Government of the Federated States of Micronesia

Highlights of Recent Visits to the States by Delegation from the Department of Transportation, Communication and Infrastructure

Palikir, Pohnpei (FSM Information Service): August 18, 2009 - A delegation from the FSM Department of Transportation, Communication, and Infrastructure (TC&I), headed by Secretary Francis I. Itimai, has just completed its visit to the States of Yap, Chuuk, and Kosrae where it conducted a series of meetings with the state leaderships, as well as members of the private sectors and non-government organizations in the community, on a wide range of priority issues facing the Department. The priority issues included a proposed legislation that is intended to inject transparency and accountability in the management of the FSM Telecommunication Corporation. The consultations with the three states took place from 28 July to 05 August 2009, following a similar meeting with the Pohnpei State leadership.

This was the first time that the Department of TC&I had dispatched a delegation to the states with the expressed purpose of briefing the state leaders and other interested parties on issues facing the Department and seeking their guidance as to how such issues may be resolved and how the Department could improve the delivery of its services to the states and local communities. State leaders found the briefings and exchange of ideas most useful, and thus encouraged that such consultations be undertaken more regularly. The states leadership for all three states expressed their full appreciation to the President and his Department of TC&I for this important undertaking.

One of the issues that the states were briefed on is the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), a non- compact, US Department of Transportation funded program for US airports designed to upgrade the safety of airport facilities, which FSM and other Freely Associated States (Republic of Palau and the Republic of the Marshall Islands) became eligible recipients from 2004-2008. Eligibility for this non-compact grant program expired in 2008 but extended on a continuing resolution basis. Extension of eligibility for the FSM in the next budget cycle until FY 2012 has been sought. Toward this end, similarly worded language has been incorporated in proposed legislations by both the US Senate and the House. The gist of the presentation was on the status of the current AIP projects in the states visited as funded under the USFAA Grants and matched by each respective state under their shares of the Compact Infrastructure Sector Grant (CISG). A thorough presentation on the AIP Project was presented by the AIP Manager, Mr. Massy Halbert, assisted by Ms. Eva Villanueva, from Lyons and Associates working under the AIP Project Manager.

The Division of Infrastructure presented a briefing on the Omnibus Infrastructure Development Projects (OIDP) funded partly by Asian Development Bank(ADB) with approved counterpart matching funds from the four FSM states. These developments comprise Water Supply Improvement projects intended for Yap and Kosrae State, a Power Rehabilitation Project intended for Chuuk State, and a Wastewater System Upgrade for Pohnpei State. Chuuk Weno Wells Rehabilitation Project is currently reported in progress under the ADB and Japanese Poverty Reduction Program. The objective was to present the status of the projects in each of the states and, where there are discrepancies, to reconcile the differences. Another technical assistance that was reported during the briefing was the revaluation of capital fixed assets for the State of Chuuk.

An issue that attracted enormous attention in all the three states is the Submarine Fiber Optic Cable (SFOC) project, very possibly because it is the three States of Yap, Kosrae, and Chuuk that are not included in the current project driven by the FSM Telecommunication Corporation to link up Pohnpei only in the main submarine cable system connecting Kwajalein and Guam. This main cable system was put into place for the use of the US Defense Department. Upon the request of the governments of the FSM and the RMI, a second fiber was placed in the cable - separate from the one for the US military - for the use of the two Micronesian countries. It is projected that Pohnpei would acquire broadband connectivity when the fiber optic project goes into effect in March 2010.

Shortly upon assuming office, President Emanuel Mori issued a memo dated May 29, 2007, establishing as a top priority of his Administration that all of the four FSM states, not just one, should have access to broadband connectivity. Seeing broadband connectivity as a backbone for socio-economic development in terms of distant education, telemedicine, and e-health, among other applications, President Mori declared that no state should be denied the benefits of broadband connectivity through fiber optics.

The three states were also briefed on the proposed legislation that was re-transmitted to the FSM Congress for further action relating to the FSM Telecommunication Corporation (FSMTC). The primary intent of the bill was to ensure that FSMTC, a public corporation, is managed on the basis of the principles of transparency and accountability and a regulatory function be administered by the Department of TC&I as the responsible department for oversight functions. Representatives of and advisors to the Department's Division of Communication pointed out several instances where transparency and accountability were gravely lacking or overlooked. During the presentations on the proposed Bill with the FSM Congress to amend the current FSMTC Law, all three states' leadership, after some important clarifications on the rationale behind the Bill and its intent, underscored their full support of the Bill and requested the FSM Congress to take immediate steps to pass this piece of legislation.

The state visits were coordinated with the FSM Congress and a delegation comprised of members of the FSM Congress travelled to the three states at the same time as the DTC&I delegation to conduct hearings on the above Bill. It has come to be known as the "Telecom Bill" as well as other matters. The Congressional delegation consisted of Chairman Joseph Urusemal and Chairman Paliknoa Welley. They were joined by other FSM Congress members that were in the states at the time of these meetings.

Prior to the presentation and discussion on the subjects of the SFOC and the Telecom Bill, a one-page survey was handed out to the participants in the meetings, who were asked to indicate their views on various aspects of the SFOC and the management of telecommunication services by the FSM Telecom. Those who completed the survey include state leaders such as the governors, lieutenant governors, presiding officers and members of the state legislatures, members of the executive branch cabinet members, members of the state chamber of commerce and many other who participated in the meeting. The General Managers of FSM Telecommunications Corporation in the three States were also invited to the meeting and completed the survey. The Board members of FSMTC in Yap and Kosrae also attended the meeting and completed the survey. The survey data was tabulated by the DTC&I Communications Team and verified by a team at the University of Hawai'i.

According to the survey results, an overwhelming majority of the leaders in the three states believe that telecommunications is important for the economic and social development of the states. Their responses showed that while FSMTC is providing acceptable residential telephone and long distance services, the FSMTC is not providing acceptable levels of mobile and other telecommunications services. The leaders and others who completed the survey also said that the FSM should not continue the monopoly in telecommunication services and that other companies should be allowed to provide telecommunication services in the FSM. The leaders did say that they would "pay a little more for services if they were better." Only 30% of the leaders and others who completed the survey felt that their state would benefit "immensely" when the submarine fiber optics is operational in Pohnpei.

In addition to the survey, presentations were made on the sea transportation issues faced by the entire nation and the Division of Civil Aviation made presentations on airline and airport security.

For complete copies of the presentations on all the TC&I Programs and the FSMTC proposed Bill, you may contact the Department of TC&I phone number 320-2865.

For further information on this release, please contact:

FSM Office of the President
Public Information: Press, Radio, Video
P.O Box 34
Palikir Station, Pohnpei, FM 96941
Tel.: (691) 320-2548/2092
Fax.: (691) 320-4356