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By Steve Limtiaco Pacific Daily News

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (July 30, 2001 – Pacific Daily News)---The Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands have an advocate in the nation's capital -- Guam Delegate Robert Underwood, who said helping those countries helps Guam as well.

Underwood said he has worked to help preserve U.S. federal program eligibility for citizens of those nations and to encourage greater regional investment.

The FSM and the Marshalls currently are negotiating the amount of financial aid they will receive from the United States during the next 15 to 20 years. Negotiations are expected to continue for at least another year, but must end by the fall of 2003.

"I try to help out the Micronesians a little bit because they have very few people in Congress that really pay much attention to this," Underwood said.

"If they're able to get a bigger stream of funding, then I think they have a better chance of economic development. We want to make sure that that happens."

Underwood has said strong economies in the FSM and the Marshalls will lessen the economic burden on Guam, where many citizens of those countries have decided to move.

According to Underwood's office, the congressman helped extend a federal food program for the Marshall Islands by 10 years and passed a law that ensures continued eligibility for federal programs during the ongoing treaty negotiations.

The congressman also spoke with officials from the Bill Gates Millennium Scholarships program to include Guam, the CNMI and the rest of Micronesia in the program.

Underwood said he recently encouraged an Asian bank to increase its investments in the Pacific.

"When I went to the Philippines in May, one of the main objectives was I spoke at the Asian Development Bank. My purpose in speaking at the Asian Development Bank is to find ways for the (bank) to have a more robust Pacific Island portfolio -- to be of more assistance to Pacific Island nations instead of just focusing in on Asia," he said.

For additional reports from the Pacific Daily News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Pacific Daily News (Guam).

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