Panuelo: 'It would take a very monumental reform of the PIF for us to come back.'
The Federated States of Micronesia has begun the official process of withdrawing its membership from the Pacific Island Forum in protest over the organization’s move to shun Micronesia’s nominee for the executive director position.
FSM sent a diplomatic note to Fiji, PIF’s host, on Feb. 17, marking the one-year exit period that goes into effect on Feb. 14, 2022.
President David Panuelo, however, said FSM intends to remain a full member of each individual CROP agency, such as the Secretariat to the Pacific Community and Forum Fisheries Agency among others.
Panuelo spoke with the presidents of Nauru, Kiribati, Palau and the Marshall Islands regarding the Micronesian Presidents Summit’s withdrawal from the PIF.
The president said FSM's decision to denounce PIF was made after his consultation with Speaker Wesley W. Simina and other senators.
The row erupted when the Micronesian candidate, Gerald Zackios, to be the organization's next secretary-general was rejected in favor of former Cook Islands premier Henry Puna.
“It would take a very monumental reform of the [PIF], in my humble opinion, for us to be able to come back to the table to discuss future options,” FSM Panuelo told PIF Chairman Kausea Natano, who joined the MPS meeting.
“As sovereign nations, we will continue to work with you closely on issues like Climate Change and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing…. But, as I was telling my fellow Presidents moments ago, I have [made the decision] for our denunciation to be sent and it will be sent later today.”
While there was discussion among the MPS countries jointly submitting their denunciations at the same time, it was agreed that the members of the MPS will denounce the PIF in a sequence, so as to allow their respective internal processes to properly conclude.
Much of the MPS’ discussion was with regards to how leaving the PIF impacts—or, conversely, doesn’t impact—assistance from foreign donors.
One of the MPS Presidents described what amounted to a threat from one external partner that leaving the PIF would mean a loss of funding in a particular category, to which that president noted to the MPS that the exclusive beneficiaries of that funding are countries in the South Pacific as opposed to the North Pacific.
Another MPS president described in detail how multiple countries, who otherwise donate to the PIF, are now seeking closer bilateral relations, and how his government has assessed that withdrawal from the PIF is advantageous.