By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
The Federated States of Micronesia continues to fulfill its obligations under the Compact of Free Association such as allowing the U.S. military to gain access to the nation’s territorial waters, land and airspace for its operations, and Washington must return the favor, according to a Micronesian official.
“While this crucial defense compact does not expire, we are at a crossroads on economic support by the U.S.,” Leo Falcam, the FSM’s chief negotiator, said at a House Committee on Natural Resources' hearing in Washington on July 18.
Under the new compact deal sealed through a memorandum of agreement, the U.S. has pledged $140 million in sectoral grants and $500 million in additional compact Trust Fund contributions to the FSM.
“We appreciate the committee’s consideration of the compact proposals and urge Congress to advance them before current provisions expire at the end of this fiscal year,” Falcam said.
The proposed allotment for the FSM is part of the $7.1 billion in 20-year economic assistance to the freely associated states.
The current economic provisions for the FSM are set to expire on Sept. 30 but the proposed agreements are still awaiting congressional action.
“The package is designed to address the needs of the government and our people as we advance toward increased self-sufficiency and maturity as a nation," Falcam said.
More than half of key government services are funded by the U.S.
“A funding lapse would create an unprecedented economic and political crisis in our country and our people and would have an overall destabilizing effect in the region,” Falcam said.
The FSM, despite its diplomatic ties with China— the U.S.' main competition— plays a major role in the U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific strategy. Yap’s airport has been designated as a divert facility to allow the U.S. military to smoothly shift operations depending on where the threat is directed.
“The defense partnership is vital to securing and maintaining peace and prosperity throughout the Pacific. Our defense ties remain strong and ongoing,” Falcam said, emphasizing that “the FSM has no greater friend than the United States.”
“Since the first compact entered into force, the FSM has continuously granted the U.S. security and defense rights in our territory, which represents a very large section of the Pacific Ocean of utmost strategic importance to both the U.S. and the region.”
The compact also grants the U.S. denial rights that bar other foreign nations' military access to the FSM's waters, land and airspace.
But first, Falcam said, the U.S. must ensure the FSM’s economic stability and self-sufficiency.
He said the proposed economic assistance “will strengthen our country for generations to come” and “build on the advances made to date and enable the important developments.”