FSM envoy marvels at changes on Saipan
Tag: communication, Guam, Palau
Federated States of Micronesia’s Ambassador to Washington, D.C., Asterio Takesy, marvels at how Saipan has transformed itself from a sleepy town in the 1970s to a hub of tourism activity these days. Takesy is on Saipan with his wife Tina, arriving a couple of days ago to attend the funeral of Tina’s mother Cecilia.
Takesy, who is actually a former resident of the island, got together for breakfast yesterday morning with Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan and honorary Palau consul Joe Lifoifoi. The get-together was organized by Dave M. Sablan and his wife Rita. Also in attendance were Takesy’s wife Tina, Lifoifoi’s wife Cecilia, Fr. Ken Urumolug, S.J., and Sablan’s staff Kyle Calabrese.
“Saipan is truly home to us. All three of our daughters were born and raised here. We not only have friends but also relatives, blood relatives like Joe [Lifoifoi] and Rita and David [Sablan],” Takesy said. Tina herself said they would always have fond memories of Saipan, since it is the place where she and Takesy first met and where their courtship began.
“It’s just like a honeymoon coming back here to Saipan,” smiled Tina, an alumnus of Mt. Carmel School. Takesy said he actually lived on Saipan for seven years, from 1970 to 1977. He was recruited as a public information officer straight out of college by the Trust Territory government and
worked for one summer.
“I applied to work for the Congress of Micronesia then and was hired as chief clerk and I held that position for seven years, then we moved to Pohnpei.”
Since then, Takesey said he’s been back to Saipan more than a dozen times and has seen its transformation.
“Absolutely seen change on the islands. Roads basically, the main arteries are still here but there’s a lot of additional back roads that didn’t exist then. So infrastructure-wise, Saipan has grown a big deal. The housing units not only multiplied but the quality of housing here has improved considerably. It’s to the credit of the representation in the U.S. Congress and the local leadership.”
Takesy said he is aware that the CNMI economy is quite reliant on government expenditure and so whenever the government shrinks it has a huge rippling effect on the economy.
“It is very regrettable that the Saipan economy has been experiencing a downturn but I think I’m seeing a glimmer of light in your regrowth. I see some South Koreans who are investing in here. The hotels seem to be filled but of course I’ve only been here for a couple of days so this is just a peripheral observation.”
In relation to the CNMI, Takesy observed that the economies of the FSM, the Marshall Islands, and Palau are at a slower—albeit steadier—pace than the Commonwealth’s.
“The three Micronesian governments that were spun out of the Trust Territories have grown slowly but I think steadily. The fastest growth is at the Republic of Palau and it’s not surprising because they are the closest to the largest market, which is Southeast Asia in terms of tourism and trade. Palau now I believe has seven airlines. Tourism is definitely the largest. The Marshalls and FSM are slow and we’re still dependent on tourism and fisheries export and limited agriculture.”
When told about a proposed free trade in the region being championed by Guam Speaker Judith Won Pat, Takesy said it couldn’t come at a better time as it is a much needed shot in the arm for FSM’s agriculture sector.
“It’s an enigma. We’ve been trying to export bananas to the CNMI and Guam for years. What has happened is [that] customs regulations haven’t
allowed free movement of agriculture produce [within the region]. The main stumbling block is the bugs that FSM has is different than what exists in Guam and the CNMI but there are many ways to treat that, including fumigation. I think perhaps economic pressures or perhaps there are political pressures.
“I’m not aware of the specifics but I do know that we’re not allowed to bring large volumes of bananas.”
On the other hand, he said that customs and political or economic factors are not entirely to blame.
“In fairness to importers, if you’re in business you want steady volume of exports. Maybe, and I say maybe, we’re not able to produce that. I think there’s a lack of clear communication with regards to what you need and what the FSM is able to fulfill. I think we’re not into that level of understanding yet. I’m in the belief that FSM can produce bananas that can support the tourism industries of the CNMI and Guam.”
Delegate Sablan thanked David Sablan for inviting him to the get-together and even noted that it was historic since “it’s not everyday you have
the ambassador of the FSM and consul of Palau in the same room together.”
“This is a first and I’m proud to join Ambassador Takesy and Consul Joe Lifoifoi. I am actually holding it as a badge of pride in Congress that I’m the only Micronesian in the United States Congress. I am as well as the ambassador and consul are Trust Territory citizens before. I also work closely with the diplomatic corps, including from the Micronesian region. Happy to see Takesy visiting Saipan and I’ve known him forever.”
He also congratulated Lifoifoi for being reappointed Palau consul. “It doesn’t matter who’s the president of Palau, he always gets the appointment.”