WASHINGTON, D.C.—President Trump signed the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act yesterday, including an extension of the Compact of Free Association with the Republic of Palau. Delegate Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (Ind-MP) has been working for several years to get the 15-year extension enacted into law. It was originally negotiated by the U.S. and Palau in 2010, but never formally approved.
“Because of the strategic importance of Palau to the security of all of us in the Western Pacific, I have worked hard to win approval of the extension of the Compact of Free Association,” Sablan said. “Peace and stability are the underpinnings for the economic health of our region.
“And because I am the only Micronesian in the U.S. Congress, I also feel a special responsibility to help people throughout the island Pacific, whenever I can.”
The annual Defense bill emerged as a route to approval of the Compact in 2016. Sablan had introduced legislation approving the Compact and authorizing multi-year funding. He arranged hearings for his bill before House Foreign Affairs and Natural Resources subcommittees. Then, working with Pacific representatives Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawai’i), he was able to win the support of the Defense Department for inclusion of the Compact approval in the 2017 Defense bill.
Although that effort was not successful, Sablan again introduced Compact legislation this year, again got a hearing on the bill, and won approval in the House Natural Resources Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah). Bishop is also a member of the House Armed Services Committee, which writes the annual Defense authorization.
“Focusing on Compact approval as a matter of strategic importance to the United States was key, I think, to getting it through Congress and signed into law today,” Sablan commented.
“Although Congress has appropriated the funding amounts negotiated with Palau year-after-year, we were not giving Palau the assurance of long-term commitment that approval of the Compact provides.
“From Palau’s point of view—and to other nations in the Pacific region—it seemed as though America was not good for its word. America could not be trusted.
“That is no way for our nation to maintain influence in what is becoming every day a more strategically important—and contested—area of the world,” Sablan said. “But today we showed America is committed to the Pacific.” (PR)