Editor’s Note: This is the text of the closing remarks Gov. Ralph DLG Torres delivered at the 24th Micronesian Chief Executives’ Summit last Thursday, July 11, 2019, in Nataku, Chuukm in the Federated States of Micronesia.
My fellow chief executives, as we prepare to conclude a very successful and fruitful Forum, I am pleased that we have spent the past two days tackling issues of mutual concern by our respective island governments. This has been another great step forward for all of us as Micronesian leaders.
A great deal of information has been shared with us here. And while we all have an idea of where we stand as a region, we must continue to forge ahead for the common good of our islands.
We know our immediate challenges and we recognize our obstacles. For most of us, we know the pressure of economic hardship very well. Like the vast Pacific Ocean, our challenges unite us and our collective work provides us the tools we need to sow the seeds of prosperity for a sustainable Micronesia.
We have done much, but we can do more. As an advocate for sustainable communities, I would also like to see our islands reduce and eventually eliminate our dependence on imported produce. We all have an abundance of land and marine resources. The key to sustainability is to grow local, eat local, and live local!
In the Marianas, I have initiated several programs aimed at bringing back the most basic lessons in life.
Just a couple of months ago, we started a new program to teach our youth about fishing methods and how to operate boats safely. As an avid fisherman myself, it is my goal to promote subsistence fishing for families across the Commonwealth.
A year ago, I initiated our very first canoe building and voyaging program under the Executive Branch. Our canoe house was completed just weeks prior to the onslaught of Super Typhoon Yutu. We are prioritizing repairs to the Canoe House now so that we can continue moving forward with our goal of promoting the art of traditional navigation.
My administration has also been actively supporting our local farmers by procuring heavy equipment and tools to help them improve their yields for harvest. Our Garapan Public Market is fully operational with fresh produce supplied solely by our local farmers. Governor Leon Guerrero mentioned that she was looking into establishing a central market for farmers to sell their produce. I am pleased to invite you all to visit the Garapan Public Market on your next visit to Saipan.
However, along with our successes, we still have our share of hardships. In the CNMI, in the wake of several large-scale developments, we are experiencing a workforce shortage. I continue to seek the partnership of my fellow chief executives so we can help each other build our workforce capacities.
Along the lines of economic development, I believe we all share common concerns on our very limited access to passenger and cargo service throughout our region. I’m interested to see some of the action items proposed by the Transportation Committee in their presentation yesterday. With strong and viable air and ocean transport services, our region will have a greater gateway to economic growth and development.
Unlike other parts of the world, climate change is a major threat to our remote island communities. As first-hand witnesses to the effects of climate change, we have already seen its current impacts and we have a sense of what is to come if we don’t do our part.
We must take this threat seriously by adopting policies and safeguards that will curb the increase in carbon emissions. Take it from me, having had two major typhoons in only three years.
It has been another meaningful Forum. I am very much grateful to my fellow chief executives for taking the time to come together here in Chuuk.
Mr. Chairman, thank you again for being an outstanding host and chairman for this 24th MIF. On behalf of the CNMI delegation here with me, we commend your government and the wonderful people of Chuuk for making our stay here a memorable one.
I would also like to thank the overall committee and the various subcommittees for putting together a very successful event.
To my fellow chief executives and your delegations that have traveled here, I wish you all a safe journey as you return home. I look forward to seeing you all again at our next meeting.
May God bless us all. Kinisou chapur, olomwaay and si yu’os ma’ase’.
Ralph DLG. Torres is the governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.