PALIKIR, Pohnpei—On January 13th, 2023, His Excellency David W. Panuelo—President of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)—delivered his State of the Nation address to the 22nd Congress and the People of the FSM. The statement, as prepared, is in below and in full, though readers are solicited to check against delivery. The statement can also be viewed on YouTube via the Congress’ livestream; the link to the beginning of the address, after appropriate introductions in vernacular and to traditional leadership, can be found here: https://youtu.be/42iL_sT4P7k?t=4765
Address by H.E. David W. Panuelo
On the Occasion of the State of the Nation, January 13th, 2023
Mr. Speaker and Honorable Members of Congress,
Kindly allow me to pay my respects in my native language to our traditional leaders.
Mwohnsapwoko / Isohko, Re ketin kupwure I’en kak warohng pahda Kahlapoko oh Isohko, (tiengki) pouse sapwelimahr depwekinleng en kaping oh wahu; keipweni pahn kupwuren Enihlap / samatail Koht Ieias, me ketin wia koht en Koht-akan, Nahnmwarki en Nahnmwarki-kan oh Kaun’en kaun-akan, ansou koaros. Ei tungoal sekeren keipweni pohn Erekiso en Ihr Kahlapoko koaros en Pohnpei-uh; pwelik wahuohte ong pahn kupwuren Iso-Nahnken-ko; wauneki sapwelimahr Likend-ko, Nahnalek-ko, oh Nahnkeniei-ko; wahu ong sapwelimahr lengileng kosokos-kan; keidi tohrohr-kan nan palien tiahk, government oh mwomwohdiso; oh koaros me iang ket/pato nan tehnpas-wet – nimenseng lehle-wet.
Ah pwehki ei wia pelik’in Pwoud Lepen-Nett oh Iso-Nahnken Nett, I pahn patowen pouse/kapwil sapwelimen Pwoud Lepen-Nett, oh Iso-Nahnken Nett sapwelmara depwekinleng en kapaii oh keipweni (tohrohr) pohn Erekiso en Wasalapalap Isipahu, Nahnmwarki en wein Madolenihmw; Erekiso en Wasalapalap Sahngoro, nahnmwarki en weiisohn Uh; Erekiso en Wasalapalap Soukisehn-leng, nahnmwarki en wein Kitti; Erekiso en Wasalapalap Nahnpwutak Pikeniap, nahnmwarki en wein Sokehs; Erekiso Dohkesa, nahnmwarki en wein Pingilap; Erekiso Peiweileng, nahnmwarki en wein Sapwuafik; wahu-lap pahn kupwuren Iso-Nahnken-ko; wauneki sapwelimahr Likend-ko, oh wahu ong tohn pokonisowet-uh.
Mwohnsapwoko / Isohko, (oh karos) Re ketin kupwurehkin’ie ai tungol elep lepin-sepwilen – pwehki ni ei wia President en Kahndeke Kapatapat en FSM, ah I’en patowen pahda oh wia repwoht \ State of the Nation Address; ni pato \ mahsen en English.
1. The Honorable Wesley W. Simina, Speaker of the 22nd FSM Congress;
2. The Honorable Aren B. Palik, Vice President of the FSM
3. Members of the 22nd FSM Congress;
4. Acting Chief Justice & Associate Justices;
5. Traditional Leaders of our Land;
6. Governors of our States;
7. Speaker & Members of our State Legislatures;
8. State Chief Justices & Associate Justices;
9. Church & Religious Leaders of our Nation;
11. Ladies & Gentlemen
I ask for your indulgence today, because my State of the Nation will be lengthy, and I consider it my last labor of love. So, I ask for your extra patience and courtesy, thank you very much.
I stand before you, our citizens, and our Nation today, in response to the invitation that you and the Members of the 22nd FSM Congress have so kindly extended to me to deliver the last State of the Nation address for this administration.
I wish to extend my deepest respect and appreciation to you, and all the Members of the 22nd FSM Congress, for your continued leadership and dedication to serving our people of the Federated States of Micronesia. Our Nation, this Paradise in our Backyards, will celebrate this coming May 2023, a momentous occasion: 44 years of Constitutional Government, and bring in its 10th President and 23rd Congress. I am humbled by your gracious and consistent determination to see to it that our Nation’s greatest strengths—our peace, our unity, and our liberty—remain at the forefront of all of our deliberations.
I wish for my address to be a report on some of the major work completed during this administration, with additional discussion on programs and activities that are forthcoming and/or ongoing, as well as those worth pursuing into the future, and ongoing commitments from our Government to our citizens. And to our citizens who are observing today, I ask for your patience because this report will be lengthy!
Given that perhaps the single most impactful situation for our citizens, individually and collectively, during this administration has been the COVID-19 Pandemic, I will begin with our Nation’s victory over the coronavirus. In early 2020, we all recall, our Government projected the loss of thousands of lives, in addition to significant impacts on our social and economic development platforms. Where other countries failed to put lives and livelihoods first, we succeeded. Through great dedication, across our whole of society, we succeeded at mitigating the impacts of the Pandemic to our People and our economy. Through generous support from the United States, we vaccinated our population. We cannot thank you enough. With generous support from the Asian Development Bank and Congress, we developed our Nation’s first Social Protection Programming. We protected businesses through the $14 million FSM Economic Stimulus Package, which was disbursed to hotels, tour operators, exporters, restaurants, and other businesses that felt the impacts of the Pandemic; this saved hundreds of jobs and by extension ensured families could continue to survive. This was augmented by the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Program generously provided to the FSM by the U.S. Department of Labor, which provided tens of millions in direct assistance to citizens who became unemployed as a result of the Pandemic. Additionally, we protected families through the $9.3 million Low-Income Household Assistance Program which assisted 9,300 households across the FSM; I remember being in Chuuk with you, Mr. Speaker, and the Governor, distributing those checks which benefited many families and specifically those who do not have access to formal means of income generation. $3 million was provided to the FSM Development Bank to finance the Micro and Small Loans Program, a transformative interest-free program that targeted small businesses. This produced 280 small businesses throughout the Federation, such as retail stores, truck rental owners, laundromat owners, and small-scale farmers and fishers. I am proud that 57% of these small businesses are owned by women, and the program specifically targeted that at least 50% of these loans would target women.
