Falan: Yap is increasingly finding itself at the mercy of China




Henry Falan

By Pacific Island Times News Staff


China’s growing tentacles are crawling into Yap, former Gov. Henry Falan said, alleging that the communist nation’s cash-splashing spree has influenced the state’s political affairs.


In an open letter to U.S. President Joe Biden, Falan said Beijing has created a “boxing ring” in Yap, “pitting leaders against leaders and citizens against citizens with proposals for large commercial developments that will overwhelm us.”


Falan, who has repeatedly warned against China’s proposed massive development proposal for Yap, was impeached by the Yap Legislature in December.


“We are now left with internal bullying, corruption, and no accountability by a faction among our leaders who are influenced and backed by foreigners,” Falan wrote in his letter to Biden.


When he was elected governor in November 2018, Falan opposed the blueprints for the 10,000-room resort facility project proposed by China’s ETG.


“Those plans were aggressively imposed upon us, and steps were taken to influence leaders in our community to promote them with gifts of money and travel,” Falan said.


“The myth of this proposed development is continuing to be perpetuated by a tyranny of experts who are attempting to impose a top-down corporate model that ignores critical community-based, relevant reviews and approval, thus overriding the wishes, wants and needs of Yap’s citizens as indicated by the results of the 2018 election,” the former governor said.


“I was subsequently removed from office without trial for fabricated assertions by my adversaries in that election for the same reason I was elected,” he added.


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Following is the full text of former Yap Gov. Henry Falan's open letter to U.S. President Joe Biden


Dear Mr. President:


I am humbly and respectfully writing to you as a fellow public servant, as two leaders in different yet united democratic nations, because I believe America must know what is happening in my home island of Yap in the western Pacific Ocean nation of the Federated States of Micronesia.


We are unraveling from outside influences. Cultural values that once were the pulse of survival and woven into our social fabric are eroding. Traditions of dialog and debate that allowed for consensus building and collective decision-making have disappeared.


We are now left with internal bullying, corruption and no accountability by a faction among our leaders who are influenced and backed by foreigners.


A news report in the South China Morning Post on June 13 quoted Beijing as saying the Pacific region “should not become 'a boxing ring' for the U.S.-China rivalry…”


Yet that is exactly what Beijing has created on my home island and many others like it, pitting leaders against leaders and citizens against citizens with proposals for large commercial developments that will overwhelm us.


I was elected governor in November 2018 because I opposed foreign blueprints for massive tourist development by that powerful country. Those plans were aggressively imposed upon us, and steps are taken to influence leaders in our community to promote them with gifts of money and travel.


I was subsequently removed from office without trial for fabricated assertions by my adversaries in that election for the same reason I was elected.


But this is not about me. It is about my people and our fragile homeland.

When first approached several years ago by a large developer from China with promises and offerings, it was widely believed by some in Yap’s leadership that such development reflected the desired search for growth that has eluded small islands throughout the region.


The myth of this proposed development is continuing to be perpetuated by a tyranny of experts who are attempting to impose a top-down corporate model that ignores critical community-based, relevant reviews and approval, thus overriding the wishes, wants and needs of Yap’s citizens as indicated by the results of the 2018 election.


The sponsoring country’s representatives have provided, and continue to provide, a select few Yapese with significant monetary gain while the rest of the state faces the very real prospect of environmental and moral degradation with an influx of gambling, drugs and prostitution as seen in other communities around the world that have accepted their promised largess.


The American public and its leaders have invested heavily in our nation over the last seven decades towards the development of democratic institutions. And, with the pending signing of a new amendment to the Compact of Free Association between the US and FSM that will continue that support, I believe strongly and urgently that you should know about the outside forces that are tearing us apart, threatening the existence of our democratic government, and overtaking one of the U.S.’s most strategic assets in the western Pacific Ocean. Some call Yap “the tip of the spear.”


It is not just the large island nations, it is the smallest ones that are at risk of being devoured by the rising tide of climate change, as well as the rising tide of greed and geopolitical conflict.


Yap, despite its modest land and population size, is set in a quadrangle between Palau, Guam and Saipan. These and the other islands throughout the North Pacific make up one of the most commercially viable regions in the world.

Yap alone is comprised of 100,000 square miles of FSM’s 1 million square miles of open ocean, the most important tuna fishing ground in the world. We also sit atop one of the world’s most valuable deposits of unmined ocean minerals.


Yet Yap and its sister islands are largely ignored in favor of the larger “brand-name” islands, leaving the door open for foreign interests handing out grandiose offers.


Your citizens, through hard-earned taxpayer dollars, have been funding our small state of Yap through the Compact since 1986 when FSM went from being a trust territory to an independent nation.


Yap is commonly known as the Island of Stone Money, where money is made of stone, but the heart is soft. Our 134 islands and atolls, of which 22 are inhabited, stretch 500 miles across the open ocean. Among them is Ulithi Atoll, one of the deepest lagoons in the world that was a major staging area for the U.S. Navy at the end of World War II. Four distinctly different languages are spoken by our 11,000 residents. Yap is said to have the best-preserved culture in the Pacific region, which we value highly.


America is the greatest contributor to Yap’s democratically elected system of government and our constitution. Today, approximately 1,600 citizens of Yap freely live, work and study in the United States thanks to the Compact. I am grateful to the U.S. for my own formal education and the generous social, financial and military support it has given us.


Before the installation of a constitutional democratic government and popular election, Yap was governed by chieftains whose respective power and authority were ascribed by the particular land estate into which each chief was born. Both systems are still alive today with a unique fourth branch of government comprised of two Councils representing the ten municipalities of the main island of Yap and the Outer Islands. The councils are responsible for addressing issues relating to culture and tradition.


But members of the leadership of both systems have been influenced, if not corrupted, by the promises and gifts fed to them by this other foreign power intent on overtaking the Pacific region.


Throughout my entire career of nearly 50 years as a public servant in Yap, I have always looked to the U.S. with profound gratitude, respect, and great admiration as the North Star – a guiding light for democratic values and principles.

However, the U.S. created welfare states of many of these islands by not demanding accountability and the cessation of corruption.


I am optimistic that Vice President Kamala Harris’s recent announcement about the U.S. expanding its presence in our region through new diplomatic relations, reviving dormant programs and extending more economic assistance, will not be too late. Nor will it be top-down but rather bottom-up by involving our people in identifying what is needed and then allocating resources accordingly. I welcome the opportunity to be involved in that process.


Most humbly and respectfully,


Henry S. Falan

Former Governor

State of Yap, Federated States of Micronesia



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