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Conserving coastal fisheries in Pohnpei

By Sarah Elgen

Science Fellow US Embassy Kolonia

December 18, 2018

Pohnpei—With its lush verdant rainforests, chattering colorful birds, and dense mangrove forests encircled by extensive coral reefs, the natural environment of Pohnpei is striking to the newcomer. Pohnpeians have successfully conserved and maintained these beautiful ecosystems and natural resources for centuries, but today they face new challenges from climate change, overfishing, forest clearing for sakau, piggery operations, and other human activities. The mix of sedimentation, contaminant run-off, and biodiversity loss from these new issues have ultimately created an unhealthy coral reef environment.

  Pohnpei has a large coral reef area in relation to its human population size. However, land-based stressors and overexploitation of fisheries have impacted these natural resources, resulting in degraded coral reefs that have impaired ecosystem functioning and produce fewer fish. Pohnpei's predominant type of coral reef fishing activity — nighttime spear fishing — leads to overharvesting, as fish are easily caught while sleeping. For instance, parrotfish, which is one of the most popular reef fish and a target of nighttime spearfishers, has experienced a notable decline in landings over the years. From 2006 to 2015, the annual overall volume of marketed parrotfish fell around 20 percent while the amount of fishing has increased and shifted from inner to outer reef areas. In general, Pohnpeians attest that they must fish longer and travel farther to catch fish — and the fish now harvested are increasingly smaller and immature, resulting in less reproduction and, thus, fewer fish for future generations.

  Research suggests that people are fishing coral reefs at a highly unsustainable rate, targeting spawning and juvenile fish. Substantially more fish are now being caught than the reefs are capable of producing, resulting in a downward spiral of reef populations. From 1970 to 2010, green humphead parrotfish (kemeik) declined 71 percent in abundance and 80 percent in size, and humphead wrasse (merer) declined 70 percent in both abundance and size. Though once common, adults of these two iconic species are now rarely seen, while the numbers of spawning fish have declined year after year. What's more, giant clams, coconut crabs, and marine turtles have also become rare, and reports suggest declines in shark and manta species, as well. As some fish species become less prevalent, other species that are important to maintaining reef health are being more heavily fished, which will result in further loss of corals and erosion of reef ecosystems. 

   What can be done to restore coral reef fisheries in Pohnpei? As with many environmental problems, recovery requires a comprehensive approach to tackle stressors originating from multiple sources. Coral reef health would benefit from reducing soil and contaminant run-off. The coral reef fishery would benefit from monitoring fishery landings, enforcing existing restrictions on size and species of concern, and potentially developing restrictions for additional species currently not protected (as well as, perhaps, restrictions on fishing type, specifically nighttime spearfishing). Diversity and quantity of fish have improved where local marine protected areas have been established and enforced. In addition, increasing community awareness about the natural environment and developing community-based fishery management plans (as local non-profits are also doing) are important as well. As we become more aware of our natural environment, we value it; Pohnpei, with its rich and abundant diversity, deserves it.

Sarah was a Science Fellow at the US Embassy in Pohnpei. She works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Honolulu

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International Day of Persons with Disabilities commemorated

FSM Information Services

1313212PALIKIR, Pohnpei—The United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) was commemorated on Monday, December 3rd, with a community event in Madolenihmw, Pohnpei. Included among the approximately five hundred attendees were Honorable Reed B. Oliver, Lieutenant Governor for Pohnpei State, Monique Panaligan, Keynote Speaker and representative of the non-government organization (NGO) Pohnpei Women with Disabilities, youths, persons with disabilities, community and church leaders, Pohnpei State senators, and representatives from the FSM National and Pohnpei State Government.

The organizing committee chose Madolenihmw as a key location for this outreach program because, according to the 2010 FSM Census, Madolenihmw has the highest percentage of people with disabilities in Pohnpei State.