While it remains terrible, and we can still feel it in our hearts, that hundreds of Micronesians died abroad, it must be said that only dozens died within our own borders, when we knew that—without vaccines and without preparation—COVID could have claimed thousands more as initially predicted by our Government and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. While the coronavirus will continue to be with us, today we can claim our victory over the COVID-19 Pandemic and a return to normalcy.
It is also in this respect, Mr. Speaker, that I wish to highlight the service of both the Late Dr. Livingston A. Taulung as well as that of all of our Nation’s health workers. Dr. Taulung laid the foundation for keeping our Nation COVID-19 free, which Secretary Samo and our Nation’s first responders maintained until this summer. The Late Dr. Taulung is a hero to this Paradise in Our Backyards, as are all of our Nation’s health workers too, and any success that this administration, that this Congress, and that our State Governments can ascribe with regards to the COVID-19 Pandemic ultimately lay at their collective feet. For this, they have our eternal gratitude; and may I ask that we give all of our frontline workers a round of applause?
It behooves me to also emphasize the heroism of our former Vice President—my friend and mentor Yosiwo George. Vice President George dedicated his life to the service of this Nation, and he served the FSM with unquestionable leadership and integrity. He spent his whole life to building our Nation’s prosperity. His leadership, and his friendship—and his insight as well as his foresight, particularly when our Nation faced the COVID-19 Pandemic, was essential to the good decisions that our country made.
There is but one more piece of work to be done, I believe, Mr. Speaker, regarding the COVID-19 Pandemic. In this regard, I solicit our Congress to reconsider the necessity of the Healthy Border Protection Act in its current form. While vaccines remain the best solution for the goal of preventing severe disease, whether it be from COVID or Measles, I believe we are now at the time where we must allow any FSM citizen, regardless of vaccination status, to come back home on their own terms. The Healthy Border Protection Act has been an essential piece of legislation for protecting our country but amending it so as to allow FSM citizens to come and go as they please from their own home country is, I believe, equally essential to the continued longevity of our democracy.
As a final comment on issues relating to the COVID-19 Pandemic, Mr. Speaker, we all know and appreciate that the Pandemic paused several of our Nation’s important initiatives and services. Thus, I wish to inform you, our Congress, and our People, that the FSM National Census is wrapping up its preliminary work, which had been delayed due to our prohibitions on international and, oftentimes, domestic travel. I am advised by the Secretary of the Department of Resources & Development that we will be implementing the Household Surveys from the middle of February to the middle of April this year. I encourage all FSM citizens and residents to participate in the Census, which will gather the socio-economic information of households. The census is a fundamental part of our national heritage and collective knowledge, that provides statistics that are essential for planning the provision of healthcare, education, and employment.
Of paramount importance to our Nation-building process is the accrual and positive use of funding from friends, allies, and development partners for the betterment of our citizens’ lives and livelihoods. In this regard, I am pleased to announce that this administration—and this is not an exaggeration—has seen the greatest amount of financial growth and support, as measured by foreign support, in our Nation’s history. Over the course of this administration, and outside of the funding received from the Compact of Free Association—outside of it—our Nation has received $747,071,963 over the past several years and renumerated or repeated by our ODA and Cabinet. We received $747 million in external donor support, though the figure would be higher if we could financially measure certain forms of in-kind assistance.
Part of this success is due to the improved coordination between the Nation and its development partners since the establishment of the Overseas Development Assistance policy in 2013, and I thank you for that Mr. Speaker and our Congress. But today—may I ask that we give a round of applause to our development partners? Because without the partnership of our foreign partners, this would not be possible.
Our Nation has received over $18.2 million in the Agriculture Sector, $22.4 million in the Climate Change Sector, and $22.8 for Water Security. We received $166 million in the Communications Sector and $100 million for tackling COVID-19 and developing the Social Protection Program. We received $961,260 in the Cultural Development Sector—which is relatively small but highly impactful—and over $28.9 million in the Education Sector. Again, this is outside of the Compact of Free Association. We received over $77 million in the Energy Sector, and $33.9 million in the Fisheries Sector. During this administration, the Nation was able to receive over $20.2 million for improving good governance—and I’ve always said that maintaining the rules-based international order is essential towards maintaining the rule of law—and $35.2 million for the Health Sector. This amount does not include what the nation receives from the Compact Sector Health Grant annually. Furthermore, the Nation has received $157 million for the Infrastructure Sector and $58.46 million for its Transport Sector. The greatest contributors to our Nation’s development initiatives include the United States of America (thank you), the World Bank (thank you), the Asian Development Bank (thank you), the Government of Japan (thank you), The People’s Republic of China (thank
you), the European Union (thank you), Australia (thank you), and India (thank you). I would like to extend a special recognition to our NGOs such as the Micronesia Conservation Trust, our regional partners such as SPC, FFA, and SPREP, and the multiple agencies of the United Nations. The hard
work and dedication of these organizations have helped us mobilize more financial and non-financial resources than ever before.
You may recall that, in September 2022, Congress endorsed the six ODA nation-wide priorities (C.R. 22-62). It is my pleasure to provide an update on these priorities and how much ODA has been committed to these priorities.
• Pave the Nation Initiative: $100 million
• Renewable Energy: $67 million
• Water Security System for FSM: $9 million
• Vocational School: $17.7 million
• Climate Resilient Infrastructure for Outer Islands Transport: No funding secured
• Medical Diagnostic Facility: No funding secured
In response to the priorities that have not secured funding, a Development Partner’s Roundtable is being arranged on the margins of the State & National Leadership Conference tentatively scheduled for April of this year, so as to enable the States and the National Government to convey the pending priorities to our Development Partners.
A supplemental request is submitted to solicit Congress’s support in making this Development Partners Roundtable possible.
At this time, I think it is worthwhile to discuss some of that foreign assistance in greater detail. Many citizens’ experience is hearing that the FSM Government received money on social media—and then that’s it; they don’t know where it goes, and they question where it goes. So it’s valuable for us to discuss some of the assistance the FSM receives from our friends, allies, and development partners, both as a way of thanking them through this address, and as a way of informing our citizens of how the different aid projects impact their respective communities.
Beginning with International Financial Institutions, during this administration we have received approximately $74.3 million from the Asian Development Bank in approved projects, with key projects including the $19 million Renewable Energy Development Project that supports Kosrae with 1.6 Megawatts of ground mount and rooftop solar in Tofol, and the first mini-grid system for Kosrae in the remote village of Walung in Tafunsak; a 60-100 kWp system with battery storage, and several solar home systems. Additionally, for Yap, the Project includes 2.0MW of rooftop and ground mount solar, an upgraded utility-wide software communication and control system, and 1.5 MW battery energy storage system; there is also $4 million as a disaster risk reduction component that will support the development of a national energy disaster management plan and the procurement of essential spare parts for utilities; the Renewable Energy Development Project is expected to be constructed and commissioned by mid-2024.
