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Filipino Community in Pohnpei celebrates 120th Independence Day

 MG 0611By The United Filipino community

June 17, 2018

Kolonia, Pohnpei FSM- Filipinos in Pohnpei celebrated the 120th anniversary of Philippines independence, marking the day with presentations, messages, and traditional Filipino games from each regional organization. To remind the Filipino community of the precious heritage of Filipinos, the regional organization hosted games and sold Filipino cuisine. Tickets were given to those who won the games and were then used to spin a wheel to go a chance to win a variety of prices. Among the games played during the event were “sipa”, “tumbang preso”, “luksong tinik”, “piko” and “luksong lubid”. Children commonly play these traditional games before they got occupied with today’s modern technologies. Organizers of the event wanted to remind Filipinos of the rich culture and tradition they have that is in danger of being forgotten because of the fast changing technology. Aside from the games, a variety of Filipino foods were sold by each regional organization. The style of cooking and the food associated with Filipino cuisine have evolved over many centuries to a mix Indian, Chinese, Spanish and American influence. During the event, each regional organization showcased each unique cuisine from their region. 

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Isak Rawit sentenced to six months in jail for laser attack on a United flight over Chuuk lagoon

By Bill Jaynes

The Kaselehlie Press

June 5, 2018

Chuuk—Based on his guilty plea that he aimed a laser pointer at an aircraft, Isak Rawit of Chuuk was sentenced to four and a half years in jail.  All but six months of his jail sentence was suspended.  He is to report to jail by 5:00 p.m., on June 13, 2018 to serve out his sentence.

During the suspended portion of his sentence, the court placed Rawit on probation and his laser pointer was confiscated without compensation.

Rawit could have been sentenced to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each of the two counts of the crime he was charged with committing.  The government dropped one of the charges.

United Airlines pilots, Captain Kidder and Captain Falsani, reported that at approximately 9:40 PM on October 29 and again at 2:30 AM on October 30, they were attacked by a green laser light during flights. The pilots reported the coordinates of the origin of the laser beam as being in waters off Ruo in Chuuk State.

Through an investigation and questioning, National Police learned that Isak Rawit had been fishing in those waters on that night and that he owns a laser pointer with red and green lights. The laser pointer is similar to military grade laser pointers used to aid in sighting targets. It is not the small type of laser pointer that can be bought at variety stores. The criminal information says that the pointer that was used is six inches long and in addition to the laser beams, also has a flashlight mode. It is not a crime to own that type of laser pointer, but it is a crime to point it at an aircraft.

Rawit told the police that he and five other men were spear fishing in waters off Ruo. He admitted that each time he saw the United Airlines plane pass overhead, he took his laser pointer out of his bucket and shined it at the plane.

Prosecutors said that a United Airlines pilot testified about the dangers of laser pointer attacks on pilots when they are flying saying that an attack is hazardous to the pilots who are charged with the safety of their passengers.

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Interior Announces Funds to Extend Yap Robotics League Program to Pohnpei, Chuuk and Lauds Strength in Partnerships

 MG 0716

U.S. Department of the Interior

POHNPEI – During an official visit to Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Doug Domenech, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular and International Affairs announced a $241,675 technical assistance grant for continuation of the Yap Robo League and expansion to include students from the islands of Weno (Chuuk) and Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia for academic year 2018-2019.  Part of today’s ceremony celebrated the success of Robo Day held in Yap this year and the extension of the program to Chuuk and Pohnpei next year. 

“We are pleased to be a part of inspiring creative and technological innovation in students in the Federated States of Micronesia and are encouraged to know that there has been support from the FSM Congress and private sector alike for this program,” said Assistant Secretary Domenech.  “The fact that you are returning unspent funds to us today reminds us that partnerships are often more important than money when it comes to creating effective programs and successful outcomes,” continued Domenech.