The theme for the 2018 International Day of Persons with Disabilities was “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.” Keynote Speaker Monique Panaligan delivered a powerful speech from her own experiences as a person with multiple disabilities, and as an advocate for women with disabilities through the NGO Pohnpei Women with Disabilities. “We are not people to be pitied or sad for,” she said, “But we ask that you take the time to learn about what disabilities are, educate yourself on different types of disabilities, understand them—and treat us like any other person.”

The event, hosted by person with disabilities, supported this theme with activities incorporated into the program focusing on education and awareness of what disabilities are, the importance of inclusiveness, and how such inclusiveness can be obtained through a community environment. One such activity was a student essay competition. The winners of the competition were: Carla Mae Henry, Martin Rodriguez Jr., and Nidisha George.

An informative day with strong and powerful messages, citizens were enlightened and heart-warmed to see so many people attend and support with disabilities in Pohnpei State. More projects and programs focusing on the rights of people with disabilities will be rolled out as organizers implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in Pohnpei and the other FSM States.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities in Pohnpei State was made possible due to the generous support of the FSM Department of Health and Social Affairs, FSM National Department of Education, Pohnpei State Department of Education, FSM Congressmen Dion G. Neth, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), World Health Organization (WHO), Pohnpei State Legislature, and Micronesia Productions.

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The FSM welcomes the US Indo-Pacific Commander to Chuuk State to participate in Operation Christmas Drop

FSM Information Services

hjWENO, Chuuk—Admiral Philip Davidson, Commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, in his first visit to the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), was welcomed in Chuuk State this past Monday, December 10th 2018, by the Honorable Yosiwo P. George, Vice President of the FSM, representing President Christian, and the Honorable Johnson Elimo, Governor of Chuuk State. In brief meetings with the Commander, both Vice President George and Governor Elimo thanked him for his visit, and for the continued and on-going mutual support, assistance, and cooperation between our two countries pursuant to Title III (Security and Defense) of the Amended Compact of Free Association. The purpose of the Commander’s visit was to personally meet with Leadership, and to participate in Operation Christmas Drop.

                In opening discussions Admiral Davidson expressed his appreciation to the FSM for the visit, and reassured the FSM of the United States’ commitment to the partnership, and specifically, the defense and security of the FSM. Additional discussions touched on current and future U.S. Military activities in the FSM, and the importance of these engagements in the continued productive relationship of our two Nations. The Commander also recognized the important presence and participation of two service members from the FSM:  Technical Sergeant Mori, U.S. Air Force, from Chuuk State, and Lance Corporal Rodriguez, U.S. Marine Corps, from Pohnpei State. At the invitation of the Commander, the two service members flew in to Weno to join the Christmas Drop operation. 

                Operation Christmas Drop is the longest running Humanitarian Assistance operation in the U.S. Department of Defense. Since 1952, the United States Air Force annually leads a combined effort that deploys U.S. and other allied nation aircraft to conduct airdrop operations to deliver Christmas gifts to the people and communities of the outer islands of the FSM. This year, military aircraft from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and the Royal Australian Air Force joined the Christmas Drop effort.

                A U.S. Air Force C-130 from Guam arrived in Weno, Chuuk State, to perform one of many scheduled airdrop missions. Admiral Davidson invited National and State Leadership representatives to join him on the C-130 for this particular flight, which flew from Weno, and air delivered Christmas gifts to the island of Nama, in the Upper Mortlocks Region of Chuuk. Joining the Admiral on the flight were Vice President George, Governor Elimo, U.S. Ambassador to the FSM Robert Riley, Speaker Innocente Oneisom of the Chuuk State Legislature, Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Lorin Robert, Secretary of Environment, Climate Change, and Emergency Management Andrew Yatilman, and other National and State government officials.

                After completion of the successful airdrop mission, Vice President George hosted the Admiral and other Leaders and officials at a lunch function; Admiral Davidson departed Weno shortly thereafter.

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IOM celebrates International Migrants Day

The International Organization for Migration

elder happyWho is a migrant? A father who travels to the United States to support his family.