ADB also supports the Chuuk Water Supply & Sanitation Project and, of course, funding for our Nation’s Social Protection Programming, including the Low-Income Household Assistance Program, among others, through the Health Expenditure & Livelihoods Support (HEALS) Program i.e., the COVID-19 Pandemic Response Option. When combined with other projects such as the Climate Resilient Energy & Water Project, and the Pacific Disaster Resilience Program, among so many others, we can continue to count on support from the Asian Development Bank to partner with our Nation in helping us to achieve our needs. In addition, ADB has committed to providing the FSM $25 million as part of the Panuelo-Palik administration’s Pave the Nation Initiative.
The World Bank is another such partner of the FSM, and there is much to be said of their partnership. We have recently enjoyed the opening of a World Bank office in our country, which will help to ensure that the $173.2 million of approved projects during this administration will reach their maximum potential. These projects are all indicative of this administration’s top priorities, such as the Pave the Nation Initiative to construct climate-resilient roads, and our efforts to improve reliability of electricity supply, expand access to electricity, and scale up renewable energy so as to increase the FSM’s energy security, and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Some of these projects include the Prioritized Road Investment & Management Enhancements Project (PRIME) and the Strategic Climate-Oriented Road Enhancements Project (SCORE), which are collectively about $75 million in support of the Pave the Nation Initiative. The PRIME project includes urgent priority works, such as the Manta Ray Twin Bridges in Yap, the Lelu Causeway in Kosrae, the one-mile Airport to Pou Bay Road in Chuuk, and the Awak Bridge in Pohnpei. The SCORE Project targets secondary roads, specifically the Dugur to Bael secondary road in Yap, the East and West Pou Loop in Chuuk, the Nahnpohnmal to Sekere Bypass Road and Temwen’s road to Nan Madol in Pohnpei, and the Sialat Bypass Road in Kosrae.
The World Bank also continues to support the FSM through providing upgrades at the Okat, Pohnpei, Tomil, and Chuuk Ports through the $39 million FSM Maritime Investment Project. For the energy sector, 30 million is for the Sustainable Energy Development Access Project (SEDAP). The purpose of this project is to improve reliability of electricity supply, expand access to electricity, and scale-up renewable energy generation. This includes the construction of a new power plant at Nahnpohnmal in Pohnpei, and in Chuuk, additional solar on Weno, the establishment of a mini-grid on Udot, and a hybrid system of both conventional generators and solar system that connect all households on Satawan. In Kosrae, there will be an additional battery storage and control system and, in Yap, a brand-new high-speed generator. These projects will commence construction this year and be completed by 2024.
The European Union FSM-SE is part of the overall Sustainable Energy and Accompanying Measure (SEAM) project funded from the FSM National 11th European Development Fund (EDF). It has a budget of about $11 million. The project is undertaking a review of the 2012 National Energy Policy, development of the FSM’s SDG 7 roadmap, State level consultation toward developing FSM’s Energy Investment Plan, provision of scholarships in the amount of $140,000 for STEM students in their sophomore years and internship, employment extension for the four state energy officers, 10 outer island sites (Etten, Fefen, Polle, Piis-Paneu, Nama, Moch, Lukuno, Nomwin, Onoun, and Houk) to do detailed feasibility studies, by which two or three of the sites will be solarized in the State of Chuuk, and rehabilitation of the Falalop Ulithi mini-grid in Yap State.
The $ 5 million Micronesia Public Sector Building Energy Efficiency (MPSBEE) Project is funded by GEF/UNDP. The project has completed all four states’ energy audits on each state’s selected public facilities and commenced procurement process to retrofit appliances and fixtures. The state facilities include: Pohnpei State Hospital, Pohnpei Governor’s Office, Yap Radio Station and Administration Building, Chuuk State Hospital and Chuuk State High School, Kosrae State High School and Tafunsak Elementary, which will be retrofitted with solar-powered air conditioners. The installation will be completed by the third quarter of next year.
When combined with other essential projects, such as the $30.8 million Digital FSM Project, which includes connecting fiber optic cables to our businesses and communities, as well as the setup of our Digital FSM Office, we can truly see that the World Bank’s support to the FSM’s development remains invaluable. We are seeing the construction and rehabilitation of roads to be Climate-Resilient through the Pave the Nation Initiative, more islands becoming electrified in Chuuk Lagoon and elsewhere, and with the Digital FSM Office, we will see the transfer of all ICT-related roles across federal agencies to the office by June 2023, and transition the FSM Government to a single Microsoft information domain, email, and collaboration services environment by December 2023.
Of the possible gaps not addressed by the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, our Nation has been partnering with the Green Climate Fund, and during this administration we have received two approved projects. We are in fact the only country in the Pacific that has received two grants from the Green Climate Fund. One project is the $19.6 million Climate Change Adaptation Solutions for Local Authorities in the FSM Project, which will empower local communities and Municipal Governments to achieve Climate solutions. The Green Climate Fund also benefits the FSM through the $9.6 million Climate Resilient Food Security for Farming Households across the FSM Project, which will result in 68,250 direct beneficiaries across our Nation as it will empower farmers and their families to rely less on imported foodstuffs and encourage larger domestic production of healthier local food. Activities include the first FSM-wide baseline vulnerability assessment of the Nation’s entire agricultural system and food security capacity, and the development of farmers’ collectives, and the creation of value-added food, such as organic breadfruit chips sold to our citizens instead of imported potato chips.
All this talk about money could lead one to ask about the performance of our banking system. As to the performance of our own banking system, I am pleased to report that our system is safe, sound, and strong. Capital, liquidity, and profitability remain satisfactory, and this trend is expected to remain solid for the foreseeable future. During the past four years, our banking system’s total assets has increased from $371 million to $476 million. The loan portfolio is presently comprised of 16.6% of the system’s assets, of which 55.8% are commercial loans and 44.2% are consumer loans. The deposit portfolio is at $437.9 million and there is no sign indicating a downward trend. But we need to improve our loan-to-deposit ratio of our commercial banks by increasing domestic commercial loans in order to capture more benefits from the use of bank deposits to fund, and support, high-value business projects and opportunities in-country.
