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  • By Joyce McClure

Island legislators on Yap take care of business and trash

Colonia, Yap.-- With glove-protected hands holding trash bags, a group of men and women fanned out along the road that circles Chamorro Bay in Colonia early Saturday morning, Feb. 2. Most were members of the Association of Pacific Island Legislatures’ Board of Directors accompanied by staff, friends and family. Picking up trash around the lagoon came at the end of the Board’s three-day long 59th meeting as a means to give back to the community.

The prior Wednesday, Jan. 30, representatives from the organization’s 12 island governments had been welcomed to Yap by the state’s new Governor, Henry S. Falan, and the recently appointed Speaker of Yap’s 10th Legislature, Vincent Figir. Then, Senator Fernando Scaliem of Pohnpei took up the gavel as president and called the meeting to order.

Now in its 38th year, APIL meets “regularly to consider matters in areas where regional cooperation, coordination, exchange and assistance may help governments achieve their goals through collective action.”

During the second day, organizations from Guam and Yap made presentations to the assembly.

Guam Sen. Kelly Marsh-Taitano joins cleanup at Yap APIL meeting

APIL meeting. Photo by Joyce McClure

The Pacific Island Development Bank, which was launched in 1989 by APIL, provided a financial update that showed the organization’s strong balance sheet with assets of nearly $20 million. The Ayuda Foundation, also an initiative of APIL, and Payuta, Guam’s umbrella association of non-governmental organizations, provided updates on their recent activities, many focusing on providing humanitarian aid and support to Saipan and Tinian after Super Typhoon Yutu. In addition, the Yap State Women’s Interest Office informed the group of their work on women’s rights; Catholic Relief Services and the Ulithi-based environmental organization, One People One Reef, also presented the group with overviews of their work throughout the state’s islands including food security and health initiatives.

On the third day, the assembled legislators approved nine resolutions.

New board members, Guam Sens. Kelly Marsh and Mary Camacho Torres presented three resolutions for consideration: 1) “Asserting the need to identify alternative means to improve airline service in Micronesia”; 2) “Calling upon and urging the United States to uphold its commitment toward the Decolonization and Self Determination of Guam”; and, 3) “Supporting the land rights of the Native Chamorros of Guam, the mission of the Chamorro Land Trust Commission, and all efforts in protecting and preserving the land and all other natural resources in Guam.” Each resolution was approved following comments of support from representatives of the other islands that are affected, or have been affected in the past, by the same or similar challenges.

The meeting was originally scheduled to be held in Saipan but was changed to Yap after the devastating typhoon that ripped through Saipan and Tinian late last year. With that in mind, Reps. Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero and Ivan Blanco of CNMI presented a resolution stating, “Respectfully, yet urgently, requesting the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its USCIS agency to work in close coordination” with CNMI’s government officials on “the possible exemption” of the CNMI islands from their “recent decisions affecting the ability of the CNMI to recruit highly skilled Filipino workers to help the people...recover from the ravages of Super Typhoon Yutu.”

The emotional plea requested the APIL president to certify, and the APIL secretary to attest to, “the adoption of the resolution and submit copies to the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and to the Chief Executives and the Presiding Legislative Officers” of APIL’s member jurisdictions. The resolution received the board’s full support.

President Scaliem presented a challenge to the island members in a resolution that applauded “the initiative undertaken by the Hawaii State Legislature in commencing an active program to achieve the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals” by “encouraging all of our legislative adopt and implement similar programs so that all of our island jurisdictions of the ‘Blue Continent’ can be recognized as global leaders for sustainable growth on the world stage.”

Sen. J. Kalani English of Hawaii thanked the president and distributed a booklet outlining specific programs that the state is implementing in the areas of Sustainable Cities and Communities; Responsible Consumption and Protection; Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions; Decent Work and Economic Growth; Quality Education; Good Health and Well-Being; and Partnerships for the Goals. Again, the resolution was approved by all present.

The remaining resolutions thanking Governor Falan, the Yap State Legislature and the presenters, and congratulating the newly elected and returning Governors and lawmakers in the member islands also passed with ease.

The final order of business before getting ready to perform their community service the following morning was to set the date of the organization’s 38th General Assembly for June or July 2019 in Majuro with the proposed theme of Renewable Energy. Both will be voted on and approved at a later date.


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