PALIKIR, Pohnpei—Recently, His Excellency David W. Panuelo—President of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)—virtually received the Board of Directors of both the FSM Telecommunications Corporation (FSMTC) and the FSM Telecommunications Cable Corporation, frequently referred to as the Open Access Entity (OAE). The purpose of the meeting was to discuss with the Boards the FSM Government’s position regarding the importance of the East Micronesia Cable (EMC) Project funded by the Governments of Australia, Japan, and the United States of America that, when completed, would see secure, stable, and highly efficient internet access in the State of Kosrae, the Republic of Nauru, and the Republic of Kiribati. The primary outcome of the meeting was the full assurance of both the Board of Directors of FSMTC, and the Board of Directors for the OAE, that there will not be any denial of access to the HANTRU-1 fiber optic cable.
The meeting began with President Panuelo briefing the two Boards of Directors on the EMC Project, including its importance to the FSM’s national security, and how the ongoing FSM Supreme Court Case 2021-010 (FSMTC vs OAE) presents risks to the FSM’s connectivity, security, and diplomacy efforts. The President’s 20-minute briefing was consistent with a Press Release on the same topic, and readers unfamiliar with the extensive background and context to this meeting are encouraged to read that release in full here: https://gov.fm/index.php/component/content/article/35-pio-articles/news-and-updates/675-though-fsm-supreme-court-confirms-iru-deed-between-fsmtc-oae-is-legally-valid-enforceable-fsm-still-faces-connectivity-security-diplomacy-challenges?Itemid=177
During the meeting, the Chair of the FSMTC Board, Leonard Isotoff, said “FSMTC’s position has always been aligned with the [FSM] National Government and we maintain that we want to see fiber optics to all [of the FSM’s] States…so the grant funding is welcome and will benefit everybody. I can commit to you, on this call, and as discussed with the team…that you have FSMTC’s full support on the EMC Cable Project, and we will not deny access to the HANTRU-1 in any way. So you have the full support of the FSMTC Board and Management Team…. We support the EMC Project in its current form, and we agree that it’s an opportunity that we cannot miss.”
Chair of the OAE Board, Redley Killion, said “The [EMC] Project is very important—our OAE Board treasures that very much and we appreciate the efforts to resolve this so that nothing stands in the way of moving forward on that very important project, so we can bring our remaining State of Kosrae to being connected…. We have instructed our management staff and our attorney to work with FSMTC and the [FSM] Attorney General to come up with whatever is appropriate to resolve this issue, the [FSM Supreme Court] case…something has to be worked out in writing, and we are ready to move on that.”
Secretary of the Department of Transportation, Communications, & Infrastructure, T.H. Carlson D. Apis, said “What is important [from this meeting] is the strong support from FSMTC and the OAE regarding the EMC so that we can move forward with the donors to progress it further forward. We all agree that the FSMTC and OAE will benefit from this cable.”
It is the understanding of the FSM National Government that both FSMTC and the OAE have committed to resolving their legal disputes with one another, including the dispute as it relates to the EMC Project and the ownership and use of the HANTRU-1 cable. With such a resolution and on-the-record commentary from the two Boards of Directors, the FSM Government has relayed to the Governments of Australia, Japan, and the United States of America that the EMC Project that will connect Kosrae, Nauru, and Tarawa with the existing HANTRU-1 cable in Pohnpei can move forward without further delay or hindrance.