President Mori and Members of Congress had open forum with FSM citizens on Guam
Dededo, Guam (FSM Information Services): October 19, 2011 - At 6:00pm today, President Manny Mori, Senators Yosiwo P. George, Roger S. Mori, and Bonsiano Fasi Nethon, held a public forum with citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia at the Dededo Community Center drawing participants from all the states who are residing in Guam.
The forum opened with remarks from President Mori, Senator George, Mr. Anthony Babauta, Assistant Secretary of the US Department of Interior, who was welcome to the meeting by President Mori after his request to participate, and Ms. Melissa Savares, Mayor of Dededo, whom the President felt should be given the opportunity to speak, given her welcoming attitude to the FSM community in her jurisdiction.
In his remarks, President Mori explained that the reason for the forum with citizens was to brief them on what their Government plans to do in country and in the US, in response to recent concerns from members of the US Congress on the increased compact impact costs to affected US jurisdictions due to migration of FAS citizens.
Additionally, after recent unfortunate incidences on Guam, the President felt it more appropriate to hold the forum at this time to boost on-going efforts by concern community and government leaders to keep a strong sense of community togetherness. The President also hoped that this forum would allow him to gather any suggestions from our migrant populations on Guam with respect to the plan of action by the FSM Government regarding compact impact related issues and other concerns.
President Mori stressed the special and unique nature of our strong relationship with the US under the compact which creates special responsibilities and privileges for both countries. While the relationship is well and alive, the fact is that we do experience challenges from time to time in our joint implementation of the compact, the President indicated.
The President also spoke of the need for all stakeholders to fully understand the impacts of FSM migrant populations on certain US jurisdictions including Guam.
"Our view is that, they (affected US State or Territory) need to also consider your contributions, not just the cost that you incur but also the contributions you make in your community. We are going to find out in three to four months after a study is made. That is part of what we (FSM government) should do for you who are in the US jurisdictions", the President said.
With regards to out-migration of citizens, President Mori explained that successful implementation of the priority sectors of the compact in education, health and infrastructure development, along with more responsible management of foreign assistance and domestic policies for revenue generation, have the potential to improve long term social and economic stability, thus minimizing the necessity to leave home in search of opportunities for a better future abroad.
On a personal level, the President appealed to FSM citizens on Guam to appreciate the compact based privileges in a respectful manner as guests by strictly obeying the laws and culture of the island.
Assistant Secretary Tony Babauta of the US Department of Interior started his remarks by thanking the President for having this forum and the Mayor of Dededo for providing the venue. The secretary echoed the sentiments made by the President on the special and strong relationship between US and the FSM and spoke of a need for further dialogue.
"On the federal government side, we plan to have continuing dialogue, much closer dialogue with the FAS countries throughout the year and try to set goals for ourselves that we believe are achievable and that we can work together on with each other. That will include working with your communities and those other stakeholders that help to provide services to your community as you find and try to make your home elsewhere", the Secretary said.
Senator George spoke on the same concerns raised by the President, stressing the special nature of the compact treaty at the same time, asking citizens to honor their obligations towards their hosts. The senator also highlighted the valuable remittances that have contributed to our economy and asked that citizens abroad continue to maintain their strong ties with families back home.
As the provider for the venue, Mayor Savares, President of the Guam Mayors Council, said her community is fortunate to host the President and his team and thanked the President for "coming out and taking interest and concern in issues that we as a community have".
The former Consul General, Mr. Gerson A. Jackson, who is awaiting acceptance by the Fiji Government to take up this ambassadorial post there, made a presentation on the "open entry" aspects of the compact that allows FSM citizens to enter and live in the US as legal non- immigrants. According to Mr. Jackson, the compact allows FSM citizens to establish residence in the US for education, employment, and health care reasons. An FSM citizen is subject to deportation if he/she does not fall under any of the 3 categories and if convicted of a felony, Mr. Jackson stated.
Providing additional briefing for the citizens, Dr. Vita Skilling, Secretary of the Department of Health and Social Affairs, informed the crowd of the FSM National Government's proposed response to compact impact concerns raised by members of the US Congress including Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo of Guam and Senator Daniel Inouye of the State of Hawaii.
Dr. Skilling mentioned that a Task Force under the chairmanship of Vice President Alik L. Alilk has been organized to determine what our response will be to the concerns raised by members of the US Congress and to assess ways to mitigate compact impact for Guam, Hawaii and the Northern Marianas where the majority of FSM immigrants reside. Work for the Task Force is on-going, according to Dr. Skilling, as the input from all stakeholders, including State Governments and FSM migrant communities, must be taken into consideration in making a plan of action.
The Rev. Koisimy Rudolph, acting on behalf of the FSM Association of Guam, made a brief presentation on recent activities and action plan undertaken by the association in collaboration with the FSM Consulate Office, aiming at establishing legitimate basis for the various FSM community organizations in order to be formally recognized by the Government of Guam, opening opportunities to operate as qualified non-government organizations serving in youth development, health education programs, violence and drugs preventions, and other related programs.
During the "question and answer" session, several individuals took advantage of the opportunity to speak directly to the President, Members of Congress, and the representatives of the US Department of Interior under the same roof, in raising concerns that have to do with immigration issues, funding for the College of Micronesia-FSM, scholarship issues, passport processing, job opportunities in the FSM, constitutional amendment to allow for dual citizenship, hardships faced by disadvantaged immigrants, compact impact costs and reimbursement, as well as concerns about incidences of violence involving Micronesians.
In closing the forum, President Mori asked the participants to continue collaborating with the various concern organizations and the FSM Consulate Office and assured them that the National Government will "double up" its efforts in working on solutions to the challenges facing them. Furthermore, the President expressed appreciation to the Government and people of Guam for being good host to the FSM communities on the island, stressing the need to maintain harmony at community level.
Other officials and staff who were at the forum were Mr. Nick Pula, Chairman of the Joint Economic Management Committee that oversees implementation of the compact, FSM Consul General Robert Ruecho, Chief of Staff Kasio Mida, Director Evelyn Adolph of the Office of SBOC and other staff of the FSM National Government.
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