Who is a migrant? An aunt who leaves the Philippines to find work in FSM.

Who is a migrant? A daughter who moves from the outer islands to go to school in the mainland.

Who is a migrant? A family who has to flee their home before a typhoon hits.

Who is a migrant? Me, you, us.

We here at the International Organization for Migration, or IOM, work on these questions every day in FSM. While each day is as important as the last, on December 18th of every year we celebrate International Migrants Day. On this day, we highlight the positive contributions of migrants and their fundamental role in sustainable development.

Who is a migrant? For us, a migrant is any person who is moving, or has moved across an international border or within a State away from his/her habitual place of residence, regardless of the person’s legal status, whether the movement is voluntary or involuntary, what the causes for the movement are, or what the length of the stay is. In short, almost everyone is a migrant.Kids happy

Migration is an important social and economic phenomenon in FSM, and the states of Chuuk, Yap, Kosrae and Pohnpei have all changed for the better thanks to migration. Whether it be a coworker, a student, a foreigner, or just a friend, we can all count on the positive contributions of migrations to society.

Just as we would treat our own fathers and mothers, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, and even that one cousin who sometimes gets a bit too loud during birthdays, with respect and dignity, so must we treat migrants. After all, whose loved one has not been a migrant?

We all deserve to be treated with dignity.

Find and follow us on Facebook @IOMMicronesia to keep up to date on our activities in FSM.

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Public Auditor hosts talent show for International Anti-Corruption Day

By Pohnpei Office of the Public Auditor

and Bill Jaynes


December 9, 2018

DSC02064Kolonia, Pohnpei—The Pohnpei Office of the State Public Auditor (POPA) united with the Youth-4-Change to commemorate the International Anti-Corruption Day at the Kolonia/China Friendship Gymnasium. The event was a success with singing, dancing, video clips, and messages conveying the seriousnessof corruption and how we can help reduce, prevent and educate the youth and the public in Pohnpei.  Corruption is a global concern which poses serious threat to thedevelopment of a country and its people and is a serious crime that can undermine social and economic development in all societies. 

The International Anti-Corruption Day marks the joint international campaign efforts by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and United Nations Office for Drug and Crime (UNODC) in the fight against corruption.

The Pohnpei Public Auditor, Ihlen Joseph stated in his speech that, “Corruption is everywhere, in the family, in the church, in schools, in clubs and organizations andin the government.”  No country, region or community is immune to corruption.  The theme for this year is ‘United Against Corruption.” which is the United Nation’s global theme.  The Youth-4-change worked with POPA in their program to cultivate creativity against corruption.  There were seven different talents showcased on that day. Around 175 people showed up from all ages.  The event was sponsored by UNDP. DSC02024

Performers used music and drama to convey the message that corruption effects everyone including those who are involved in it.  There were solo acts, and group acts and music ranged from pop style to rap.  The winners of the competition were Ozzy and Ray who told the audience that they had written and recorded the accompaniment for their rap only the night before.  It had a catchy hook and was very well done from memory.  The second place winners were LSJ, who sang a song they had written.  Raymand Poetry won third place with their drama about a politician who runs on a platform of fighting corruption but in order to win the election so that he can fight corruption, makes a corrupt deal for campaign finances.

The other performances were good as well and judges decided to also give each of the fourth through seventh place winners a prize as well. 

POPA hopes that the audiences captured the messages to be able to implement or share with their families and friends for a better Pohnpei.

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National Auditor says MiCare has been troubled by management issues but new team optimistic

By Bill Jaynes

The Kaselehlie Press


December 20, 2018

FSM—The Office of the National Public Auditor conducted an audit of MiCare operations specifically covering the years 2015-2017.  It shows that in 2015, MiCare had a positive net position of $367,805 but that over the next two years the position declined. By 2016 Micare had a deficit of $449,795 and by the end of 2017, the deficit was $1,143,942.

