“At this conference we reflect on our individual strengths but also on our collective might. I believe that we haven’t even begun to realize our full potential as a region. Indeed when that day comes, it will be a sight to behold. It is my hope that this conference is a step in that direction.”
– Governor Eddie Baza Calvo
Guam asks CNMI, FSM, RMI leaders to work together
This morning at the 21st Micronesian Chief Executives’ Summit Governor Eddie Baza Calvo called to his fellow leaders to hold the U.S. federal government to the promises they made.
The Governor noted that over the years, there has been an increasing strain on the education, safety and health infrastructure on Guam as it struggles to meet unfunded and underfunded U.S. federal mandates in hosting citizens of neighboring Freely Associated States (FAS).
“Guam’s only public hospital, our schools and our safety agencies are in dire need,” the Governor told fellow island leaders. “The U.S. federal government isn’t living up to their promise made through the Compacts with Palau, FSM and RMI to pay the costs of hosting our regional brothers and sisters.”
The Governor also discussed:
- Parity in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates and the recent request to the U.S. Government Accountability Office to look into the denial of the request for reimbursement for 2009 to 2012. This means the hospital that provides care to 165,000 people of Guam – which includes people from Palau, FSM, CNMI and RMI – can’t pay its bills. And despite the continuous bailouts by the government, they continue to fall into debt.
- The Jones Act punishes the people of Guam, as well as Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico with high costs of living. Those nations that rely on receiving goods that come through Guam or these U.S. ports also suffer from the unintended consequences of this act.
- Lack of programs to support integration of FAS migrants: Just as Compact impact funds fail to meet the actual cost of hosting citizens of neighboring islands, these island nations aren’t provided with supporting programs that help citizens interested in coming to Guam with the knowledge they need to avail of social service programs. In addition, federal programs on Guam, such as Americorps, that connect people to valuable on-the-job learning opportunities aren’t available to FAS citizens.
“Again, this is a long and on-going process and if you can help us to break that door down, then we appreciate any help we can get,” the Governor stated.
Building relationships, economies & strengthening the region
The Micronesian Chief Executives’ Summit brings the leaders of Guam, CNMI, FSM, Palau and RMI together to discuss economic, health and education and other issues as they relate to efforts to improve the qualities of life in the respective regions.
Governor Calvo wanted to meet with his fellow leaders to discuss some of the issues Guam is facing, and to ask for help to get them addressed.
“My friends, Guam needs your help. We have been knocking on the doors of Washington D.C., calling on them to provide what they promised and support these mandates they have laid on the backs of the people of Guam – whether it is in the form of Compact impact funding, Medicare & Medicaid, restrictive economic policies, or Earned Income Tax Credits,” the Governor stated.
“As we here as leaders, and as the representatives of our governments to these different committees meet, let us all focus on working together to raise the tide that will lift all of our boats.”
President Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr. and Governor Marcelo K. Peterson of Pohnpei, FSM, agreed that much needs to be done to help their respective islands be able to educate and provide job training for their people.
“This is serious challenge,” said President Remengesau. “But if we don’t address it then our people will go to Guam, Hawaii and other areas that offer more pay and more opportunity.”
Governor Peterson said aligning education to the current and future needs of their island is critical, noting that they also see an outmigration of people who seek education but don’t come back home.
The economic growth of the region was one of the areas discussed by MCES committees. Sam Mabini, deputy director of the Department of Labor, presented for the Pacific Workforce Investment Workgroup. The group, which consists of representatives from the respective labor agencies of participating island governments, discussed the challenges in labor-related issues and formed recommendations for the MCES leaders to adopt.
The labor workgroup was just one of many that met, they include:
- Micronesia Center for a Sustainable Future
- Regional Tourism
- Energy Committee
- Invasive species
The two-day meeting started today and will end tomorrow evening after the island leaders finalize and adopt the committee recommendations. Participating in the summit are: Mabini, GVB Deputy General Manager Telo Taitague, governor’s senior staffer Chris Duenas, Department of Revenue and Taxation Deputy Director Marie Benito, Governor’s Director of Communications Oyaol Ngirairikl, and GEDA Special Assistant Mark Mendiola.