Saturday, August 31, 2013

Lowering the required “threshold”-- making chance for changes to the FSM Constitution

FSMIS (August 30, 2013): President Manny Mori has sought the concurrence of the FSM Congress in lowering the Constitutional requirement that 75 percent of votes cast on an amendment must be achieved in three of the four States in the FSM in order for the amendment to become part of the FSM Constitution.
In an August 28 letter to Speaker Dohsis Halbert, President Mori called for the lowering of the “threshold” requirement from 75 percent to 60 percent stating that the current requirement “is very challenging” and is “next to impossible”.

“While I do not brush aside the rationale behind the entrenchment of constitutional provisions by making them hard to change, there are times when constitutional changes are imperative and unavoidable because of changing social conditions and economic realities.”

President Mori alluded to a specific example of a proposed amendment that failed to muster the required margins on more than one occasion and was not accepted even though a significant majority of voters were in favor.

“For example, dual citizenship has been proposed on numerous occasions in response to changing demographics and as a result of growing number of FSM citizens residing abroad who are at the same time supporting their families back home”, the President pointed out.

President Mori looked at the political-historical context that gave birth to what he spoke of as a “compromised constitution” that was crafted under very different conditions for the Micronesia of Trust Territory days.

The constitution was designed “to provide authority for independence and self-governance”, among other goals and principles, to a near-splitting formation of entities, each with its own perceived economic opportunities and political aspirations.  Only Micronesia was left to ratify the constitution that heralded the charting of the Federated States of Micronesia in 1979 as a new self-governing nation.

 “Thirty-four years of governance under a compromised constitution gave us enough experiences and lessons”, President Mori said. He concluded that these lessons and experiences have “made us realize that we could do more good things as a nation without the unnecessary restrictions” that hampered new aspirations under present-day challenges and realities.

The proposed bill to enact the lowering of the threshold requirement also contains a provision that calls for the proposal to be submitted to voters in the FSM 2015 general election. Therefore, if Congress passed the bill and it eventually became a law, then the FSM voters will decide the fate of the proposal in March, 2015. Should the threshold remain at 75%, or adjusted downward to 60%?  

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Two Communicable Disease Control and Prevention grants await FSM Congress approval

FSMIS (August 29, 2013): On August 26, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) President Manny Mori transmitted to the FSM Congress information on two available grant awards from the United States Department of Health and Human Services for review and “favorable action”.

Under the FSM Code chapter 2 section 210, “foreign financial assistance” requires approval of Congress before the assistance can be utilized.

The two grants are for Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in the amount of $35,520 and Communicable Disease Prevention and Control Project in the amount of $204,405 at the FSM Department of Health and Social Affairs. The HRSA amount is particularly for HIV “planed activities” and “related programs”.

As these grants are not part of sector funding under the amended Compact with the US, they are categorized and treated under the same process as other foreign financial assistance.

The President underscored the urgent nature of the requests, soliciting for required action during the upcoming September regular session, when Congress’ scrutiny of the FSM National Government fiscal year 2014 consolidated budget will have to be finalized.

For more information on these grants, contact the FSM Department of Health at 320-2619 or email

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

First Courtesy Call on President Mori by Peace Corps Director, Dr. Reid

clockwise from left: Mrs. Lynn Pangelinan, US Embassy staff, Ambassador Rosen, Dr. Reid, Mr. Berlino Martin, Dept. of Foreign Affairs, and President Mori

FSMIS (August 27, 2013): On August 26, The President of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) welcomed the new Country Director of the United States Peace Corps in the FSM and the Republic of Palau, Dr. Robert Reid, through a courtesy call on the President.

Dr. Reid was accompanied by Ambassador Doria Rosen from the US Embassy in Pohnpei.
In the meeting, President Mori reiterated his appreciation to the Peace Corps for the many years of engagement in social development and other activities aimed at improving life in Micronesia. He also spoke of how the program has helped deepening FSM-US ties and forged productive interactions beyond the official level.

The visit afforded Dr. Reid up-close discussions with the President as the Director has already sunk his hands into his new role in Micronesia where the Peace Corps has brought in over four thousand volunteers since the program started in 1966, serving primarily the educational and health needs in the islands.
Throughout the discussions, President Mori stressed that the program integrate its human resource and technical assistance within its mainstream focus as well as other emergent development priorities with strong impacts on economic development.

left: President Mori, Ambassador Rosen, Dr. Reid
Given his varied background of over forty years of government and non-government capacities, Dr. Reid spoke of his intent to direct the program in activities that fit with the current aspirations of the nation and the communities. He said, volunteers would not be confined to classroom instruction, but engaged in what their communities would require in improving capacities for better living.

Among a number of concerns and focus that were probed, the officials explored possibilities in community small scale agriculture, diverse tourism activities, renewable energy, solid waste management awareness, and the need for integrated planning on synchronizing the more traditional social development responsibilities with time-specific sustainable projects that spur economic growth.

“I am a doer, not a talker”, said Dr. Reid after the President expressed his desire to see in real terms the ideas he has shared in discussions with others over the years.