 MG 0698Assistant Secretary Domenech presented the signed grant award to Larry Raigetal of Waa’gey who accepted the grant award on behalf of the recipient organization Habele.  Vice Principal Russell Figueras, accompanied by close to 50 students at the Our Lady of Mercy Catholic High School, hosted the event.  Joining Assistant Secretary Domenech at the event were U.S. Ambassador Robert Riley, FSM Vice President Yosiwo George, FSM Senator Isaac Figir, FSM Senator Joseph Urusemal, Deputy Secretary of Foreign Affairs Samson Pretrick, Deputy Chief of Mission Ted Pierce, Office of Insular Affairs Director Nik Pula, and staff.  FSM Senators Figir and Urusemal have also provided financial support and leadership to the Yap Robo League since its creation in 2011.

At the ceremony, the Assistant Secretary was granted a check in return in the amount of $1,569.01 as last year’s Robo League Day was successfully completed under budget.

“On behalf of Habele, the schools, administrators, and students who took part in Yap Robo Day May 2018, we thank you for investing in this opportunity to expand this program for students across Micronesia,” said Larry Raigetal.  “With support from many other partners, both public and private sector, we were able to carry out the year-long work and end-of-year Robo Day championship program under budget,” remarked Larry Raigetal.  “As a token of our appreciation and respect for the support of the American taxpayer and the U.S. Government, we are proud to return $1,569.01 as a demonstration of our good stewardship.

The Yap Robo League, organized and hosted by U.S. non-profit organization Habele Outer Islands Education Fund, was established in 2011 and turned into a statewide league in 2018.  MG 0686

Funding provided by the U.S. Department of the Interior allowed several schools in Yap to field student teams who designed, built, and competed complex robots at its first Yap Robo Day.  Eighty-eight students from Yap High School, Outer Islands High School, Yap Catholic High School, Yap Seventh Day Adventist School, and Faith Christian Academy took part in the competition.  Nearly 300 people, including FSM Vice President Yosiwo George, participated in the May 2018 event.

Habele is a U.S.-based nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of educational opportunities for students in the remote islands and atolls of Micronesia, a former U.S. administered trust territory in the Western Pacific.  Habele provides support to low-income students across Micronesia, including K-12 tuition scholarships for students attending non-public schools, donations of books to public schools and libraries, development of local language materials, and organization and support of after school clubs, such as the Robo League.

Funding support for the Robo League program is made available through the Office of Insular Affairs’ Technical Assistance Program.  

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Court upholds MiCare denial of coverage for man who was drunk when he was injured

By Bill Jaynes

The Kaselehlie Press

June 12, 2018

Pohnpei—After four years, the FSM Supreme Court has sided with MiCare for denying coverage to a man who injured himself while intoxicated.

FSM Supreme Court Associate Justice Beauleen Carl-Worswick decided the case on June 7, 2018 and her Finding of Fact and Conclusions of Law were entered on June 12.  The original complaint was filed in the court on February 5, 2014.  The causes of action were an appeal of a decision of an administrative agency, violations of regulations, breach of contract, due process, equal protection, civil rights violations, declaratory and injunctive relief, and breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealings.

The finding of facts says that on the evening of his injury on March 22, 2013, the plaintiff and another man consumed two five dollar bottles of sakau, a bottle of 80 proof vodka, one beer, and an unidentified mixed drink.  At trial in February of this year, the plaintiff admitted that he was intoxicated.

While on his way home after consuming the alcohol and sakau, the man stopped in Metipw, U to relieve himself.  While standing on a ridge on the side of a river, he fell, sustaining serious injuries that meant that he can no longer climb or run, and he now walks with a permanent limp.

The physician who attended him at Pohnpei State Hospital Emergency Room said that the man sustained a severe cut on his forehead, looked drowsy and appeared to be intoxicated.  Pohnpei State Hospital recommended that he receive further treatment in the Philippines.

MiCare denied coverage for the referral.  The man appealed the decision and after an administrative review in August of 2013, the MiCare board upheld the rejection.  In February of 2014, the plaintiff filed his petition with the FSM Supreme Court.

The Court’s Conclusions of Law quoted Section 7.3 of the MiCare Regulations that lists excluded medical conditions that are not eligible for medical insurance coverage.  Section 7.3 (r) excludes, “treatment of injuries which are attributable to the member’s own misconduct, negligence, intemperate use of drugs or alcohol, direct participation in the commission of a crime, violation of law or ordinance, and unnecessary exposure to health hazards.”