In 2017, MiCare hired a new Executive Director The auditor says that the new leadership team is optimistic, yet much work needs to be done.

OPA found that there had been inadequate corporate governance.  It found that management had inadequate annual budget that failed to implement the Strategic Plan of the organization in order to achieve its goals and objectives.  It found that there was a lack of a risk management policy and framework.  There was a lack of performance evaluations for the Administrator and Senior Management.  There was an absence of effective information and communication technology controls resulting in the breakdown of MiCare’s operations and loss of critical data.  It found that there was an absence of performance results and measures to implement monitoring and reporting controls.  Management had not developed adequate internal policies to provide necessary direction and guidance in managing their day-to-day operations.  There was no code of ethics and independence declaration for Senior Management and members of the Board of Directors which could and likely did result in conflict-of-interest decisions, though the audit did not specifically accuse MiCare of that.  The Board and Management failed to provide effective oversight and guidance on management of the Plan’s accounts receivable.

Auditors made many recommendations for improvement under nine general headings: Corporate Governance, Annual Operation Plan and Budget, Risk Management, Performance Evaluation, Information Technology, Performance Monitoring and Reporting, Internal Policies and Procedures, Code of Ethics, and Collection of Accounts Receivable.

One of the items discussed was the difference between premiums collected and claims paid out in any given year.  Of particular difficulty was the Chronic Refill Option Program.  Under that option, the plan covers a 30 day supply of as many prescriptions as necessary, per month, per year.  To access that option, the covered person must pay an annual deductible of $200 to the Plan.  In 2016 there were 162 covered people who took advantage of that option for a total of $32,400 in deductibles paid to MiCare.  However, MiCare paid out $346,062.27 in claims under that option, $313,662.27 more than it had collected in deductibles.  It was just one example of problems that Management and the Board will need to resolve for the solvency of the program.

Another difficulty is collections on the Promissory Notes Program.  That plan was established to assist referral patients who encounter difficulties in advancing 50 percent of prosthesis costs.  The period for repayment for referral patients under the plan is six months. In 2013 60 percent of the promissory notes were still outstanding at the end of the year for a total of $94,906 not paid off of the $157,178 advanced to referral patients.  The amounts steadily increased so that by 2017, 95 percent of promissory notes for that year were unpaid for a total of $434,454.89 unpaid of the $455,873.08 advanced that year.

On the whole, the management response to the audit agreed with the findings.  It also pointed out that MiCare is a non-profit entity.  “MiCare has an investment,” it said, “but charging unreasonable premiums to members for purpose of profit may decrease enrollment, thus great contribut(ing) to financial woes.”

In the past, the National Government has had to subsidize MiCare for its solvency.

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Holiday Wishes for a Merry Christmas & a Joyous New Year

KIlYQroX 400x40048905061 264020514280911 7980999549021847552 nDear Citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia,

Christmas is a season of unity, and unity for us all cannot be taken for granted; unity is, indeed, our greatest strength. Unity in our families, unity in our communities, unity in our islands, and unity in our country. We are four stars shining across the seas, and we are all each other’s brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper. It is a blessing to be of this country, as it is a blessing to serve you all as your President.

We in Micronesia are richly endowed in the good things from this Earth, in the love of our families, and the fellowship of our neighbors. Though we face many challenges across the spectrum, so too have we endured, and we will continue to endure, as we work together to build our communal vision of independence, our dreams of prosperity, and, yes, peace, unity, and liberty. For these are not only the words on our country’s seal, but the ideals for which we stand together as one Nation.

We’ve accomplished much in 2018, and in 2019 we’ll go even further. But, for now, as our families and communities celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior on this blessed and important Christmas day, let us be thankful for one another, thankful for our families, and thankful for who we are as Micronesians.

From myself, Vice President George, and our families: Lenwo, Ranannim, Mogethin, Kaselehlie—and a very Merry Christmas and joyous New Year to each and every one of you. God bless the Federated States of Micronesia.

President Peter M. Christian

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