The Association of Pacific Island Legislatures adopted yesterday 20 resolutions on a host of issues such as proposed actions to combat climate change, strengthen tourism, and prioritize high-speed Internet access that each member could take back to their respective island nation for implementation.
Lawmakers from Pacific island nations and territories collectively known as the “Blue Continent” also elected a new set of officers for 2012-2013 led by Guam Speaker Judith T. Won Pat as incoming president.
Walden Weilbacher of the APIL Secretariat said the new set of officers' term starts on Oct. 1, 2012.
The incoming vice president is Marshall Islands Senator Kenneth Kedi; Kosrae Senator will be the incoming secretary; and Pohnpei Vice Speaker Fernando Scaliem as treasurer.
Weilbacher said the next venue for the APIL 32nd General Assembly is in Majuro in the Marshall Islands in June 2013.
Rebluud Kesolei, the current president of APIL and a Palau delegate, said climate change is affecting islands and atolls of the Blue Continent and APIL needs local, regional, and international actions to combat its devastating effects.
“This is from a lot of developed countries that are not very responsible in terms of combating or limiting green house gases, and affecting us here on the islands. What happens in China, what happens in the U.S. or Germany or elsewhere, affects us here in the Blue Continent,” Kesolei said in an interview.
Kesolei said rising sea levels are already eating up on atolls such as those on Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, and Palau.
Pohnpei senator Cindy Lekka, in a separate interview, said on the outer island of Nukuoro where she is from, rising seawater has already been damaging taro patches.
Kesolei and fellow Palau delegates Horace Rafael and Regis Akitaya introduced a three-page resolution that was later on adopted by the regional body, asking APIL members to commit to take positive action as lawmakers and policymakers to effect changes on the local, regional, and international levels to combat devastating effects.
The Palau delegates said presentations by environment experts Dr. Robert Richmond of University of Hawaii and Dr. Meg Caldwell of the Center for Ocean Solutions “further confirm APIL's position that climate change is a continuing serious threat to coral reefs and island nations.”
APIL recognizes meaningful steps that member entities have taken to combat climate change specifically to protect coral reefs, such as protection of watersheds and establishment of marine protected areas; the Micronesian Challenge commitment to conserve 30 percent of near-shore marine resources and 20 percent of terrestrial resources; Kiribati's establishment of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area; and American Samoa's climate change action plan and resolutions to the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force.
CNMI Senate floor leader Pete Reyes' (R-Saipan) resolution, meanwhile, urges all APIL members to work together to secure alternative and affordable fuel sources.
His other resolution requests APIL members to join the CNMI in its quest for reciprocal driver's license between the CNMI and Guam.
Guam Sens. Judi Won Pat and Chris Duenas urge the establishment of a sister organization partnership between APIL and the Pacific Coalition of Non-Profits and Community-Based Services represented by Payu-Ta Inc.
The partnership will provide guidance and support in developing plans and strategies to mobilize resources to meet the needs of islands and to work collectively toward island sustainability in the region.
The Pacific Coalition is an informal group of advocates and service providers from Guam, the CNMI, Hawaii, the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, the Marshall Islands, Hawaii, and American Samoa.
Edgar Lickaneth, from Pohnpei, called upon each APIL member to recognize the need to prioritize high-speed broadband internet access in the region, and solicit the support of each respective executive branch to help legislative assemblies in promoting a joint initiative, “Connecting the Blue Continent.”
“Some of the larger islands of the APIL members have already been blessed with oceanic cables allowing for the installation of high-speed broadband Internet services. Unfortunately, there are still many island jurisdictions of the APIL which must rely on the primitive and very limited capacities of satellite phone linkages or must contend with no internet linkages at all,” Lickaneth said in his resolution.
Guam's Won Pat also asks APIL members to support and advocate for the full implementation of the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program for Chinese and Russian tourists. The U.S. government granted visa waiver for Chinese and Russian tourists visiting the CNMI, but only granted a visa waiver for Russian tourists visiting Guam.
Guam's Chris Duenas, Pohnpei's Fernando Scaliem, and Palau's Rafael urge the Micronesia Chief Executives Summit to adopt and promulgate the Blue Continent Free Trade Agreement to assist in the advancement of APIL and MCES member island economies.
CNMI's House Vice Speaker Felicidad Ogumoro's (Cov-Saipan) resolutions ask each APIL member state to mandate foreign governments, corporations, investors, and other entities interested in conducting scientific research and studies and other activities within the jurisdiction of APIL member states, “to comply with the laws and regulations of the State” and pay certain percentage of dividends from revenues earned from such projects.
Ogumoro also urged the U.S. Congress to recognize the longstanding rights of persons from APIL member states with respect to their political agreements and relationships with the U.S.
Kiribati's Parliament Members Matiota Kairo and Tetabo Nakara request United Airlines to extend their air service to APIL member states which are not presently included in their service routes, including Kiribati.
Some of the adopted resolutions were in recognition of individuals and entities, as well as condolences.
APIL president Rebluud Kesolei's resolution thanked the CNMI Legislature for hosting APIL's 31st General Assembly. The CNMI co-chairs are Reyes and Ogumoro.
Kesolei also recognized U.S. Interior's Office of Insular Affairs Director Nikolao Pula for being the keynote speaker at the APIL general assembly and for his contributions to the people of the APIL member states.
The APIL president also thanked all the presenters at the general assembly.
Members also expressed appreciation to the Republic of China as a “proactive development partner” in the Pacific region and reiterating support for ROC's meaningful participation as an observer in the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change and the International Civil Aviation Organization.
Palau's Kesolei, Guam's Won Pat, and Pohnpei's Scaliem's joint resolution conveyed condolences to the family, relatives, and friends of the late retired U.S. Army Sgt. First Class and Pohnpei State Police Capt. Frank Mendiola Semens of Pohnpei.
Members also expressed condolences to the late former first lady of Yap, Marita Philip Anefal.
The four-day general assembly wraps up today with a tour of Managaha Island.