Joab says that PATA speech clip on casino was taken out of context and was not an endorsement

By Bill Jaynes

The Kaselehlie Press

May 18, 2018

Pohnpei—Senator Aurelio Joab said that 90 percent of the speech he gave during a meeting of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) was about his preference for development of eco-tourism in Pohnpei.  He said that only a small section of his speech discussed the Executive Branch’s intention to submit a bill to allow a resort developer to operate a casino for foreigners in Pohnpei.  It was that part of the speech that was posted to Facebook though that segment of the speech was only and introductory paragraph to a much longer speech in which Senator Joab made clear, his own preference for the development of eco-tourism.

He said that he wants to make it clear that any bill proposing to allow casino gambling in Pohnpei would come through the Standing Committee on Resources and Development that he chairs.  His mentioning the proposed bill in his speech to PATA was not an endorsement or a condemnation of the Governor’s proposed bill.  He said that it is incumbent upon his committee to perform due diligence before making any recommendations regarding any proposed bill and that was a small part of the reason for the delegation’s visit to Saipan.  He said that there are no foregone conclusions drawn before research and hearings are complete.

“For as long as I can remember, tourism has been a favorite subject of our speeches in conferences and community gatherings”, Joab said during his speech.  “Tourism has been given a prominent place in our state and national development plans and in our legislative enactments as well.  But how do all these plans, enactments and speeches translate into actual progress?  Over the past two or three decades, we have seen vast advances in tourism in Guam, Palau and especially here in the Northern Mariana Islands.  But for the eastern islands of Micronesia, true development in tourism has been disappointingly slow.

“To my colleagues in Pohnpei, I say that the time for rhetoric is over.  Now is the time for action.  From my travels throughout the region and in other parts of the world, I have observed that advances in tourism can come in many forms.  As policy makers in the legislative branch of our government, I believe we should keep an open mind with respect of all forms of tourism development, but from my perspective and for my state of Pohnpei, I am partial to the support of eco-tourism,” he told the PATA members.

“My friends, I am partial to eco-tourism because I am partial to what the environment means to us as islanders.  The sunsets that span across our lagoons and into the deep Pacific and the glittering waterfalls that tumble down from the mountain tops of our rain forests to the valleys below are not just pretty pictures ---- they are the essence of who we are.

“Each of our islands is founded in folklore similar to the legends of Pohnpei.  We each have a story to tell to the visitors to our islands.  The Pohnpei Delegation is here to share our story of how we would like to promote tourism in Micronesia and to learn from you how you have come to maximize the marvels of our islands to sustain our families, our communities and our future generations.  Thank you for letting us be a part of that process.”

Joab said that the short video clip posted on Facebook was just the first two paragraphs of a much longer speech that clearly stated his preference for the development of eco-tourism. “I trust and hope that the social media can look at these proposed development dreams in a positive way and meaningful ways, and not jump to (any) conclusions,” he wrote in an email.