Dr. Reid has had years of services in different capacities with the Peace Corps and other government and non-government sectors, including services in countries such as Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Jamaica, Tuvalu and Fiji. He also has held an important role with the Habitat for Humanity International where he supervised projects for the regions of the East Europe to East Asia and the Pacific Islands, according to information from the US Embassy in Pohnpei. 

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Monday, August 26, 2013

Yap Congressmen brief members of State Legislature

FSM Congress News
Yap Congressional Delegation
Press Release YCD1308-02

 Colonia, Yap. August 20, 2013 – In hopes for more transparent governance, and unified leadership, Congressman Joseph J. Urusemal and Congressman Isaac V. Figir, Yap’s representatives to the 18th FSM Congress, briefed the Yap State Legislature on certain legislative measures before the FSM Congress, primarily those enacted during the First Special Session of Congress last July. Both Congressmen had a similar briefing with the Governor and Lieutenant Governor a week earlier. 

Speaker Falan opened the informal, but official, meeting by thanking the Congressmen for initiating to brief the Yap State Legislature on matters before the FSM Congress.

He further added that the Yap State Legislature thought it would be prudent, as it is in the best interest of the State, to also discuss Yap’s needs and progress towards the State’s submarine fiber optic connectivity, which would enhance Internet services in the State of Yap.

For this reason, the Governor, the Director of DY&CA, and the General Manager of FSM Telecom Corporations Yap Branch (FSMTC) were also invited to join the senators in the meeting.

Before the gist of the discussions began, Senator Chieng voiced to suggest that future briefings by the Yap delegation to Congress be collective of all branches of the Yap State government. He urged for unity amongst the leaders especially now that the leaders and people seem to have been divided over some recent issues before the State.

 Both Congressman Urusemal and Congressman Figir agreed that the recommended approach is best, and easier for them. Future briefings by the Congressmen will be communicated to the Governor and Speaker to coordinate a collective meeting with the rest of the State leadership.

Speaker Falan followed with a progress report on the submarine fiber optic connectivity project between Guam and Palau with a spur to Yap, and further reiterated the State leadership’s position on the need to connect to fiber optic.
 He reported that based on meetings the State leaders have had with representatives of the World Bank (WB), Asian Development Bank (ADB), and the FSM Department of Transportation, Communication, and Infrastructure (FSM TC&I), the State leadership has learned that there is “an offer of a lifetime” presented to [FSM] by the World Bank. This is a full grant offer and it will ensure Yap’s connectivity to the fiber optic cable, and other related technical assistance. He also added that a requirement for this grant offer is the need for the FSM to pass a legislation liberalizing telecommunication services by early next year.

Chairman Figir pointed out that he and Chairman Urusemal have very limited knowledge and information on the project, as they have yet to be briefed on the project. They are also not aware of any recent proposed legislation pending before Congress to liberalize telecommunication services.

Both Congressmen further commented that when a proposed legislation on the issue is introduced, they would have to do an in-depth study of the bill and its impacts on the governments and the people of Yap and the FSM, and only if the bill will benefit Yap and the FSM will they vote to support the liberalization of telecommunication services.

Chairman Urusemal then went on to brief the Yap State Legislature (YSL) on recent congressional acts during the Special Session last July.

The Chairman shared Congressional Bill 18-26, now Public Law 18-06, which is an amendment to extend the deadline for implementation of the FSM Tax Reform. This amendment was to allow the remaining States who have not passed its Value Added Tax (VAT) legislation to do so by September 30, 2013, for the FSM Tax Reform to go through.

Senator Giliko and Senator Mooteb posed similar questions pertaining to the effect of the legislature’s action on the FSM Tax Reform effort as the legislature have recently adopted a committee report not recommending passage of Yap’s RAA and VAT legislation because of constitutional issues.

Chairman Figir responded by saying that the FSM Tax Reform will not go through as the law currently stands, unless an amendment is made to repeal the provision of the tax law which requires all four states to pass its VAT legislation by the said deadline. Chairman Figir further commented that he and Chairman Urusemal respects the decision of the Yap State Legislature, and "we have to live with the consequences one way or the other, and must move on" with nation building.
 The Chairman’s report also included Public Law 18-11, which is an appropriation of $1.68 million to assist the States of Pohnpei and Yap with recurring debts and budget shortfalls. $550,000 of this appropriation was given to the State of Yap for this purpose, provided that $50,000 of the amount is to be used for fuel costs for a ship field trip.

Another appropriation by Congress, the Chairman reported, was Public Law 18-07 for funding public projects and social programs, which includes among other Yap State projects a $150,000 supplemental grant for the Yap Catholic High School construction.

Additionally, Public Laws 18-08 and 18-09 were also mentioned, which are acts of Congress to forgive remaining balances of loans given to Kosrae and Chuuk respectively.

The Chairman also shared with the legislature three resolutions recently adopted by Congress, including a resolution confirming the nomination of Mr. Vincent Tafileluw to serve as a member of the FSM Social Security Board of Directors.

Chairman Urusemal concluded the briefing by informing the legislature that the 18th FSM Congress is scheduled to reconvene for its Second Regular Session in early September. A similar briefing will be communicated after the Session for a collaborative leadership meeting with all branches of the Yap State government.

[Information in this release was made by the FSM Congress Information Office, Yap Delegation Office in Yap State]