The FSM Development Bank—The President of FSMDB, like myself and our Vice President, is an alumnus of Eastern Oregon University—approved and booked 944 loans totaling $14.4 million in 2021, a 47% increase compared to 2020. Of those 944 loans, 48% were for businesses, and the rest were for home construction and consumer loans. The sectors that were the most impacted were the Tourism and Construction Sectors. The outstanding loan portfolio at the year’s end was $41.8 million.
In addition to a strong banking system, our Nation is blessed with two Trust Funds—one as a result of our Compact, and one as a result of our own dedication. The Compact Trust Fund is approximately $1 billion at the time of this address, and the sovereign FSM Trust Fund is approximately $400 million, and growing. I thank Congress because we have made smart investments in our country, such as depositing 20% of our fisheries revenues into our sovereign Trust Fund, and 50% of our funds from MRA Advisors Inc. earmarked into our sovereign Trust Fund. Even while we are sleeping, these funds continue to accrue interest for the benefit of our citizens.
The United States of America, with whom the FSM shares an Enduring Partnership codified through the Compact of Free Association, remains our Nation’s premier friend, ally, and development partner. Beyond ongoing support in the Education & Health Sectors, during this administration we’ve chipped away as much as possible on the existing Compact Infrastructure Sector’s backlog.
For the State of Chuuk, we have received two infrastructure grant awards for the design of dispensaries and schools. Among these, we’ve gone out for bid and awarded contracts for three dispensaries in Romanum, Onoun, and Fonoton totaling $2.7 million. We’ve received a grant award for the construction phase of three Health Centers within Chuuk Lagoon, and of course the $70 million Chuuk State Hospital remains the next big project which JEMCO has recently acknowledged the importance and urgency thereof.
For the State of Pohnpei, we have received infrastructure sector grant assistance towards the Pohnpei Utilities Iron Removal Plant, which was recently dedicated, as well as grant assistance towards the Pohnpei State Emergency Operations Center. More recently, the Project Management Office in Pohnpei has brought onboard a new Program Manager who has issued four projects to bid in the past couple of months, including the $10 million Kinakapw Water Line, $5 million for Lukop Elementary School’s renovations, $5 million for Palikir Elementary School’s renovations, and $8 million for the Primary Healthcare Facility. We’re on track for Pohnpei’s balance of $80 million in backlog to be fully bidded out by May 2023.
For the State of Kosrae, we have received two infrastructure sector grants for the Okat Bridge Utility Relocation and the Kosrae Agricultural Facility Projects. Like Chuuk State, we are hopeful that the Kosrae Hospital Project will be in the implementation stage very soon, and through recent communications between myself and Secretary Haaland of the U.S. Department of Interior, there is increased visibility and awareness on behalf of the U.S. Government on the importance of this project moving forward as expeditiously as possible. We are on track to fully obligate the $38 million balance for the Kosrae State Hospital once the grant is awarded, and we are awaiting the award of the grant.
For the State of Yap, we have received infrastructure sector grant awards for the Yap Water Storage Tanks and the Yap Water Supply Projects. For the $6.7 million Woleai Airport project, bids closed on November 30th, 2022, and are awaiting final evaluation. For the $8 million Ganir Bridge, the environmental assessment is ongoing with the design completion expected for October 2023. For the Yap High School, Colonia Middle School, and Woleai High School projects, the procurement approach has shifted to Design-Build, which was sanctioned by the Yap State Legislature to expedite their implementation. An independent Review of Drawings to determine usable details is ongoing before the preparation for a final Request for Proposal for issuance by the end of March 2023. We are on track to fully obligate the remaining balance of $40 million for Yap by March 2023.
With all this talk about money, I believe now is an appropriate segue to discuss our ongoing negotiations on the expiring economic provisions of the Compact of Free Association, as Amended. The good news is that there is much we have already completed successfully with regards to our Compact’s negotiations. The U.S. Special Envoy for Compact Negotiations, Ambassador Joseph Yun, and I have shaken hands and agreed to an annual sector grant assistance level of $140 million per year; that represents more than $50 million per year over current assistance levels. I have also made clear that in addition to this sector grant assistance, a one-time contribution of funds into our Compact Trust Fund remains a critical component of our Nation’s economic requirements and is necessary for the health and sustainability of the fund.
That said, there remains some important work to be done before our Nation’s negotiating teams can sign off. Among these include an agreed-upon inflation index; the development of mutually acceptable subsidiary agreements that are appropriate for the next Compact period; the continuation of essential U.S. programs such as Pell Grants; and other important issues, such as updating the Fiscal Procedures Agreement to reflect more deference to the FSM in the management and implementation of funding assistance, and the potential reinstatement of several U.S. Department of Education programs that are invaluable for FSM students. I thank you, Mr. Speaker, and the Chair of our Joint Committee on Compact Review & Planning, for making sure that our Nation is satisfied with the results of our negotiations.
The FSM will work very hard until we are satisfied with all aspects of the agreements between our country and the United States.
Our Nation’s security is the next topic I’d like to address. Philosophically, one could argue that virtually any topic of concern is a security threat, such as access to healthy food at levels that keep our citizens nourished and full, and access to educational programming that keep our citizens literate and critical thinkers. Climate Change, certainly, is what we primarily think of as our topmost security threat—and it remains our Nation’s foremost existential threat—but I’d like to focus on more traditional areas of security for our collective awareness and discussion at this time.
Given the geopolitical atmosphere in the Pacific, one of the results we are seeing, and that our Congress and our citizenry should know about, is increased attention from the U.S. Armed Forces. Among these, we look forward to the expansion of our ports, such as in the State of Yap, and increased presence from the U.S. Navy Seabees. While most of the attention from the U.S. Armed Forces has positive economic and societal benefits to our Nation, we should also begin to expect an increase in training exercises taking place in and/or around our ocean territory. Of paramount importance is that our Nation’s citizenry be informed in advance when U.S. fighter jets fly over the State of Yap, for example, or when the U.S. practice firing anti-aircraft missiles from the ground. These exercises will be increasing in frequency over the next several years, and while they are ultimately in our national interest and in the interest of our Nation’s security—of which the U.S. is our indisputable guardian—it is important that our citizens know about them well in advance so that our people do not see these activities and then immediately fear the worst.
