speaker Wesley W. Simina to address the expiration of the President’s Emergency Declaration, along with pending nominations, appropriations & legislation among other matters.

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 congressional members Senator Joseph J. Urusemal, Senator Aren B. Palik & Senator Perpetua S. Konman.

The meeting began with President David W. Panuelo welcoming the Members of the Committee attending, present as well were members of the Executive staff. Vice Speaker Moses informed the President that the Congress is in session and ready to transact business and further mentioned that due to the limited number of days of the previous special sessions, Congress was unable to follow through with all the executive’s requested legislation.

President Panuelo then provided the Executive’s agenda to the Committee with a summary report of the following details with a substantive portion on the Nation’s Covid19 update and its repatriation flights:

1.  Funding for the Chief of Staff

2.  Covid19 Update

3.  ODA Priorities

4.  Supplemental Budget

5.  Pending Legislation

First item on the President’s agenda was a brief statement reminding the Congress of the executive’s wish to reinstate funding for the position of Chief of Staff, and further stressed to the Committee that the former Chief of Staff position is currently vacant.

Next item on the agenda is a Covid19 update by the President informing the Committee that certain changes to the repatriation procedures are now in effect, consequently reducing the quarantine period from 10 to 7 days. The President also regretfully reported to the Committee that as of now, the New Zealand Covid19 financial assistance of $850,000 has been exhausted, and the President is requesting a supplemental request of $1,000,000 needed to sustain the momentum of repatriation operations averaging $100,000 in monthly expenses.  Senator Urusemal asked the President if the needed funds are to cover the expenses of FSM citizens or all individuals being repatriated to the FSM. The President clarified that the FSM National Government will be footing the bill for expenses incurred under the quarantine experience for all individuals, excluding airfare. A discussion was brought up on having a pre-quarantine site in Honolulu, Hawaii, as some patients find the trip too arduous through Guam, the question prompted the President to explain that prior to repatriation operations, an assessment was made and it was determined that such an undertaking would require substantial funding that would be impractical for the FSM. Senator Konman advised the President to have the appropriate health officials to properly inform travelers who are to undergo quarantine procedures to pack adequate amounts of medicine and medical paraphernalia needed for the trip, this includes time spent in quarantine. Guam will continue to remain the gateway to the FSM with the following repatriation schedule according to individual states; Kosrae on the 31st of January, Pohnpei on the 24th of January, Chuuk on the 26th of January with Yap on the 2nd of February.

The third item on the agenda is the ODA (Overseas Development Assistance) Priorities. These are funds primarily from the Asian Development Bank, World Bank & European Union. A few have already been earmarked for ODA priorities that the President indicated that he will be sending by resolution to Congress for its action. There are six priorities under the ODA which include:

1. Climate Resilient Infrastructure for Outer Island Transport

2. Medical Diagnostic Facility

3. Pave the Nation Initiative

4. Renewable Energy

5. Vocational School

6. Water Security

The fourth item on the agenda is a supplemental budget request for Congress to act on regarding the following:

1. $1 million for Covid-19 related activities

2. $250,000 for OAE (Open Access Entity) project

3. $2 million for a two-story facility for office spaces

4. $50,000 for travel costs for crews on FSS Independence and FSS Micronesia

And the final item on the President’s agenda is Pending Legislation. The President provided the Committee with a list of pending legislation that he wishes the Congress to address during this session, the following are the pending legislation:

1.    Freedom of Information Act

2.    Cybercrime Bill

3.    Non-Communicable Diseases

4.    Passport Extensions

5.    Bunkering and Provisioning

6. Penalties for Importing/ Violating Prohibited Plastic Materials

7.    Legislation to Enhance Secretary of Finance’s Tax Enforcement Capacity

8.    Rome Statute of International Criminal Court

9.    Safe Release of Sharks

10.  Maritime surveillance Revolving Fund

11.  Allowing Non-Profit Corporations to be Charted

The President concluded the meeting and thanked the Members of the Committee to Wait with members of the Committee thanking the President, on behalf of Congress, and stated that the Committee would share the President’s agenda with the Congress. The meeting concluded with mutual agreement to move forward on the above issues in a timely and cooperative manner.


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