9 leaders grace MIF opening

Torres appointed as MIF chair

The 23rd Micronesia Islands Forum packs a full house on its first day yesterday at the Hibiscus Hall of the Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan. (ERWIN ENCINARES)

The 23rd Micronesia Islands Forum kicked off on Saipan yesterday with nine Micronesian leaders talking about the common problems facing the region.

With 270 registered participants, the three-day forum is attended by several Micronesian leaders: Palau President Tommy M. Remengesau, Federated States of Micronesia President Peter M. Christian, Republic of Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine, Chuuk Gov. Johnson Elimo, Pohnpei Gov. Marcelo K. Peterson, Kosrae Lt. Gov. Carson K. Sigrah, Yap Lt. Gov. James Yangetmai, Guam Gov. Eddie B. Calvo, and CNMI Gov. Ralph DLG Torres.

Torres was chosen yesterday as the 23rd chair of the MIF, succeeding Guam’s Calvo as the 22nd chair. Torres’ nomination was unopposed, leading to him bagging the chairmanship yesterday.

“…It is an honor to have the president of Palau, FSM, and RMI as well as the other governors’ vote of confidence for me to guide,” said Torres in an interview yesterday.

He noted that it was important that members of Micronesia meet to discuss issues that they face altogether, such as surviving as small islands in a world where globalization is a standard; decolonization and self-governance; and building relationships with the Pacific U.S. territories and the Freely Associated States.

“It is very important [to move forward as one Micronesia]. We have a lot of similarities on our histories and cultures, but we also need to know that we should help one another,” he said.

According to Torres, several members have had past relationships with the CNMI, such as Yap’s Yangetmai, who was a teacher in the Public School System for about 27 years, and Palau’s Remengesau, who has roots on Saipan.

“I want to strengthen that relationship…I think we should start expanding our resources and helping [other Micronesian islands] as much as we can,” he said.

Remengesau noted in his welcoming remarks that the massive participation yesterday was a good sign. He said that at the first MIF, which was held in Dolphin Park, Palau, the forum drew significantly less attendees.

“I believe this meeting [on] Saipan is demonstrating an incorporated effort to move this body forward and to begin the process of coordination between the host country and the secretariat, resulting in better committee performance. At the end of the day, the success of our committees in enhancing regional communication and action will define the success of the MIF,” he said.

“…As I have always said, the oceans indeed do not divide us but bring us closer together. We can prove that this is true by working together through this forum, solving the issues that need a regional response. In order to do this, we need to trust each other and to trust this regional process of cooperation,” he added.

Bittersweet 23rd

Guam’s Calvo said that since this was his last year as governor, this also means it is his last time to be in the forum as a leader.

Although the experience may be bittersweet, Calvo said he looks forward to attending future MIF meetings as a member of the audience instead of a chief executive representing Guam.

“…I have enjoyed and learned so much with this organization in over eight years. Getting to know more of my other island neighbors, working collaboratively toward joint resolutions on many issues; and working on many opportunities together…I am going to miss them,” he said in an interview yesterday.

Regarding the importance of holding meetings between Micronesian islands, Calvo echoed the importance of collaboration.

“…There are so many things we have joint discussions on and hopefully collaborate on policies we can agree on [such as] fisheries [or] our environment,” he said.

Topics for the MIF today include discussions on the economic viability of Micronesia; a presentation on the Regional Workforce Development Council from NMI Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente; discussions on regional recycling initiatives, regional transportation, and regional health; and a presentation on climate change.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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