An enduring threat to the FSM has been in the form of illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing activities in our ocean territory. Last year, the FSM signed a first-of-its-kind expanded shiprider agreement with the United States, which is intended to further operationalize, strengthen, and modernize the existing shiprider agreement. This agreement allows for remote coordination of authorities, and so results in enabling the U.S. Coast Guard to act on the FSM’s behalf in combatting illicit maritime activity. Additionally, the FSM will soon be receiving the second Guardian-class vessel from Australia to replace our previous patrol boats, and we’ll also be receiving four patrol boats donated to us by Japan, one for each of our States, which should have the effect of helping our Nation to defend its sovereignty and its resources.
Another threat to our Nation’s security, which has been on the increase and comes from both State and Non-State actors, is in the arena of cybersecurity and cyber-activity. I am thankful for Congress’ support to our Cybersecurity & Intelligence Bureau (CSIB), a Division of the Department of Justice, and would solicit the Congress’ support for passing our proposed Cybercrimes bill. Our Nation has successfully joined the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), which helps CSIB carry out its mandate, passing the Cybercrimes bill will be instrumental in helping our country to prosecute cybercrimes, of which perhaps the most common we see in our country’s context are scams from Africa and South Asia targeting our Nation’s citizens for money transfers and the like.
The last item I wish to address from a national security lens is the current status of the $70 million East Micronesia Cable Project and our telecommunications sector. Generously funded by the United States, with whom we share an Enduring Partnership, Japan, with whom we share a Kizuna or special bond, and Australia, with whom we share a Trusted Pacific Partnership, the East Micronesia Cable is ultimately the piece of physical infrastructure that will democratize digital communications for the State of Kosrae, as well as for our brothers and sisters in Kiribati and Nauru. Kosrae is the only state without a fiber optic connection, and this project makes that connection possible. After several years of various forms of delays and setbacks, I am advised by the Boards of FSM Telecommunications Corporation and the Open Access Entity that both of these FSM Government entities are fully onboard with the East Micronesia Cable Project. We expect to sign the grant agreements within the coming weeks so that work on this essential project can move forward in an expeditious manner. I thank you, Mr. Speaker, and our 22nd FSM Congress for passing the resolution in support of the East Micronesia Cable Project, as it emphasized that our FSM Government takes this important issue seriously.
In addition to the East Micronesia Cable Project, the FSM looks forward to the entry of Starlink—I was actually communicating directly with Starlink’s staff the other day—into our Nation’s economy with a sample of small satellites during the summer of 2023. Starlink satellites provide internet connectivity to remote places all around the world. It will be in our national interest, including our security interests—such as when our Nation faces king tides, tsunamis, and typhoons—to utilize these and other forms of communications so that our remote communities are able to send and receive information prior to, during, and after times of crisis.
Our Blue Pacific Continent has undergone substantial growth over the course of this administration. After much discussion and, yes, soul-searching amongst Pacific Leaders, our Pacific Islands Forum has emerged as a stronger and more resilient organization through the Suva Agreement. The sovereign Micronesian countries have found and defended their voice, and we’re now a part of a renewed and strengthened Blue Pacific. For our part, we can expect that the next Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum will serve a five-year term and will come from Micronesia. We can and should begin the work of interacting with our brothers and sisters in Palau, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, and, yes, Kiribati—who we continue to offer an olive branch to—to determine who that next Secretary-General should be. Additionally, Micronesia will host the Pacific Ocean Commissioner and their office as well as a subregional office for the Pacific Islands Forum. Your FSM Government is exploring how it might become the host of the subregional office for the Pacific Islands Forum.
It is also worth noting, as this is something that Congress and our People can take pride in, is that the FSM played an essential role in crafting the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent alongside our Pacific Brothers and Sisters. This regional strategy comprehensively aligns, and in understandable and human language, what the Pacific believes in, what the Pacific wants, and how the Pacific will get it what wants while supporting, never compromising, its beliefs.
As for the United Nations Multi-Country Office, I am pleased beyond my capacity to express it that our Nation has been blessed with the service of Jaap van Hierden, the United Nations Resident Coordinator for Micronesia. Now that the FSM is host to a United Nations Multi-Country Office for the Micronesian subregion, it is our responsibility to find them a home. For our part, the FSM Government has been working with Pohnpei State Government to help determine the best location for the permanent site of the United Nations Multi-Country Office, as well as possibly several other external development partners. At the time of this address, we are increasingly interested in the area immediately across from the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China here in Palikir, and/or the site at the botanical garden, and we are working with Pohnpei State Legislature on this. As the host state to our Nation, Pohnpei plays a big obligation in making sure that we are friendly to our development partners and these entities that are in our country to help us with our development.
Our Nation’s foreign policy of being a friend to all and an enemy to none, and a Nation that extends to all peoples and nations that which we seek: peace, friendship, cooperation, and love in our common humanity—has, and continues to, serve us well. Over the course of this administration, our country has shown time and again that, though our population is small, our voice is large. We can all be proud of our Nation’s assertive voice on matters of national, regional, and truly global importance. From recognizing the Honorable Fiame Naomi Mata’afa of Samoa after her swearing-in ceremony, to severing our relations with the Russian Federation due to their brutal and unjustified invasion of Ukraine, and from condemning the former U.S. President for his fascist attempted insurrection, to warning the Pacific Islands’ Leaders of the dangers of China’s Common Development Vision, this Paradise in Our Backyards has shown the World that we jealously guard our sovereignty, as we also jealously guard the Pacific Way of Peace, Unity, and Liberty. We have shown the World, as well as our People, that the Federated States of Micronesia will truly be a friend to all and an enemy to none—but also that, by doing so, we will always act with and for the FSM’s National Interest, and the interests of our Blue Pacific Continent.
The FSM has formal diplomatic relations with 95 countries—most recently with Bulgaria, Bahrain, and Panama. The FSM is a member of 20 international organizations, and 9 regional organizations. Keeping track of our foreign relationships, and ensuring that these relationships serve our citizens’ interests, remains a core pillar of the work of our Department of Foreign Affairs. In this regard, I would like to thank Congress for your collective support in funding our new Consulate Office in Portland, as well as our new Chancery in Tokyo. I am deeply excited about our upcoming trip to Japan in the beginning of February to commemorate the occasion, as well as the opportunity to speak with Prime Minister Kishida. Japan is a close friend and ally of the FSM and are behind the United States in terms of total foreign assistance given to our country. Thus, the $6 million investment for our Chancery in Tokyo will pay dividends, as it demonstrates in part our Nation’s own commitment to ensuring that our Kizuna, our special bond, only grows stronger with each passing day. Of course, there are also financial benefits to our Nation when we own physical infrastructure abroad instead of renting office space.