At trial, the plaintiff admitted that he was “sakaula”.  That combined with the fact that although no blood or alcohol test was performed on the night of the plaintiff’s injury, the attending physician who treated him testified that he was drunk.

The court also considered whether the plaintiff would have fallen from the ridge had he not been intoxicated.  But though the plaintiff argued during closing statements that he might have fallen whether he was intoxicated or not, the matter was never raised in the plaintiff’s “case in chief”.  “Had the plaintiff proven that a reasonable or ordinary non-intoxicated person would have fell at the same location, then alcohol would not be a contributing factor to the fall, and MiCare would be obligated to provide coverage,” the ruling said.

The court dismissed all of the plaintiff’s claims.

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Four church officials in Patta face 30 years in prison for trafficking in children

By Bill Jaynes

The Kaselehlie Press

June 11, 2018

FSM—Four men, officers of a church in Patta, Chuuk have been convicted of one charge each of Trafficking in Children after each of them had sex with a young girl of 14 or 15 at the time of their crimes.

Onsori Sino, Kachura Angken, Taisiro Loves, and Lucky Shiro each face a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and or a fine of not less than $5000 but not more than $50,000.  However, a Supreme Court Associate Justice previously handed down significantly lighter sentences to two people convicted of human trafficking crimes in Chuuk.

The convicted felons are due to be sentenced by the FSM Supreme Court on August 8 at 9:30 in the morning at the FSM Supreme Court in Chuuk.  The sentencing hearing is open to the public.

Chief Justice Dennis Yamase is presiding in this case. 

Prosecutors proved to the court that the young victim’s claim that in September of 2015 Sino had sex with her in exchange for marijuana were true.  The criminal information on the case said that on that day, the victim had been sent by her mother to buy disposable diapers.  Shiro followed the victim and urged the victim to allow Shiro’s daughter to buy the diapers for her so that she could go to his house with him.  After the act, witnesses saw the two leaving Shiro’s house.

Kachura Angken was convicted based on evidence presented by the prosecutors along with the victim’s testimony that in October 2015 he solicited a minor to have sex with him in his taro patch for the sum of $15.

Tasiro Loves was convicted on testimony of the victim, other evidence place before the Court, and arguments of counsel.  In 2015, lured the victim to a home belonging to another person on Patta and induced the minor to have sexual intercourse with him for $2.00.

Lucky Shiro was convicted of having had sex with the victim for a promised sum of two dollars that he apparently didn’t have the cash to pay after the act was completed.

Each of the defendants was accused of multiple counts of the crime of Trafficking in Children for sex acts they allegedly committed in separate acts for tiny sums of money.  The Court found them guilty of only one count each.

The government had contended that the defendants had shared with each other the vulnerability of the victim and that each then acted on his own to exploit it. The Court did not find that the prosecution had presented enough evidence to prove a charge of conspiracy to commit trafficking against children. 

Sentencing will be on August 8, 2018 at 9:30 in the morning.

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Students embark on annual overseas exchange program in Japan

IMG 0124June 14, 2018

Thursday, many gathered at the PICS gymnasium for a lovely farewell lunch for the students chosen to represent Pohnpei overseas in Japan.

Every year, twelve honourable students are chosen from different schools around Pohnpei for a twelve day exchange program in Japan. Students are chosen based on their; grade point average (GPA), good behaviour and all-round student performance. The students’ ages range from as young as ten and up to fourteen. They will be accompanied by their chaperones; Teacher of the Year, Kamleen Sam and Youth Coordinator, George Donre.

The exchange program is sponsored by Japan to strengthen international relationships and foster cultural exchange between Japan and the Pacific. Also attending the exchange program will be students from Chuuk, Kosrae, Yap, the Marshall Islands and Palau. Each group will perform five minute traditional dance in a celebration of their culture.

Japan has hosted this annual exchange program since 2002. It is a great opportunity and privilege for the students to be representing their state.

A crowd of proud families and friends turned up for the event. It is a great chance for Pohnpei to represent itself as a state of Micronesia in a foreign place.

Attending the showcase was the Honorable Lt. Governor Reed B.Oliver, Director of Health and social Services; Director Kapilly Capelle, Acting Chief of social services; Lululeen Santos, Student Services Specialist representing the Department of Education; Mr Dioplus Dioplus, family members and the general public.

