MICRONESIA MUST MOVE FORWARD

Speech

Closing remarks of Gov. Benigno R. Fitial 8th Western Micronesian Chief Executive Summit Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Nov. 13, 2007

I am very pleased with the accomplishments of this 8th Summit. We have expanded the scope and membership of this Summit to include all of Micronesia. This organization no longer has just a sub-regional focus; it now has a regional orientation, including all of Micronesia.

I'm very happy that the Federated States of Micronesia was able to send a representative to this Summit and I thank President Mori for sending Mr. Lorin Robert to join us and participate in these discussions and presentations.

This expansion of membership and increased participation is consistent with the purpose of this Summit. We are building regional friendships and creating greater unity among the islands of the Pacific. And I firmly believe that there is strength in unity and that we can accomplish more as individual states working together to advance our mutual regional interests, rather than working isolated and on our own.

As Governor Anefal mentioned at the opening of this Summit, you can catch more fish by fishing as a group rather than fishing alone.

After all, we have much in common, in terms of history, culture, and social and economic challenges, and we are well served by sharing ideas and forming this healthy regional partnership.

As we welcome new members, I thank Governor Felix Camacho, Governor Sebastian Anefal, & President Tommy Remengesau for their commitment to this forum. These gentlemen are pioneers in building regional partnerships. They are committed to the purpose and underlying principles of this Summit, and I applaud their efforts for our region. I am proud to be associated with these fine leaders, and I look forward to the active participation of other Micronesian leaders within our region.

I especially appreciated the presentation and the book we received from Governor Felix Camacho and the government of Guam. I'm sure we all appreciated the history of the Chamorro chiefs, which was diligently researched from old Spanish records and Jesuit priests. You could see from the presentation that many of the Chiefs were from Saipan. Despite being separated by the Spanish-American War, Saipan and Guam have very strong historic ties and I'm glad that Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands remain very close today.

A notable feature of the 8th Summit is the briefing of the upcoming U.S. military build-up in our region. I thank Captain Bob Lee for providing an overview of his office's functions and the considerations of the U.S. military in relocating from Japan to the Marianas.

Over the next several years, the U.S. military build up will have significant and dramatic consequences to our region. It may change our lives forever and we need to be sure that every effort is made to maximize the net benefits to our region. We need to maximize economic benefits-jobs, trade, and business opportunities--while minimizing adverse environmental, social and other impacts to our region. This will be a monumental task, but it is a task we can and will address by working closely together with our regional island partners, with our private business sector, and with representatives of the U.S. federal government.

As Governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, I support U.S. national security and the military buildup in our region, but I want to make sure we do not revert back to the old U.S. Trust Territory Days, during the Cold War, when our islands were isolated and undeveloped, and U.S. national security trumped economic development for our islands. We cannot afford to go back. We must continue to move forward and make economic progress for our people.

During this Summit, you have heard of the progress made regarding the Micronesian Challenge-a challenge issued by President Tommy Remengesau and the government and people of Palau. This challenge has inspired our youth and encouraged people around the world to embrace conservation and to embrace our natural environment. I congratulate President Remengesau for the international recognition he has achieved for a very inspiring and worthwhile cause.

During this Summit, you have also heard reports on tourism, transportation, zoning, recycling, health, energy, and other important issues affecting our regional governments and peoples. The presentations were informative and I trust that we will all take something valuable from this Summit and apply it to the administration of our respective governments. It is not enough to be informed, we must apply our knowledge and track our progress with each Summit.

Once again, I thank you all for participating in this Summit, and I especially thank all of our sponsors for contributing to this event.

Our corporate sponsors include Bank of Saipan, Tan Holdings, Bank of Guam, DFS, and PTI. This event would not be successful without strong private sector support.

I look forward to our next Summit in Palau. Thank you for making this another successful Summit for our region.

Benigno R. Fitial is the governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

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