That said, Mr. Speaker, I would solicit Congress’ support for considering additional financial support to our Embassy and Consulates in the United States. For Washington DC, we are asking Congress for a $3 million property that will better allow us to serve our citizens. For Honolulu, we are exploring a $5 million property in the downtown area, as the current structure is difficult to get to, dangerous at night, and physically cramped. Particularly since one can plainly see Micronesians, not Americans, in places like Ala Wai Park, it is essential that our Consulate in Honolulu be closer to the citizens that it serves.
I also note that the Government of Switzerland has continued to offer to host an Embassy of the FSM in Geneva for several years. The Executive is requesting approximately $400,000 this session for resuming the necessary work to explore and setup this diplomatic mission, which will allow the FSM to have physical presence in the European Continent, and greater presence at the United Nations.
During the recent bipartisan visit from Australia lead by Foreign Minister Penny Wong, our country reaffirmed our interest to establish an Embassy in Canberra, Australia. While an exploratory mission to Australia is not in the Executive’s supplemental budget request this session, I would deeply encourage the next administration to consider this mission at the nearest opportunity. Australia has been here in our country, and it’s about time that we reciprocate the establishment of our Embassy in Canberra, and I thank you for that foresight.
While our Nation’s foreign policy is certainly essential to our development and place in the World, it is reasonable that the bulk of our citizens have their eyes and minds set on home. While I have already covered much of our domestic policy in the form of major infrastructural development, I wish to briefly discuss key legislation during this administration that impacts our citizens.
I again thank Congress for its leadership in moving forward on essential legislation during this administration, such as the ban on Styrofoam and most forms of one-time-use plastics, and the recent movement to allow Vital (FSM Petroleum Corporation) to include renewable energy in its mandate. Regarding the former, it is essential that the FSM be a leader in tackling Climate Change if other countries are to take our pleas seriously; regarding the latter, I can recall advocating for Vital’s transition to renewable energy during the first Committee to Wait on the President in the 21st and 22nd Congresses, based on Vital’s leadership demonstrating how such a change will benefit our country. Vital is increasingly showing itself to be one of our Nation’s premier sources for innovation and economic enfranchisement; from the Integrated Coconut Processing Facility on Tonoas to the marketing of coconut products like soaps and oils for export, anything our Government can do to support Vital in its mandate will have a positive ripple effect on our People and our economy.
That said, there remain several additional pieces of legislation that this administration would continue to emphasize are essential for the national interest. While I have already spoken of the proposed cybercrimes bill from a national security perspective, of equal importance—and arguably greater importance for our economic development—is the Marine Spatial Planning Bill.
The Marine Spatial Planning Bill provides a legal framework to enable the FSM to have a process to allow for Marine Spatial Planning, which is a purpose-agnostic and public process of analyzing, and allocating, the spatial and temporal distribution of human activities in marine areas so as to achieve economic, ecological, and social objectives. In other words: if the FSM is interested in maximizing our revenue from fisheries and from deep-sea mining, a Marine Spatial Plan will provide us the information to make this a reality. If the FSM is interested in conserving our resources and our environment so as to have the most profound impact on Climate Change, a Marine Spatial Plan will provide us the information to make this a reality. A Marine Spatial Plan is simply good science, and while a Marine Spatial Plan has no economic or political agenda of its own, a Marine Spatial Plan will provide decision-makers the information they need to make sure that the decisions they want to make have the greatest impact possible.
Mr. Speaker—I would again emphasize that a Marine Spatial Plan doesn’t hold us back from generating revenues; it simply gives decision-makers, like our Congress, the information they need to make sure that their decisions are impactful. I would encourage Congress’ passage of the Marine Spatial Planning bill this session.
Another two key pieces of legislation—which are interlinked—are C.B. 22-71 and C.B. 22-140. The former allows our Department of Finance & Administration to issue Tax ID numbers, which is essential for the implementation of our new Revenue Management System. The latter allows the Department of Finance & Administration to obtain and inspect records so as to determine the accuracy of tax returns; it also allows for electronic records, which improves the Government’s efficiency and is in line with the Digital FSM Project for digital government services. These two bills will also allow for other efficiencies and will improve the fairness within the tax system by allowing for the use of e-filing and e-payments. We also enable businesses to file and pay taxes from own business premises, thus allowing them more time to get on with their core business activities. This Administration wishes to make it less burdensome to pay taxes, and I believe these Bills are a step towards modernizing and improving our tax system towards that goal.
I would also emphasize the usefulness of C.B. 22-84, which allows the Registrar of Corporation to register nonprofit organizations. For comparison, at present the Registrar of Corporation has 171 major corporations registered in our country, of which 24 are considered captive insurance. We do not have the legal framework in place to allow for the registration of nonprofit corporations to be registered. It is plausible that the registration of nonprofit corporations will have beneficial impacts for our People.
With regards to MRA Advisors Inc., today I pause to thank former President Manny Mori because this goes back some time. During his time and succeeding relations, our relationship with MRA has produced, since FY 2015, a total of $241 million. I want to thank previous leaders former President Mori, former President Christian, you Speaker, and others, for this success. I also thank our MRA partners for this public-private partnership for this relationship.
I applaud the Congress for its continued advocacy for promoting our Nation’s workforce. I share Congress’ view that our workforce is the most important element of our production factor for both our economy and Government services. Frankly, if it were within the National Government’s jurisdiction to do so, I would advocate for a national minimum wage. When I was a member of Congress, I remember asking our legal staff—and I was told that we don’t have the jurisdictional authority to set a national minimum wage. So, our citizens would understand that for the state salaries to be increased it has to be done with the respective legislatures in our four respective states. So, today, I want to pause that the National Government can only impact national employees, and so I wish to speak about the recent law to increase the salary of our public servants by 45%.
Both Vice President Palik and I applaud and thank Congress for your bold decision to increase the salary of our public service employees’ wages by 45%. This is likely to assist the Government in retaining talent, as well as increasing productivity, creativity, and service delivery, particularly as the salaries for public servants have been capped for several decades. I note that we are including in our supplemental budget request this session an ask for the necessary monies to support this new law, which took effect January 1st.
