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By Eileen O. Tabaranza

KOROR, Palau (October 13, 2000 - Palau Horizon/PINA Nius Online)---The influential 12 member Pacific nations of the Association of Pacific Island Legislatures (APIL) are pressing the governments of the United States and Japan to identify and remove all exploded ordnance remaining on the islands resulting from the two nations’ hostilities during World War II.

They said the ordnance poses great danger throughout the Association of Pacific Island Legislatures region.

Twenty-four legislators from all over the Pacific Islands region made the call during APIL’s 19th General Assembly in Koror.

The Association of Pacific Island Legislatures is composed of: American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae, Yap, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau, the Republic of Nauru, the Republic of Kiribati, Hawai‘i and Guam.

The resolution, which was introduced by the association's Committee on Economic Development Chairman and Palau Delegate Mario Gulibert, also calls for each APIL member to identify all unexploded ordnance in their respective countries.

"Every state of the Pacific region contains a significant amount of unexploded ordnance, which represents a constant danger to the inhabitants of each island," Gulibert said in explaining why the U.S. and Japan are being pressed to identify and remove the weaponry.

Gulibert also noted that each Pacific Island state was part of the "Pacific Theatre" of military operations during World War II.

The unexploded ordnance is still live ammunition that can explode without warning and harm innocent persons. It cannot be dealt with safely by anyone other than experts in ordnance detection and removal, the resolution stated.

The APIL Standing Committee on Health and Environment, chaired by Pohnpei Sen. Fernando Scaliem, also noted that the islands of Micronesia were the scenes of some of the war’s bloodiest battles.

"Highly fortified from within and heavily bombarded from without, even the islands that did not endure the ravages of direct invasions carry the physical wounds of the war. Those islands that had to endure actual land assaults, of course, suffered the most," the committee pointed out.

"While some clean-up activities were carried out soon after the war, the sheer magnitude of the military engagements in the Central Pacific littered our islands with far more ordnance than the early clean-up crews could recover," the committee added.

"The potential tragedy of unintentionally exploding these devices will remain with us until these are physically removed from our islands and finally destroyed. That will take commitment and it will take effort. It will also take money. The resolutions calls for all three," the committee pointed out.

Palau, for instance, Gulibert said, uncovered over 1,300 pieces of unexploded ordnance during site preparation by the United States Army Corps of Engineers for the Compact Road Project on Babeldaob Island.

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