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By Agnes Donato

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, June 6) – Over 30 Pacific Island lawmakers are on Saipan to get more information and share ideas about sustainable energy.

The island governments represented in the 25th General Assembly of the Association of Pacific Island Legislatures are the CNMI, Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei, Yap, Guam, Palau, and Hawaii.

Four jurisdictions were missing as of yesterday: Marshall Islands, Nauru, Kiribati, and American Samoa.

From Monday through Wednesday, the APIL member delegations will discuss the topic of this year's conference, "Alternative and Renewable Energy Sources for the Pacific Islands."

House Speaker Oscar M. Babauta and Senate President Joseph M. Mendiola, who joined Gov. Benigno R. Fitial in welcoming the participants, said the topic was timely.

"The global rise in the cost of oil, coupled with our remote locale, has become a major challenge for our region. However, it is because of our unique location in the Pacific Ocean that we are in an ideal position to harness the natural resources available to us and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels," said the presiding officers of the CNMI Legislature.

For her part, Guam Vice Speaker and APIL president Joanne M.S. Brown agreed with the two CNMI officials on the economic benefit of using renewable or alternative energy. She added that the sustainable use of potentially environmentally friendly resources was highly recommended.

"The current technology in the areas of renewable energy may be costly; however, it is time to look at ways our governments can assist in delivering these products and services to our communities," Brown said.

During the opening day, each member delegation was given an opportunity to share stories regarding its economic situation with the rest of the organization.

Rep. Absalon Waki Jr. spoke on behalf of the CNMI, briefing the APIL members on the downturn of the Commonwealth's two main industries and the numerous difficulties brought about the rising cost of fuel.

Waki also reported the CNMI government's proposal to tie up with Guam in sharing a fuel storage facility, so the islands would not be too vulnerable to the fluctuating fuel prices. Furthermore, he lamented Mobil's current "monopoly," which he said has been making it difficult for the Commonwealth to negotiate a better fuel supply deal.

Terry Surles, director of the Hawaii-based Pacific International Center for High Technology Research, provided the first presentation. He discussed the different sustainable energy systems available to the islands.

Hawaii Sen. J. Kalani English, chairman of the Hawaii State Legislature's Energy, Environment, and International Affairs Committee, talked about Hawaii's effort in achieving energy independence.

Casey Conner of Conner Incorporated tackled how islands could strategically plan a future using alternative energy.

June 6, 2006

Saipan Tribune

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