That said, our public service system will continue to face challenges. In addressing these challenges, I would highlight the importance of C.B. 22-162, which lifts the ban on salary freezes, especially on step increases, as a result of Public Law 9-155. Lifting the salary freeze doesn’t simply put more money into employees’ pockets (though it has that effect as well); it would also allow the Government to resume employment evaluation as an important tool in measuring employees’ performance. That’s an important mechanism in our public service system that provides a work incentive as well as providing measurable means of accountability within the Government, which ultimately helps to keep workers happy and productive.
Keeping our workforce happy and productive remains essential to our Nation’s development. Outmigration continues to be a major challenge; we saw, for example, more than 2,000 citizens permanently migrate from the FSM in 2020—I was surprised myself, and I didn’t believe it or want to believe it—and a further 2,500 citizens permanently migrate in 2021. The average age of these citizens is 25 and the median age is 28, meaning that we are disproportionately losing our youth. That’s why, I believe, it is so important that our Nation move forward with the FSM Skills & Employability Enhancements Project. Generously funded by the World Bank to the tune of $17.7 million, the Project will see massive increases in vocational education programming across each of the Nation’s states, as well as the construction of a vocational education school at the former PATS site in Pohnpei. This program improves access to vocational training to marginalized groups, such as girls, children with disabilities, and outer islands’ youth; it will see the improvement of vocational curricula, inclusive of the training of teachers, upgrading of classrooms, supplies, and equipment; and the aforementioned vocational school itself will draw students from across Micronesia.
In addition, I would propose another measure to boost our workforce performance by way of providing future investment and security for employees after retirement through a pension plan. The Executive Branch intends to include proposed budget for a national pension plan for Fiscal Year 2024, and this important topic is one that I encourage significant public discussion and debate on.
Our Fisheries Sector remains the primary source of domestic revenue, and in this respect, we can continue to be very proud of both government and non-government employees in keeping this sector resilient and capable. The Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) continues to be the most viable management tool that ensures the conservation of tuna resources while also earning an average of $70 million for our Nation every year. The VDS is further leveraging tangible economic development activities in Kosrae and Pohnpei under the direction of the Fisheries Investment Policy.
The FSM and the Pacific at large can be proud that our tuna stocks remain healthy. We are addressing illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing through our Fisheries Compliance Strategy that promotes collaboration with Industry and is additionally supported by the FSM Maritime Police and the U.S. Coast Guard. Although the COVID-19 Pandemic suspended the placement of human observers on fishing vessels, we will be ready to return to place human observers on purse-seine fishing vessels soon. When coupled with electronic monitoring equipment on long-line fishing vessels under the Technology for Tuna Transparency program, the FSM is well on its way towards having a 100% transparent tuna fishery.
It is also worth emphasizing that the FSM has formally defined the boundaries of our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and further extended the boundaries of our seabed. While much work in this area began under previous administrations, and will continue into the next administration, there has been significant movement in extending our Continental Shelf Territory, such as the recent approval of the Ontong Java claim, which adds seabed territory the size of a large country.
Given the success of our fisheries sector, I would encourage ongoing dialogue between the Government and its fishing industry so as to determine where and how we can attract genuine investments on our shores. In particular, Mr. Speaker, there may be value in strengthening the capacity of the Competent Authority to help add value to tuna exports. These and related conversations will help the FSM to show its appreciation to our fisheries sector, to encourage more FSM citizens in finding economic opportunities at home, and could lead to solutions to continuing problems, such as the increasing number of crew who are migrating abroad.
The Nation’s only fully-established postsecondary institution, the College of Micronesia-FSM, has been successful at maintaining its accreditation standing over the past six years. During that period, a total of 2,274 degrees and certificates were awarded in the College’s 34 fields of study, which includes two Bachelors Degree programs: the Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and the recently approved Bachelor’s Degree in Business & Accounting. Student success continues to be the mission of the College, ensuring that our young people are graduating with the skills necessary to feed into our national development.
With the support of Congress, the College has strengthened its public health training programs in nursing, and the Doctors and Dentists for Tomorrow Program. 108 nurses have graduated since Fall of 2018, whose assistance has been essential as our Nation continues to combat the crisis of non-communicable diseases.
Despite the Pandemic—or possibly because of it—COM-FSM enrollment has been at record highs. Campuses across the FSM are increasingly showing a unified approach to online delivery of courses, and the College continues to make great efforts at filling vacancies. I am pleased to announce that the Board of Regents has named a new President to begin her post next month, Dr. Theresa Koroivulaono.
As COM-FSM prepares to celebrate its 30th anniversary this year, it is worth reflecting on how the College has partnered with the private sector in technical programs, including agriculture and food security, tourism, and other vocational fields, to ensure good quality of life for our citizens.
That said, as many of our families prepare to send their children abroad for their higher education, it is worth re-emphasizing that the FSM is a full-fledged member of the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education (WICHE). The practical result of our membership in WICHE is that FSM students studying in most U.S. States and territories inside, and westward of, the Rocky Mountains qualify for 150% of in-state tuition for eligible undergraduate programs, and in-state tuition for eligible graduate programs, significantly reducing the cost of these degrees.
On the elementary and secondary levels, however, our Nation continues to see genuine struggles. It remains an unfortunate truth that the majority of our children, as measured by standardized test results, broadly cannot read in English or perform adequately in mathematics. This is, of course, a problem that is magnified in our public schools, and significantly less of an issue in private schools. In this regard, it is noteworthy that our FSM School Accreditation System’s focuses most of its efforts on infrastructure, process, and procedure, and little of it towards student performance. It is broadly good news that 110 of 156 evaluated schools this year are accredited under our system, just as it is broadly good news that 91% of our teachers possess the necessary certification qualifications; these results are in part due to the ongoing Improving the Quality of Basic Education program,
generously funded by the Asian Development Bank and Australia. Yet it cannot be emphasized enough that unless we take our education crisis seriously that we will continue to see an increase in the gap between rich and poor, and by extension citizens who are educated enough to find gainful employment in the FSM compared to citizens whose comparative lack of education leads them to migrate outwards out of concern of becoming economically disadvantaged citizens on their own islands.
Mr. Speaker, while it is certainly the case that we are seeking additional funding in the Education Sector from the United States, it continues to serve against our children’s interests that we collectively—at the national and state levels—do not inject domestic revenue into our education system. I would solicit Congress and the next administration to consider pathways for identifying how FSM domestic revenue might be used to permanently support our schools and education system on an annual basis. It is difficult to see, for example, how we are protecting our own ethnic and linguistic minorities, such as the People of Kapingamarangi, when their own school receives about $1,000 per year for school supplies, and it remains a frequent concern amongst many communities that, simply due to lack of funding, students must spend significant time copying text from the chalkboard simply because there is no budget for the production of reading materials, tests, and assignments.
