Pohnpei Governor gives State of the State address

By Bill Jaynes

The Kaselehlie Press

March 6, 2018

Pohnpei, FSM—This morning, Pohnpei’s Governor Marcelo Peterson presented his State of the State address to the Pohnpei State Legislature as required by law.  It gave a thumbnail sketch of significant developments in the Agriculture, Education, Environment, Fisheries, Health, Infrastructure, Public, and Tourism Sectors.

The English language version of his speech was 10 pages of compact text that could not have been expected to have completely outlined all that is being developed in each sector.  Still the framers of the Constitution were wise to have required at least an annual address from the Governor to keep the people apprised of efforts the government has been making to try enrich their lives.

Nearly every sentence of the speech contained information that if filled out, could fill a newspaper article, and there were developments that, due to the limitation of time, the speech simply could not contain. Also due to limited print space in this newspaper, even the short thumbnails will have to be further condensed.

Agriculture Sector

The Governor spoke of the great assistance of China’s Pilot Farm in Pohnlangas, Madolenihmw, greenhouse construction, biogas projects, the establishment of a mushroom demonstration farm, the importation of 2600 chicks, more than half of which perished due to climate and rodent predation, the State’s Agriculture Strategic Action Plan, requests for agricultural equipment assistance, and a vegetables nursery for distribution of seedlings.

Education Sector

The Governor said the during the reporting period, 11,393 were enrolled from Early Childhood Education through High School for both public and private schools.  Enrollment is declining.  He attributed some of the decline to outmigration and some of it to school-aged children not being enrolled by their parents or guardians.  On the latter, he intimated that there would be a crackdown to enforce truancy laws.

He said that significant efforts had been made to meet mandatory Accreditation Standards, and detailed some of the efforts to do so.

$2.8 million of previously unallocated funds were received from the Office of Insular Affairs to meet a large number of needs to support education of Pohnpei’s children. 

The State spent $300,000 to purchase Language Arts, Mathematics, and Pohnpei Studies textbooks.  Even with that expenditure, high school students are still sharing textbooks with up to four students sharing a single textbook.

He said the FSM accreditation standards have four levels with one being the lowest and four being the highest.  Most Pohnpei schools are at level two or more, but 11 schools are still at level one.

Environment Sector

The Governor spoke of Pohnpei watershed analysis and conservation projects and public education efforts.  He said that a total of 6,233 tree seedlings were distributed to help control soil erosion and said that more seedlings are available.

He said that a total of 91 Environmental Impact Assessments were conducted for earth moving and dredging requests.

He said that an assessment of the barrier reef surrounding the main island of Pohnpei was completed and documented but did not give any details of that assessment.

On the recycling project, he said that aluminum cans were purchased from the public three times in 2017 with over 200 participants collecting and selling over 4 million cans that will be shipped to Busan, South Korea.

He spoke of mapping projects and land ownership determinations through the legal system.

He said that the Division of Historic Preservation under the Department of Land is continuing to register historic sites.

Fisheries Sector

He said that assessments were completed for 25 marine protected areas but that the identification of endangered marine life species had not been completed.  He said they must be completed immediately and that the delay had been caused by the new organizational structure of the departments.

Reseeding of trochus was completed in Pakin, Mwoakilloa, and Pingelap.

Five fish aggregating devices have been built and are waiting deployment.

Out of the 35 markets surveyed by the Office of Fisheries and Aquaculture (OFA), 19 are not complying with reporting requirements. To ensure full compliance, all municipal governments are urged to enact ordinances that would require certification from OFA before business license is granted to any fish market, he said.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community and OFA have recommended a harvest of 10 metric tons of trochus after their collaborative assessment.

A $10,000 donation from Congress made it possible for Pohnpei to reseed clams on Pohnpei’s reefs.

Health Sector

Services for people with disabilities should be enhanced after the merging of the Department of Health and the Office of Social Affairs according the Governor’s address to the Legislature.

He said that a proposed health care plan for all legal residents of Pohnpei is currently in development.  No details on that plan were provided during his speech.

He spoke of a Dispensary Strengthening Program that has begun as a cooperative effort between the FSM Department of Health and the World Health Organization.  He said that the initiative will be extended to all municipalities in Pohnpei.

He said that 400 cases of Rheumatic Heart Disease were uncovered through a screening program of elementary school students.  Most of them were treatable but funding is still needed for further screening.

