The 16th RMI Executive Leadership Conference kicked off Monday with President Hilda Heine as Chairperson, Marshall Islands Mayors Association President Ota Kisino from Wotje as Co-Chairperson, and Internal Affairs Minister Amenta Matthew as Secretary. The Cabinet, Office of the President and executive branch agencies met with the mayors for the morning discussion.
Enewetak mayor proxy David Obet started the question session with concern about their copra not being eligible for export. Heine stated that she hadn’t heard about this and is keen to look into it.
Rongelap Mayor James Matayoshi elaborated on the job creating development of the current Rongelap fish farming industry which has grown from being a pilot project and asked if the RMI government would allow a tax exemption. Heine responded that this request should go through the Ministry of Resources and Development.
Jabat Mayor Heinkey Lomwe followed with his concern about Cabinet decisions “superseding” local government authority. Heine replied the government legal counsel will provide a more precise answer later in the week.
Government owned radio V7AB has been down for sometime and National Telecommunication Authority’s DAMA system has been inaccessible for two years, said Ebon Mayor Ione deBrum. She expressed her concern for communication access especially in regards to emergency awareness. She also questioned the lengthy period to process a government purchase requisition (“PR”), something Mejit Mayor Neil Keju also pointed out. Heine responded that the Cabinet’s Agenda 2020 includes reforms that aim to improve government functions.
KBE (Kili/Bikini/Ejit) Proxy Glann Lewis followed with his concerns over Bikinian people who now have suffered ocean flooding on their islands of Kili and Ejit due to climate change. He asked if their relocation, food plan and payment requests have been considered or approved by the US government. Heine assured that Cabinet is aware and will follow up.
Many questions presented by the mayors were demands for improved services, including Jabat Mayor Lomwe’s appeal for a priority to be put on fixing Jabat’s runway so the isolated island can get service from AMI.
Jabat’s runway has been out of service for years. The lack of air service has forced the community in times of emergency medical situations to resort to transporting a sick person by small boat to Ailinglaplap, a dozen or more miles away. He said this emergency boat travel is often hazardous to the people in a small boat.
Read more about this in the July 15, 2016 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.