- By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Repatriation plans for Guam-stranded Micronesians underway
Micronesian citizens who have been stranded on Guam for nearly eight months due to borders shutdown in the Federated States of Micronesia are anticipated to head back home next month, the FSM government said.
Livingston A. Taulung, secretary of FSM Department of Health and Social Affairs, said the government is finalizing its negotiation with a Guam hotel that will provide lodging for FSM citizens, who will be pre-quarantined prior to their repatriation.
“Our memorandum of agreement with the hotel has reached legal sufficiency with the Department of Justice, and as of this morning we finalized our proposed text for the memorandum of agreement with the medical provider,” said Taulung, who also chairs the FSM Covid-19 Task Force.
Taulung said repatriation-related activities are likely to begin "in the coming weeks," with the first wave of repatriates arriving "sometime in October." No specific dates have been set, he added.
Last month the national task force announced plans to implement a 14-day pre-quarantine on Guam with two tests, followed by arrival and onsite quarantine for 14 days and additional tests.
He said the bulk of the executive branch’s $1.7 million supplemental budget has been earmarked for expenses related to pre-quarantine processes on Guam, including a charter flight via an international commercial carrier.
An undetermined number of traveling FSM citizens have been stranded in transit on Guam and Hawaii on their way home when President David Panuelo first declared a public health emergency on Jan. 30, imposing restrictions on travelers from Covid19-stricken countries.
The nation’s four states — Pohnpei, Kosrae, Yap and Chuuk—completely walled up their borders on March 25.
FSM is among the few countries in the world that remain coronavirus-free.
The FSM government has allocated $300,000 to assist the stranded Micronesians.
In Pohnpei, the state Covid 19 task force conducted a simulation exercise, which included a round of testing for prospective repatriating citizens.
“As for the simulation exercises in Yap,” Taulung said, “We are hoping to secure a flight through a domestic carrier soon. As you know, Chuuk State is still not ready to accept our teams, but we’re advised that, once Yap is finished, then Chuuk will most likely accept our assessment team.”
The repatriation plans were discussed at Committee to Wait on the President when the 21st FSM Congress began its fifth regular session on Sept. 14.