Panuelo: FSM now fully prepared to deal with Covid-19 pandemic
FSM, US target completion of Compact renegotiation by January 2021
FSM President David Panuelo
After nearly10 months of isolation and meticulously preparing to combat Covid-19, the Federated States of Micronesia is "more prepared now than it has ever been to face a pandemic," according to President David Panuelo.
"We’ve spent this time building our response and prevention capacity," Panuelo said in a public address celebrating the 34th anniversary of FSM's independence on Nov. 3. "From the development of procedures and construction of facilities, to the implementation of training and social protection programming, as your president I have demanded an airtight system and I believe we are nearly there."
FSM, which shuttered its borders as early as March, is among the few remaining countries in the world that remain Covid-free. As a result of the borders' shutdown, travelling FSM citizens were stranded in transit on their way home and have since been stuck in different locations.
"Many of us have concerns and doubts lingering in our heads. We may ask questions, like: Is our nation prepared for a worst-case scenario of Covid-19 reaching our shores? Will we ever repatriate our citizens stranded abroad?" Panuelo said.
FSM citizens stranded in Marshall Islands were originally scheuled to return home on Oct. 30. However, the FSM government has delayed the repatriation plan partly due to Marshall Islands' reporting its first two cases positive cases of Covid-19 on Kwajalein Atoll, among other factors.
The FSM government also found that less than of the 23 citizens intended for repatriation had completed Covid-19 testing by Oct. 29
In an earlier statement, the FSM government said it remained "committed to implementing all efforts to repatriate its citizens under the safest and most effective procedures necessary to protect the health and safety of its citizens abroad, as well as its citizens and residents currently residing in the FSM."
"It is my hope that we can begin repatriating some of our stranded citizens as early as possible," Panuelo said in his Independence Day address.
FSM emerged from the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, which the United States administered on behalf of the United Nations from 1947 until 1978. FSM's Compact of Free Association with the U.S. went into effect on Nov. 3,1986.
"For 34 years, our canoe has sailed, guided by our four shining stars of Pohnpei, Yap, Chuuk, and Kosrae," Panuelo said. "Our canoe’s destination has always been self-reliance, which can only be achieved by you, and I, and all of us working together like our Founding Fathers did, paddling our canoe as we sing the same song in harmony, in continuing our nation-building process."
FSM's relationship with the U.S. is entering a new era as it renegotiates the funding provisions of the Compact.
"Will our nation be financially secure after 2023?" Panuelo said.
He said the FSM and U.S. negotiating teams have targeted the completion of negotiations by January 2021.
"Meanwhile, our sovereign FSM Trust Fund and our Compact Trust Fund combined, the amount is slightly more than one billion dollars. We are doing everything we can to keep our nation financially secure beyond 2023 and far into the future," Panuelo said.
"Given the optimistic road ahead in our nation-building process, there is no good reason why we should fear the future, my dear citizens, but there is every reason why we should face it seriously, neither hiding from ourselves the gravity of the problems before us nor fearing to approach these problems with the unwavering purpose to solve them head-on."