NAKAMURA MEETS WITH HUBBARD: PALAU PRESIDENT AND U.S. AMBASSADOR

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TACKLE RESIDENCY ISSUE, PELL GRANTS

By Malou L. Sayson

KOROR, Palau (November 5, 1998 - Marianas Variety/Palau Horizon)---The United States has expressed concern over the residency status of American citizens in Palau, (an issue) which has been dragging on for sometime now.

In a bilateral meeting between President Kuniwo Nakamura and U.S. Ambassador Thomas Hubbard, discussions were focused on the residency of America citizens coming to Palau and the extension of Pell grants (for educational scholarships) to Palauan students.

According to Nakamura, Hubbard indicated the position of the United States is that American citizens here in Palau should be given some kind of preference.

The Ambassador also assured that Pell grants, one of the U.S. federal programs, on the one hand, would be extended up to year 2002, after which Palau is tasked to maintain the program.

"We are worried that we may close (the grant) before year 2002," Nakamura said.

"The discussions went very well," the President said, noting that the relationship between (Palau) and the U.S. has been very good, if not that "superb."

Nakamura noted that American citizens here are treated just like any other citizens, without any preferential treatment whatsoever. Prior to the 1994 independence, American citizens coming to Palau were given preference.

The President, however, said his leadership agrees with the position of the U.S., indicating that he has called on the Fifth Olbiil Era Kelulau to expedite the proposed Alien Residency Act or Senate Bill No.5-160.SD3 introduced by Senator Lucious Malsol.

According to the President, Congress should act on the immediate passage of the bill "so everybody will be treated equally."

"I won't be surprised if they (U.S.) continue to pursue the issue," Nakamura added.

The bill seeks to establish criteria for permanent residency status for foreign nationals in the Republic of Palau.

The Alien Residency Act, Senate Committee Chairman on Foreign Affairs Peter L. Sugiyama said, is primarily introduced to accommodate the language of the compact (agreement), allowing Palauans to enter the United States without any problem, to likewise apply to U.S. nationals wanting to become residents of Palau.

It would be noted that there is an existing law allowing residents of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) to become permanent residents of Palau without any hassles.

The Proposed Alien Residency Act is expected to address the issue on whether or not to accommodate American citizens in similar way as that allowing CNMI and FSM citizens to become permanent residents of Palau.

The Committee chairman earlier said that it is essential for both the House of Delegates and the Senate to decide on whether or not to include American citizens to be covered by the existing law on alien residency or change the law completely.

Both the governments of Palau and the United States, according to Nakamura, have lived up to their commitments to each other under the Compact of Free Association.

For additional reports from the Marianas Variety, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Marianas Variety.

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