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One survivor’s firsthand account of the crash of Air Niugini PX 073

plane crash

By Bill Jaynes

The Kaselehlie Press

October 10, 2018

FSM—On Friday morning, September 28, Air Niugini flight PX 073 crash landed in the lagoon short of the runway in Chuuk.  I was aboard.  It was the worst experience in my life but I am glad to be alive, thanks in large part to Chuukese locals who risked their own lives to save us passengers.

“I” is a very strange letter when it stands alone in a news article. “I”’m not sure I know how to handle that particular letter as a journalist but then “I”’ve never been involved in a plane crash before. “I” still don’t know how to handle that fact, neither in my life nor in this article.  Still, “I” know, and have heard from many, that despite the fact that my face and voice were all over international news for almost a week, people will want to hear from me, though “I” most certainly was not the only passenger aboard nor even close to the most significant.  I just ended up being one of the most visible.  It’s such a strange situation in so many ways and I’m not sure I know how to handle it.  Maybe I never will.

From the Top

I’ll start at the beginning.

The Indonesian government, who recently reached out to the FSM after many years of diplomatic relations between the two countries, invited me and a few other Pacific Islands journalists for an informational tour of their country.  I was heading to Indonesia when I boarded Air Niugini, flight PX 073 on the morning of September 28 after finally having received my flight arrangements only a day and a half earlier.

I was the last passenger through the security checkpoint before they said it would close.  The flight crew started arriving ten to fifteen minutes later.  The flight was scheduled to depart at 8:50 but at that time, boarding hadn’t even begun.

Once aboard, my seat, 24F on the right side of the rear of the plane was comfortable and the flight attendants were courteous and pleasant.  The safety briefing was pretty much like every safety briefing I’ve ever heard with one variance from my experience.  Instead of instructing passengers on how to use the exit doors, the briefing said that a crew member would open the doors in the event of an emergency.  I thought that was odd at the time but didn’t think much more of it.

Descent begins

When one of the cockpit crew members made the announcement that we were beginning our descent into Chuuk, the flight attendants immediately had the passengers open their window shades, fasten seatbelts and put seats in the upright position.  It seemed quite a bit early as there was still 25 minutes left in the flight at that point but it took nothing to comply.

As the Chuuk lagoon islands began to appear among aqua sea set against blue sky and white fluffy clouds, I began to search the lagoon for white caps.  The evening before my flight a friend posted a weather report for Chuuk on Facebook that indicated a low pressure system with possible cyclonic activity so I was vigilant.  It carried a travel advisory for boaters. I don’t know what I thought I’d do if I saw white caps but the lagoon was calm so I relaxed into the descent. 

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PREL takes new direction in Micronesia with all- Micronesian team for all-Micronesian solutions

prel

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press
October 10, 2018
Pohnpei—In late September, Paul Hadik, CEO of Pacific Resources for Education and Learning sent a heads up to The Kaselehlie Press that he was sending his “A-Team” to Pohnpei. While here his “A-Team” planned to meet with both the Executive and Legislative Branches of the National government. The team was to be composed only of highly skilled, educated and experienced Micronesians in their various fields.
He said that team members would include Dr. Vidalino Raatior of Chuuk, Dr. Jojo Peter of Chuuk, Shanty Asher of Kosrae who recently finished a law degree, Jasmine Mendiola of Pohnpei, Yolanda Joab Mori of Chuuk and Pohnpei, Canita Rilometo and Juan Lawrence who are both from Pohnpei.
Hadik said that the purpose of the visit was to “show the new PREL”, a team of Micronesians helping Micronesians.
“We feel that for too long the FSM has hired outside consultants who are overly expensive and very unfamiliar with the region”, Hadik said. “We have also heard the complaints of our college graduates refusing to return home. We think this addresses both issues. PREL is hiring qualified citizens of the RMI, FSM and Palau to do the work that is so necessary to developing the region. These young people have their degrees, work experience and are making names for themselves outside our borders. They know the culture and languages of the FSM and can bring new energy to stubborn problems.”
“I just want people to know that I firmly believe there are highly qualified people from the region who should be given the opportunity to address and solve our own problems,” he wrote after the team’s visit was nearly complete. “I have seen too many outsiders try to do the right thing the wrong way. There exists in the FSM and RMI a large number of amazing people and I want to put them all together and see what we can do. That's the new PREL—‘Micronesians helping Micronesians’.

