PALIKIR, Pohnpei—On September 5th, 2022, the 22nd Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) began it’s 5th Regular Session. After the opening session, His Excellency David W. Panuelo virtually received the Committee to Wait on the President. Chaired by the Honorable Ferny S. Perman, the Committee’s members included the Honorable Perpetua S. Konman, the Honorable Joseph J. Urusemal, and the Honorable Paliknoa K. Welly.
The meeting began with President Panuelo updating the Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic. The President described that the Department of Justice and the Department of Health & Social Affairs recommended amendments to the regulations guiding the Healthy Border Protection Act, and that he has signed off on these amendments, including the removal of the nation-wide mask mandate. Senator Perman—who is also the Chair of the Congressional Committee on Health & Social Affairs—suggested that, in his view, the States of Yap, Pohnpei, and Kosrae are following the Healthy Border Protection Act, and the State of Chuuk is arguably not, on the premise that the other three states are truly “open”, and Chuuk is debatably not. In response, President Panuelo described that limiting the number of flights and the number of passengers until November 1st is, in the Executive Branch’s understanding, consistent with the intent of the law.
The next topic of discussion was with regards to the outcomes of the 4th FSM Constitutional Convention. Mindful that there are eight (8) proposed amendments to the Nation’s Constitution that will be up for citizens to vote either in favor of, or in opposition to, the President reported to the Committee that he will soon be signing an Executive Order for the creation of a Public Awareness & Education Task Force, which will be assigned the duty of informing the Nation’s citizens at home and abroad on the eight proposals and what those proposals would do.
The next topic of discussion was with respect to the President’s supplemental budget request. In this regard, the President solicited the Congress’ support for funding to support the FSM Telecommunications Cable Corporation (frequently referred to as the Open Access Entity to distinguish it from the similarly named FSM Telecommunications Corporation). Additionally, the President solicited Congress’ support for funding to provide for the United Nations’ Multi-Country Office’s land lease; funding for the proposed FSM Embassy to be based in Geneva, Switzerland; and the Nation’s membership fees for relevant international organizations, such as the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The next topic of discussion was with regards to the President’s proposed legislation on marine spatial planning. The President noted that marine spatial planning is purpose-agnostic, and that it is not an end to itself but, rather, a practical way to create and establish a more rational use of marine space, and the interactions among its uses, so as to balance demands for development with the need to protect the environment, and to deliver social and economic outcomes in a manner that is both planned and public.
The next topic of discussion was with regards to grants from donor partners. In order for the FSM Government to formally accept any financial assistance from a donor partner, it is a requirement that the Congress pass a resolution accepting the assistance. In this regard, the President solicited the Congress’ support to consider passing a resolution to accept assistance from the World Bank for the purpose of funding the FSM Skills & Employability Enhancement (SEE) Project, which would aim to review and update the National Career & Technical Education Curriculum Standards & Benchmarks, provide performance grants to designated high schools to upgrade and purchase relevant equipment and materials to strengthen hands-on learning opportunities, and to create a flagship vocational learning center.
The last topic of conversation on the President’s agenda was regarding nominations for various boards. In this respect, the President noted that his nomination of Mr. Samson Pretrick to serve on the MiCare Board, as a representative of the FSM Government, remains pending with Congress for their consideration. Additionally, the President noted that he will be transmitting the nomination for Dr. Marcelle Gallen, who is Pohnpei State Government’s proposed representative for the MiCare Board. President Panuelo noted that, at present, only Lieutenant Governor Arthy G. Nena from Kosrae, and Mr. Kind Kanto from Chuuk, are active on the MiCare Board, and that it is in the FSM’s national interest that the Board be fully constituted again as soon as practicable.
After the President spoke on his agenda, he received requests from Senator Perman on behalf of the Congress. Senator Perman asked President Panuelo if he could provide updates on the Nation’s revenue projections and carryover figures; for an update on the Pharmaceutical Unit, which is required through the FSM Safe Pharmaceutical Act of 2022 to be established by October 1st; for an update on Caroline Islands Air’s current status, including its current and forthcoming aircraft assets and how such assets may be used for domestic flights within the FSM; and to solicit the President’s support in encouraging the U.S. Government to consider allowing FSM citizens who are blacklisted from travel to the U.S. to be allowed to briefly transit in the U.S. Territory of Guam when said citizens are traveling between the State of Yap and the other States of the FSM.
In response to Senator Perman’s requests, President Panuelo advised that he has assigned the Department of Finance & Administration to provide a report on revenue including the specifics behind any and all carryover revenue between fiscal years; that the Department of Foreign Affairs has been assigned to meet with the U.S. Embassy regarding the transiting of persons traveling between the FSM’s States; that the Department of Health & Social Affairs will provide a report on its work to implement the FSM Safe Pharmaceuticals Act; and that he will work with the Department of Transportation, Communication, & Infrastructure, as well as Caroline Islands Air, to provide an update report to be transmitted soonest.
The meeting concluded on a positive note, with President Panuelo emphasizing the Executive Branch’s continued and sincerest appreciation to the Legislative Branch for their service to the Nation and its citizens.