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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Micronesian leaders wary of Compact impact decisions
Report says some 56,000 FAS citizens in US jurisdictions

Micronesian governors expressed concern not only about the current level of U.S. funding to offset the impacts of migration of an estimated 56,000 citizens from Freely Associated States to islands such as Guam, the CNMI, and Hawaii, but also responses to related issues, based on a copy of the 19th Micronesian Chief Executives’ Summit joint communiqué released yesterday.

At last week’s summit held on Saipan, Micronesian presidents and governors held an executive session with U.S. Department of the Interior representatives, including Office of Insular Affairs director Nik Pula.

The Interior provided the leaders with a new Compact impact report, a copy of which has yet to be released to the media.

The report, according to the joint communiqué, estimated 56,000 FAS citizens currently residing in U.S. jurisdictions.

FAS citizens are those from Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia’s Pohnpei, Chuuk, Yap, and Kosrae.

Under the Compacts, FAS citizens may live and work in the U.S. or its territories without a visa as lawful non-immigrants or habitual residents. In exchange, these territories such as the CNMI and Guam are reimbursed for the expenses they incur in hosting FAS citizens.

Based on the joint communiqué, Guam Gov. Eddie B. Calvo “indicated his disappointment in the overall movement of the U.S. government and the Department of the Interior on issues of Compact Impact, especially the failure to develop a template for the measurement of impacts, failure to report in a timely fashion to the U.S. Congress, and the failure to respond to overall health care, education, corrections, and other impact issues.”

The joint communiqué also said that FAS chief executives recognize that Compact impacts were significant but expressed concern regarding the compilation of data and statistics.

The joint communiqué was signed by presidents, governors or official representatives of the CNMI, Guam, FSM and its four states, Palau and the Marshall Islands.

The Micronesian leaders also requested that funding for the Micronesia Center for a Sustainable Future be reinstated to help respond not only to Compact impact issues but other critical regional issues as well.

They added that a secretariat function is critical to ongoing and effective communication and cooperation.

Based on the joint communiqué, Interior assured the chief executives that they support Micronesian jurisdictions in their efforts to find solutions to financial, social, and cultural issues related to Compact impact.

Interior, according to the joint communiqué, indicated improvements in future responses and programs.

Also among the Compact impact initiatives reviewed included leveraging of partners, corrections facility overcrowding, health care impact, Centers for Disease Control assistance, OIA technical assistance, and other programs aimed at minimizing current Compact impacts.

Gov. Eloy S. Inos earlier told reporters that while the CNMI welcomes the fiscal year 2013 funding of $1.9 million to offset costs associated with the hosting of FAS migrants, the amount is far below the actual impact costs.

He said that based on the CNMI’s calculation, the total cost to the Commonwealth of hosting FAS citizens that the U.S. government has not paid is some $200 million.

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