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High School Robotics League expands across Micronesia

Habele
Students at nearly twenty high schools across the Federated States of Micronesia will participate in the Habele Robotics League this school year.
Building on the success of the popular Yap Robo League, the hands on robotics program is expanding to include high schools across Chuuk and Pohnpei for the first time. Over the course of the summer, Habele directors met with principals, officials and community leaders across these three states to introduce the program, set expectations, and plan out the 2018-19 school year.
For many of the new participants, the Habele Robotics League represents a first opportunity for students to engage with STEM learning in a hands-on way. Schools with previous Robo League experience provide an encouraging example for their peers across the FSM, through heightened interest in technology education, and dynamic student leadership. In Yap State, representatives from school robotics clubs have formed a Student Leadership Team, which meets to plan out details for competitions and training.
“New participants in Chuuk and Pohnpei are bringing a lot of enthusiasm and excitement to the Robo League this year,” says Matt Coleman, Executive Director of Habele. “The Yap Robo League has paved the way by showing that students are hungry for this kind of opportunity. They respond to it with real creativity and leadership.”

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Pohnpei Supreme Court officer charged with forgery on allotment authorization

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press
October 4, 2018
Pohnpei—Pohnpei today filed criminal charges of forgery against Mitzue S. Paulis, the Administrator of the Pohnpei Supreme Court.
The state alleges that on May 26, 2017, Paulis submitted a false request to the Payroll Division of Pohnpei Government to discontinue making pre-authorized monthly deductions in the amount of $221 from her salary for satisfaction of a personal loan with the Bank of Guam. The charges allege that she forged a bank employee’s signature on the form to make it appear that the Bank of Guam had made and approved the request to the Pohnpei State government.
The Payroll Division did not grant the request because the signature seemed suspicious.
The state alleges that the submission of the form with the allegedly forged signature was an attempt to deceive the Bank of Guam and the State of Pohnpei.
Paulis is innocent unless otherwise proved in a court of law.

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Lifting of ban on Filipino workers in the FSM only includes workers with current contracts

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press
October 3, 2018
FSM—On September 28, 2018, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration issued a governing board resolution saying that the lifting of the ban on overseas foreign workers (OFWs) in the FSM applies only to those who already have an employment contract in the FSM.
It says that the lifting of the ban applies only to “Balik Manggawa”, rehires of land based workers who renewed their employment contracts with the same principal. What the resolution means is that Filipino workers with current contracts in the FSM who have returned home to the Philippines can return to the FSM as long as they are not changing employers.
The resolution still imposes a temporary suspension on the processing and deployment of newly-hired OFWs bound for Federated States of Micronesia. The temporary suspension for new workers is “subject to continuing coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs in the monitoring of the status and welfare of the OFWs in the FSM.”
It was further resolved that the ban does not cover the deployment, port of call, embarkation and disembarkation of seafarers to the FSM.

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FSM Protected Areas Network Policy Framework passed by Congress

Micronesia Challenge
Palikir, Pohnpei- On 28 September 2018, the Congress of Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), unanimously adopted the FSM Protected Area Network (PAN) Policy Framework. The FSM PAN Policy Framework achieves locally the following:
Formally, through national legislation, acknowledges and adopts Program of Work on Protected Areas (PoWPA)
Creates a mechanism which allows the FSM to report back to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD)
It establishes criterion for sites to become part of the FSM PAN
Creates monitoring protocols for management effectiveness
Puts in place an application process for the drawdown of funds from the FSM MC Endowment
Establishes a technical committee that reviews PAN applicants for membership into the network and evaluates management plans and budgets of existing sites
Will legally create a process by which the FSM will report to the MC Measures Committee on the country’s advancement on the MC goals
Operationalize and executes the FSM’s commitment to the MC
Legally binds all PAN sites to their management plans

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FSM President addresses General Assembly of the UN

September 27, 2018
UN General Assembly
Statement Summary:
PETER M. CHRISTIAN, President of the Federated States of Micronesia, said that the last two speakers had said it all, especially New Zealand, which spoke about the fate of Pacific island countries with regards to climate change. He noted that when the cold war hit, the era was deeply rooted in clandestine engagement, reminding everyone of Winston Churchill’s words that “the truth is so precious that it must be protected by lies.” This resonated today, with the fight between the bigger, richer countries and the smaller, marginalized economies becoming again the spoils of a new economic war fostering new economic colonies. In all wars, innocent lives are filed away as collateral damage.
He continued, saying that the meeting was opened with the world facing serious challenges, and “yet we dare to ask ourselves, is Pluto a planet? How is that relevant to what we face today? Perhaps Pluto can wait.” He called for improving the United Nations as a forum that seeks curative measures, to stop this economic war, to close the gap, and to avoid deliberate procrastination on these issues. A more progressive attitude must be adopted, he said, noting that the existential threat of climate change is more real with every hurricane, wildfire, heat wave and centimetre of sea rise. Islands in the Federated States of Micronesia, and neighbouring Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Tuvalu, will be the first to literally disappear.

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