PALIKIR, Pohnpei—On November 15th, 2021, the 22nd Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia began its 2nd Special 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, with committee members inclusive of the Honorable Aren B. Palik, the Honorable Isaac V. Figir, and the Honorable Robson U. Romolow.
The first topic of discussion was with regards to pending nominations. President Panuelo noted that he was hopeful that Congress would soon hold hearings on his nomination of Salomon Saimon to be the next Chief Justice of the FSM Supreme Court. Additionally, the President spoke of his enthusiasm for Maker Palsis and John Chugen, the former of whom is the President’s nominee to be the National Election Commissioner in the State of Kosrae and the latter of whom is the President’s nominee to be the National Election Commissioner in the State of Yap.
The next topic of discussion was with regards to the COVID-19 Pandemic. President Panuelo noted that more than 70% of the Nation’s adult population is fully vaccinated, and that the FSM has recently received the capacity to implement booster shots of the vaccine, as well as providing the vaccine to children aged five (5) years and up. The President advised Congress that, to his understanding, the States of Yap and Kosrae are ready to implement the pediatric vaccines immediately, and that the States of Chuuk and Pohnpei intend to begin this process in the coming weeks.
The COVID-19 vaccine mandate remains in effect and, by extension, all children aged between 5 to 11 years and all adolescents aged between 12 to 17 years will be required to be vaccinated against the virus.
Additionally, the President noted that the State of Kosrae would be conducting a repatriation activity on November 15th; that the State of Yap would be conducting a repatriation activity on November 28th; that the State of Chuuk would be conducting a repatriation activity on November 29th; and that the State of Pohnpei would be conducting a repatriation activity on December 1st.
The next topic of discussion was with regards to various supplemental budget requests. The President asked Congress to consider appropriating $600,000 to the Department of Transportation, Communications, & Infrastructure (TC&I) and Caroline Islands Air (CIA) so that the Nation can purchase two aircraft to replace those that crashed in Mwoakilloa and Ta. Additionally, the President requested funding for the hiring of consultants to assist the Department of Environment, Climate Change, & Emergency Management (DECCEM) in writing proposals and concept notes to access resources from the Green Climate Fund, and for office-space related funding for the United Nations Multi-Country Office and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.
The final topic of discussion was with regards to various pending legislation. Though the President spent the bulk of the meeting advocating on the importance of extending maternity leave from six weeks to twelve weeks, the President also noted that the Executive Branch has submitted proposed legislation on the Freedom of Information, Cybersecurity, non-communicable diseases, passport extensions, bunkering, and provisioning of vessels, penalties for the importation of prohibited plastic materials, legislation to enhance the Secretary of Finance’s tax enforcement capacity, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the safe release of sharks, the Maritime Surveillance Revolving Fund, and a law for the registry of nonprofit corporations.
Following the President’s formal agenda, he entertained questions from the Honorable Senators on topics ranging from the status of airport renovations and inspections to the usage of the funding appropriated for the Low-Income Household Assistance program.