Perhaps the last major topic I wish to discuss today is regarding our Department of Environment, Climate Change, & Emergency Management. While I am always proud of all of our National Departments, Offices, and Agencies, DECEM deserves special attention due to its key role in tackling our Nation’s single-most pressing issue. It is for this reason that, at the forefront, I recommend that we collectively consider upgrading the Special Committee on Climate Change in the FSM Congress to a permanent Committee, with the same title, attention, and care as e.g., J&GO or Ways & Means.
I am pleased that we continue to implement the annual Micronesia Clean Up Day event—for four years in a row now—as a result of the Micronesia Islands Forum held in Chuuk, 2019. (The next Micronesia Islands Forum will be held here in Pohnpei State this coming February 13th to 17th). The Micronesia Clean Up Day Committee meets with an expanded TOR to align with other international days, such as Earth Day, World Environment Day, etc.
The Ridge to Reef Project completed its work this past November 2022, with its primary objectives to strengthen local, State, and National capacities and actions to implement integrated ecosystems-based management. As the Project concludes its final work, I would urge the Congress to continue to provide resources to the States as they continue work in alignment with Blue Prosperity Micronesia.
The Atlas of Micronesia is expected to launch this month, with the final GIS work of mapping the outer and neighboring islands concluding soon. This essential tool will support educators, students, and our Nation’s friends, allies, and development partners.
Through support from the Japan Mining Action Services (JMAS) and Australia, teams are addressing the leaking wrecks from World War II in Chuuk Lagoon. The work of these Japanese and Australian teams are noble and helpful, and I encourage our Citizens’ support to these teams if they meet them in person.
The practical effect, Mr. Speaker, of our Nation’s collective actions towards tackling Climate Change is that the FSM is becoming even more of a regional and international leader in protecting the environment. While this is elemental towards achieving our duty as custodians of these lands for future generations, a side effect is that promoting our environment has positive impacts for our Tourism Sector. We held the first-ever Micronesia Expo this past summer in Pohnpei and will hold the second Micronesia Expo this summer in the State of Kosrae. This initiative is intended to preserve and promote our cultural heritage, with the ultimate goal of promoting our islands as tourist destinations domestically, regionally, and internationally.
Before I conclude my remarks, it behooves me to speak briefly about our 4th FSM Constitutional Convention. In doing so, I submit to my fellow citizens affirmation of how fortunate we are to be able live in an environment where our fundamental God-given right is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as guaranteed by our constitution – by the highest law of our land. As a people, we are indeed blessed to be given every 10 years, the cherished civic opportunity to review our constitution so as to make it relevant to our collective livelihood as a people and to our collective growth as a country.
It was in fact at this very chamber back in January 2020, where I sat and presided over the official convening of the 4th Constitutional Convention of our country, serving as Interim Convention Chairperson. From then until today, it continues to be a great honor to have been given that opportunity to serve.
I recall back then that my message to our elected delegates and our nation was that the review of our constitution is “fundamentally essential and monumentally critical to the history and progressive evolution of our country” – that this process essentially allows us, as a nation, the opportunity to ask ourselves the question of, “how can we make things better for our country?”
My fellow citizens… Through those of that you had elected to serve as our delegates to the 4th Constitutional Convention, we now have with us eight (8) proposed amendments that serve as the delegates’ answers to that question of “how can we make things better for our country?” There is also an additional ninth proposal through PL 22-172 that would be proposed to insert a new section into the constitution regarding the right of the people to a healthy environment.
Having been adopted, these nine (9) transformative proposals will be before us all in July 2023 for our consideration and voting. In doing so, I am duty-bound to ensure that we are all provided the best conditions possible to enable the most informed decision. For this, I have instructed for the creation of a nation-wide education taskforce that has been organized and is ready to deliver public education and awareness of the eight proposed amendments throughout our nation for the next months leading up to when casting your vote this coming July 2023.
Comprised of national and state officials and infused with officials of Congress and members of the private sector and Non-Government Organizations, the Taskforce is ready to deploy education programs throughout our nation and abroad starting on Friday, January 20th, equipped with the slogan of “Own Your Constitution, & Vote!”
It is for this specific reason that I wish to seize this moment to declare the official launching of the 4th Constitutional Convention Taskforce Education Program for our country. Every citizen is encouraged to claim your ownership rights of our constitution and vote.
There is so much to be proud of for our beloved and humble Nation. It has been and continues to be my greatest honor in life to serve each and every one of our citizens as your President.
Over the course of this administration, I have sought to ensure that we empower and embolden young people and women to serve in our Government and to take the reins in leading our Nation forward. Whether they’re financial prodigies like Secretary Eugene Amor, environmental experts and activists like Yolanda Joab Mori, or managerial experts like Secretary Elina Akinaga, I consider and continue to believe that our country is stronger when we see more youth and more women directly involved in the important work of governing our country, because in this way we are bringing every citizen to work in our Nation-building process.
That’s why, Mr. Speaker, I will announce that this coming March 2023, will be the last election that I participate in, to pave the way for the next generation of leaders. I will accept the will of the People regardless of whether I am voted in or not; if elected, I will be honored to serve this Paradise in Our Backyards. If I am not elected, as the mandate is from our people and the members of Congress, I will take the work of preparing the peaceful and immediate transition of power to the next administration very seriously and as a top priority, whereupon afterwards I will endeavor to ensure, in my capacity, whatever that may be, that more youth and more women are represented in the seats of power and influence.
I am pleased to report that the State of our Nation, this Paradise in Our Backyards, the Federated States of Micronesia, is strong. We are entering a new era of prosperity, thankfully due to the collective leadership of our Nation, our development partners, and our traditional leaders. Our People have shown that we can, we will, and we do, take actions today for our Nation’s prosperity tomorrow. For this, and in my capacity as President, I thank you, our Honorable Members of Congress, and our People across these four stars shining across the seas, for your collective goodwill and good-nature in showing each other, and our World, that respect for human life, and respect for one another, is how we manifest our destiny for a brighter tomorrow.
Kahlangan, Kinisou, Kammagar, Kulo, and Thank You.