The 60th meeting of the Association of Pacific Islands Legislatures kicked off its three-day convention in the House of Representatives chamber on Capitol Hill yesterday morning.
Reps. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan) and Joseph “Lee Pan” Guerrero (R-Saipan) and Sen. Vinson Sablan (Ind-Saipan) represented the CNMI during the first day of the meeting that was also attended by members of the legislatures of American Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia (Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei, Yap), Guam, Marshall Islands, Palau, Hawaii, Kiribati, and Nauru.
“We are excited and thrilled to have the members of the APIL and many of their delegates joining in,” Blanco told Saipan Tribune in a brief interview. Blanco also serves as the association’s secretary for 2018-2019 term.
Blanco noted that the CNMI was supposed to host the meeting in early 2019 but was unable to do so because the government was then prioritizing Super Typhoon Yutu recovery. The last time the CNMI hosted the APIL was in 2011 and the APIL meetings for 2019 convened in Yap.
Some of the things that Blanco is looking forward to discussing at the meeting today include airline service to Guam and the use of the resources of the Pacific Islands Development Bank, a regional financial institution that aims to help small island nations and a subsidiary and partner to the APIL.
The main points for discussion would be confirmed when the body continues their meeting on Thursday, Blanco said.
“…We are excited for the next three days of engagement for the sharing of concerns, opinions, ideas, and, most importantly solutions to preserve the identities of our island nations as we prepare to pass on these lands to our children, who are the rightful owners,” Sablan said in his opening and welcoming remarks at the start of the meetings.
Sablan said members of the APIL share several common issues, such as the protection of their traditional practices, environmental preservation, health care service improvements, healthy and controlled economic development, emerging economic industries, federal mandates, food security, climate change, waste management, renewable energy, co-existence with the U.S. military, and much more.
The APIL delegates include Yap Sens. Jerry Fagolimul and Theodore Rutun, who arrived with member-secretariat Dee Libian; Chuuk Sen. Nelson Stephen, Sen. Gardenia Aisek Macayon, Reps. Andrew May, and Shining Sos; Kosrae Speaker Tulensa Palik, Sens. Andy Andrew, Rinehart William, Harry Jackson, Alik Isaac, and floor leader Jarinson Charley; Pohnpei Sens. Edgar Lickaneth, Dahker Daniel, Mayleen Shoniber, member-secretariat, Selpelihter Hadley, and legal counsel Thomas Beckman; Guam Sens. Kelly Marsh, Regine Biscoe-Lee, Speaker Tina Muña Barnes, and Walden Weilbacher; Kiribati parliament members Kaure Babo and Emil Christopher Schutz; Marshall Islands Speaker Kenneth Kedi, Sen. Sherwood Tibon, and chief clerk Morean Watak; Palau Sens. Kerai Mariur and Aric Nakamura; and Hawaii state Sen. J. Kalani English.