As operators are arrested, “Forever Lucky” not so lucky for Micro Games in Yap

By Bill Jaynes

The Kaselehlie Press

July 6, 2018

Federated States of Micronesia—Yap lost more than half of the “hotel rooms” it had planned on for the Micro Games when the “Forever Lucky”, owned and operated by Fahrenheit Company, Limited of Subic Bay, Philippines was detained in Bhataan, PI while sailing to the FSM.  The Yap government had signed an MOU with the company to provide rooms and catering services for the games.  The vessel claims to have 146 cabins including deluxe single, deluxe double and executive suites but at press time, that vessel is not likely to arrive.

According to multiple news sources, Philippine authorities detained the vessel when it got a tip from a foreign law enforcement source that the Forever Lucky might be involved in a human smuggling scheme.  When they boarded the vessel, they found 139 people aboard who, news sources say, were not on the manifest and did not have proper documentation for the journey or authorizations to work outside of the Philippines.

Some news sources say that the majority of the 139 victims of human smuggling were sent home and others are awaiting travel arrangements.  Without a staff, it appears that even if Philippine authorities were to release the “Forever Lucky” to sail to Yap, it wouldn’t be able to do the work.

One news source says that the CEO of Fahrenheit has denied wrongdoing and is cooperating with investigators.

Initial news sources in Manila said that the company was accused of “human trafficking”. Others say that investigations are continuing into allegations of that crime.  From the descriptions of the ongoing situation, the crime being investigated in the majority of the cases is “human smuggling”, an altogether different crime from human trafficking.

On Wednesday, the Yap State Government issued a short statement.  “The State of Yap has a two-month Memorandum of Agreement with Fahrenheit, Ltd. to provide extra rooms on the Forever Lucky ship during the 2018 Micro Games and to provide food and catering services for the athletes and coaches who will be participating in the event on July 15-27, 2018. The Micro Games Organizing Committee, a separate entity, met in an emergency session on July 4 to review options and is expected to make an announcement by Friday.”

Several hours after the Yap government had closed its business day on the announced day for the statement, the government had issued no statement whatsoever regarding any alternative plans they may or may not have established prior to the detention of the “Forever Lucky”.  By Saturday there still was no word from the Yap government.  Sources in Yap say that the government and the Micro Games Organizing Committee had been in an emergency session on Friday morning but no outcomes of that meeting have been released.

How Yap will provide the services it had expected Fahrenheit to supply is unclear in the absence of any public information from the Yap government and there is no word on how exactly the situation will affect the games.

If Yap is expecting the FSM government to ask the government of the Philippines to overlook whatever laws Fahrenheit may or may not have violated so that the vessel can serve its contractual relationship with Yap for the Micro Games, it won’t be happening.  Like the FSM, the Philippines is a sovereign nation and the FSM will not give even the impression of interfering.

The FSM government has sent a letter to the Philippine government that very clearly states that FSM has no intention of asking the government to overlook any of its laws or enforcement efforts.  It expressed the FSM’s appreciation of the complex actions of the law enforcement officials of the Philippines to enforce their laws.  For the planning, coordination and conduct of the Micro Games, FSM simply wants to know the status of the law enforcement efforts.

The Philippine government has not yet responded to that request for information.

“Yap entered into an agreement with a private company in good faith, to secure required logistical needs and to ensure a successful Micronesian Games,” said FSM Chief of Staff Leo Falcam. “The FSM greatly appreciates the planning and coordination of Yap State and the other organizers for the conduct of these games and we recognize their diligent efforts.”

Falcam said that he doesn’t know whether Fahrenheit Company, Ltd. has another vessel in order to honor its commitment to Yap for the Micro Games.

Meanwhile, athletes and officials have already begun traveling for the games.  Additionally, containers and supplies from all over the region have already shipped with the expectation that the supplies would be picked up by representatives from Fahrenheit on the arrival of the “Forever Lucky”.

At this point, there is only silence from Yap.

UPDATE: Several hours after we went to press, the Yap government, on Micro Games Organizing Committee letterhead, did finally make a statement.  They dated their statement as if it had been released on their promised date of release.  It differed in many details from the information that the FSM government had released during our interview.  For instance, their release said that FSM Secretary for Affairs Lorin Robert had issued a diplomatic note asking for the release of the vessel.  Secretary Robert did no such thing.  His communication with the government of the Philippines was in fact as represented in this article. 

Yap has not yet officially publicly backed down from its assertion that the Forever Lucky is due to arrive in Yap on the 13th. However, the vessel is still at the dock in the Philippines today, the 12th of July.

KPress somehow neglected to add some of the statements from the FSM government representative.  That high level source said that FSM Immigration had been working diligently on vetting all employees on the ship and that the Department of Justice had mobilized and immigration crew complement to handle the additional volume of the simultaneous arrival of the ship’s employee.  He also said that the DOJ has mobilized more police officers to Yap for security for the games. 

The FSM was ready to receive them but the employees did not have proper authorization from the Republic of the Philippines to work overseas. The agency that provides those authorizations is specifically designed to prevent the possibility of Filipinos being abused by overseas employers.  Their authorization is required for every one of their citizens who leaves the nation to work overseas.

 

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