Melekeok, Palau â€“ Palau opened the 16th Micronesian Presidentsâ€™ Summit (MPS) with President Tommy Remengesau Jr.; President Peter Christian of the Federated States of Micronesia; and President Hilda Heine, of the Marshall Islands, gathered to discuss pressing issues including climate change, the island nationsâ€™ relationships with the United States and fisheries.
The one-day meeting was held at the Palau Capitol in Melekeok state with the leaders agreeing to come up with agreements and cooperation on issues of important regional interest.
Remengesau opened the summit stating that the annual meeting is â€œan opportunity to work together on important Pacific island issues.â€
Remengesau has especially urged the two leaders to support Palau in conveying its frustration to the U.S. government on the nonpassage of the Compact aid to Palau.
Palau and the U.S. concluded a review of the Compact of Free Association on Sept. 3, 2010, and signed a 15-year extension agreement that includes a $250 million package of assistance for Palau through 2024.
However, the U.S. Congress has yet to appropriate permanent funding for Palau.
Since 2010, Palau has gotten a yearly disbursement from the U.S. as part of the approved financial package. Palau gets at least $13 million every year but the U.S. Department of the Interior taps other funding sources to fulfill its obligation under the Compact.
â€œPalauâ€™s Compact situation is frustrating and actually embarrassing; it has taken that long. This is the message that we want to convey to our friends, hopefully there is light under the tunnel,â€ Remengesau said.
Christian echoed Palauâ€™s sentiment about the three nationsâ€™ relationship with the U.S., adding that the freely associated states (FAS) nations can look for support from each other on this matter.
Remengesau also took the opportunity to congratulate Heine for making history as the first woman leader in the Pacific.
Heine, for her part, underscored the importance of discussions on the impact of climate change among the nations.
The Marshall Islands, as one of the low-lying nations, has wanted to draw attention to its plight as a result of the impact of climate change.
Remengesau also expressed his support to Pohnpeiâ€™s planned hosting of the Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting this year and Yapâ€™s hosting of the Micronesian Games.
He also encouraged the leaders to support Palauâ€™s hosting of the Pacific Media Summit next month.
â€œFreedom of speech is enshrined in our Constitutions, media is the door to the outside world. Media is an important tool for transparency and freedom of expression,â€ Remengesau said.
The media summit is scheduled from March 21 to 26.
A communiquÃ© as a result of the presidentsâ€™ summit is expected to pave the way for agreements and cooperation on fisheries, climate change, aquaculture, telecommunications, regional surveillance and maritime boundaries among other issues.
The signing is scheduled for tomorrow, Feb. 24.
The MPS will be followed by the Micronesian Chief Executive Summit (MCES) starting today, Feb. 23. The MCES is an annual gathering of the six governors and the presidents of Micronesia â€” Palau, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, the Marshall Islands and the FSM and her states: Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei and Yap.
Remengesau will be joined by Heine and Christian, as well as Gov. Ralph Deleon Guerrero Torres, of the CNMI; Gov. Marcelo Peterson, of Pohnpei; Gov. Lyndon Jackson, of Kosrae; Gov. Johnson Elimo, of Chuuk; Gov. Tony Ganngiyan, of Yap; and Gov. Eddie Calvo; in taking part in discussions about regional issues including tourism, invasive species, climate change and fisheries.
An MCES communiquÃ© is also to be signed on Feb. 24.