He spoke of the establishment of super dispensaries for U, Madolenihmw, Kitti and all outer islands in Pohnpei. Also to be constructed is a facility where mental health patients can be treated and accommodated.

OIA approved $6.8 million for diagnostic space and equipment, an intensive care unit, and for “electrical improvement and efficiency”.

He spoke of financial assistance from the Leo Etscheit Foundation for a Telemedicine Program.

Infrastructure Sector

The Governor said that all 12 projects under the Pohnpei Infrastructure Development Plan were transferred from the FSM Project Management Unit to the Pohnpei Project Management Office in February, 2017 but that the implementation of the projects is pending required processes at the FSM PMU.

A $6.3 million dollar project to extend the waterline from the COM-FSM to Diadi community in Kitti has already been awarded to contractors.  Contractors have also already been selected for the design of the PICS High School Math and Science Building.

Several school renovations were completed by High School students along with their instructors.

The US government has provided funding for the renovation of the State prison.

Pohnpei Utilities Corporation has received a number of grants to improve power generation capabilities and renewable energy resources.

Public Sector

Topics under this sector dealt mainly with law enforcement efforts.  He spoke of the establishment of a White Collar Crime Unit, reviews of State rules and regulations, the establishment of a Human Trafficking Task Force, a creation of a new misdemeanor citation form to ease the burden on courts.

He said that the establishment of a new Division of Fire and Emergency Services led to response plans pertaining to climate change, emergency response, 911 telephone system, and purchase of boats, fire trucks and emergency response tools.

He spoke of a new voter registry system and new residences funded or renovated through the Pohnpei Housing Authority.

“As of September 30, 2017, our financial records indicate that the State of Pohnpei has an unspent balance of over $2.2M. Of this amount, $984,910 was from the General Fund.

“We received $1,286,857 from our shares with Caroline Fisheries Corporation. We have $4,396,541 from our share with Wilshire Solutions Trust. From our account with the Bank of Hawaii we have $176,260. Pohnpei’s share as appropriated by Congress to be used after 2023 was at $9,221,086 or 20% of revenue collected by the National Government during this reporting period. Pohnpei’s collateral fund under the Early Retirement Program was $4,246,466 at market value. Pohnpei’s share with the FSM Trust Fund during this reporting period was at $14,121,424. The aluminum can recycling program brought in revenue of $451,344 and purchased aluminum cans from the pubic in the value of $299,337.

“According to our unaudited financial records for fiscal year 2017, the expenses of the Government were at $33,539,060:

  • Compact funds was at $18,611,582
  • Federal Grants for Education was at $1,059,015
  • Federal Grants for Health was at $1,016,570
  • General fund was at $10,365,388
  • Assistance from other countries besides the U.S. was at $275,594
  • Assistance from the FSM Congress was at $1,449,162
  • Other assistance such as funding for the Community Health Centers at $716,446; U.S. Department of Agriculture at $25,745; technical assistance for the Auditor’s Office was at $19,558.”

Tourism Sector

The Governor wasn’t able to cover all of the developments in the tourism sector.  He said that with the addition of new hotels, Pohnpei currently has 217 rooms available. Others are being developed.

Pohnpei had six registered tour operators during the reporting period.

The Lididuhniap Waterfall is now open to the public. The Kepirohi Waterfall restorations are nearing completion. The Sokehs Ridge project and Nan Madol projects are still undergoing improvement, he said.

Conclusion

“Our fisheries, tourism and agriculture sectors are the areas where we need to fully implement to significantly move the state forward. These plans are based on our Strategic Development Plan. The first plan is a fish processing plant that is currently under planning and will create at least 500 jobs initially. Second is the settlement of the case between Pohnpei State and Luen Thai Fishing Ventures. The settlement will enable the fish processing plant and the cold storage facility at Luen Thai to resume operations therefore creating another 200 jobs. Third, Pohnpei is partnering with two companies to develop tuna fisheries farming in Pohnpei as another opportunity to create more jobs. Fourth is another company that is interested in establishing a 5-star or 4-star hotel operation in Pohnpei and will be adding an additional 200 rooms. Finally, the Government of Pohnpei is currently working with the FAO over food security opportunities involving local farmers. These major directions need the support of the leadership of Pohnpei since these projects will be established all over Pohnpei.

“Pohnpei shares similar issues and concerns with other developing peoples. The world is changing over time and eras. We need to renew our way of thinking if we truly desire for a genuine development for us now and into the future. A truly lived spirit of solidarity is the way for us forward.”