The representatives made remarks about the honour they had for the students embarking on this journey.

After the speeches the students presented their synchronised performance for the guests with great pride.

The students looked very excited to be embarking on their journey departing this Saturday via Guam. For many this will be their first time in Japan and they are looking forward to the new cultural experience.

The twelve students travelling to Japan are; Maliza Mauricio, Sean Troy Moses, Trisha Casey Joab, Vemica Paula David, Ginero Primo, De Angelo Williams, Melessa Jonathan, Jenna Helieisar, Sidney Kilmete Jr., PJ Helgen, LeeRon Johnny Silbanuz, and Carlamae Raynor.

Good luck to all the students and have fun!

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Pohnpei Governor submits Micronesian Tourism Complex Omnibus Development bill to Legislature

By Bill Jaynes

The Kaselehlie Press

June 20, 2018

Pohnpei—On June 8, McGarry Miguel, Floor Leader of the Pohnpei State Legislature introduced a 45 page “by request bill” from Pohnpei’s Executive Branch for a “‘Micronesian Tourism Omnibus Development Statute of 2018’ to provide for and to regulate an integrated resort casino complex for the State of Pohnpei…” (L.B. 332-18)

The bill has merely been introduced and has been assigned to the Standing Committees on Resources and Development, Land, and Finance for hearings.  The bill could undergo substantial changes by the time it hits the floor for first and second readings.

Pohnpei, like most other states in the Federated States of Micronesia is scrambling to develop new sources of revenue to replace U.S. Compact funds that have been on a declining scale to zero in 2023.  At that time, Compact funding will switch to the interest from a trust fund that has not performed up to originally planned expectations.  It won’t be enough unless FSM states can find other revenue sources.

According to the General Provisions section in the tourism bill, the creation of a resort and casino is an important part of an overall strategy to ensure the state’s economic growth.  It says that during the development phase a resort casino would result in significant construction jobs and construction related spending in Pohnpei.  Once constructed, a resort casino would create new jobs for residents of Pohnpei and offer a wide array of employment opportunities for individuals with diverse educational backgrounds and skills.  Revenue generated could be used to fund critical needs in Pohnpei including investments and upgrades to roads and bridges, and other transportation infrastructure.  It claims that the additional revenues could also be used to offset the tax burden on existing businesses.

It says that since addressing the social costs of gaming is an important and necessary part of any comprehensive casino plan, the act envisions a high level of funding for public safety and a rigorous gaming regulatory and enforcement scheme.  “The resort casino must therefore be controlled to protect the public health, safety, and well being of the inhabitants of Pohnpei; to foster the stability and success of gaming and to preserve the competitive economy of Pohnpei.

On January 18, 2018, Senator Stevick Edwin introduced a bill calling on the Governor to submit a draft omnibus bill for a tourism complex that could include a casino.  The bill would have authorized the Director of the Department of Resources and Development to issue a call for submissions of notices of interest to potential investors to develop a casino/resort complex in the state of Pohnpei through a means that the director finds will effectively reach the largest number of potential investors but only after an omnibus bill is considered and passed.

That bill has seen no legislative action and now seems to be moot since the new tourism omnibus bill has incorporated most, if not all of the wording of Edwin’s bill.

Canton Construction Corporation of Guam has expressed interest in developing a resort and casino on land it would reclaim east of the Dekehtik causeway and south of the airport and has been communicating with government leaders about the idea since at least some time last year. 

Their proposal has not yet risen to the level described in the omnibus bill for a full-fledged investment proposal but the basic proposal says that it intends to train locals to be the management team and estimates that the total increase of employment would be 1000 new jobs on Pohnpei.  It says that it would also try to bring in new airlines to the island to support the tourist arrival and local logistics problem.  It roughly estimates that the annual increase of Pohnpei’s tax revenues from the casino would be $20 to $30 million plus the potential for expansion of support businesses not directly related to the resort.

It say it intends to target customers from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and Europe and has plans to create a sort of fantasy experience for its customers including boat rides, parasailing, water slides, sky diving, and cultural shows.  It would offer excursion tours to Nan Madol, Kepirohi, and Lididuniap waterfalls, as well as to Sokehs Rock.

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