Leaders pow-wow in Palau

Presidents meet at Palau’s capital building, from left: FSM President Peter Christian, RMI President Hilda Heine, and Palau President Tommy Remengesau, Jr. Photo: Kambes Kesolei.
Presidents meet at Palau’s capital building, from left: FSM President Peter Christian, RMI President Hilda Heine, and Palau President Tommy Remengesau, Jr. Photo: Kambes Kesolei.

Palau opened the 16th Micronesian Presidents’ Summit (MPS) with President Tommy Remengesau Jr., President Peter Christian of the Federated States of Micronesia, and President Hilda Heine, of the Marshall Islands, gathered to discuss pressing issues including climate change, the island nations’ relationships with the United States, and fisheries.

The one-day meeting was held at the Palau Capitol in Melekeok state February 22 with the leaders agreeing to come up with agreements and cooperation on issues of important regional interest, according to a story in the Guam Daily Post. Remengesau opened the summit stating that the annual meeting is “an opportunity to work together on important Pacific island issues.” Remengesau has especially urged the two leaders to support Palau in conveying its frustration to the US government on the lack of passage of the aid package in the Compact of Free Association that was agreed to in 2009. Palau and the US concluded a review of the Compact of Free Association in 2010, and signed a 15-year extension agreement that includes a $250 million package of assistance for Palau through 2024. However, the US Congress has yet to appropriate permanent funding for Palau.

Since 2010, Palau has gotten a yearly disbursement from the US as part of the approved financial package. Palau gets at least $13 million every year but the US Department of the Interior taps other funding sources to fulfill its obligation under the Compact. “Palau’s Compact situation is frustrating and actually embarrassing it has taken that long. This is the message that we want to convey to our friends. Hopefully there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Remengesau said.

Christian echoed Palau’s sentiment about the three nations’ relationship with the US, adding that the freely associated states (FAS) nations can look for support from each other on this matter. Remengesau also took the opportunity to congratulate Heine for making history as the first woman leader in the Pacific. Heine, for her part, underscored the importance of discussions on the impact of climate change among the nations.

Remengesau also encouraged the leaders to support Palau’s hosting of the Pacific Media Summit next month. “Freedom of speech is enshrined in our constitutions, media is the door to the outside world. Media is an important tool for transparency and freedom of expression,” Remengesau said. The media summit is scheduled from March 21 to 26.

Read more about this in the March 4, 2016 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.

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