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Officials pledge closer relations with U.S.

By Haidee V. Eugenio SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Nov. 19, 2010) – Governor Benigno R. Fitial and other Micronesian leaders signed a joint resolution with the Region 9 Federal Regional Council (FRC)in California to pledge resources and commit to climate change, health care reform and workforce development, among other issues.

The joint resolution brings together effort to strengthen the relationship between federal agencies and Micronesian leaders.

These include collaboration in the areas of grants management and transparency of information, climate change, renewable energy, sustainable communities, workforce development and training, improving health and education, and improving communication and infrastructure.

Fitial and Guam Gov. Felix P. Camacho joined leaders from U.S. affiliated territories and Freely Associated States representing the Micronesian Chief Executive Summit at the historic meeting of the Council in San Francisco, California this week.

Press secretary Angel Demapan also confirmed yesterday that after Fitial attends this meeting, he will undergo "routine follow-up" medical checkup in California.

This is Fitial's second time to visit San Francisco in three months. In August, Fitial was in San Francisco for the Association of Defense Communities' 2010 Annual Conference.

After this week's conference and the medical checkup, Fitial and first lady Josie Fitial will be back on Saipan on Thanksgiving Day, November 25.

Special assistant for administration Esther Fleming and Tom Linden, chairman of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Military Integration Management Committee, joined the governor on this trip.

The governor, in his remarks on Wednesday, said the region will be better equipped to address issues through an active collaboration with the FRC.

"We must also work to establish and foster partnerships that will help improve our infrastructure and rebuild our economic viability anew," Fitial said in his remarks.

The Federal Regional Council is a consortium of 19 separate federal departments and agencies representing nearly 30 different program offices in Region IX, which covers Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, and the Outer Pacific Islands.

Camacho, who also delivered remarks at the meeting, said the FRC is an "important and influential group. We as leaders have gone to Washington, D.C. and have wondered, why go to a place where we are not understood. Here you understand us and you must stand as our advocates for change," Camacho said.

Fitial thanked the Council’s Chair Herb Schultz, the U.S. Health and Human Services Region IX director, for visiting the CNMI during his recent trip to Guam.

"I truly believe that the best way to understand our islands and culture is through a personal firsthand experience," Fitial said.

Camacho, for his part said the FRC and the Micronesian Chief Executives Summit have forged a new relationship, referring to the joint resolution inked.

"We will take this back to the leaders of the region later this year and discuss efforts to make this a reality versus a plan that will not gain traction in our respective jurisdictions," said Camacho, speaking to more than 100 attendees.

Camacho co-founded the Summit in 2004 with former CNMI governor Juan Babauta, to develop closer ties, enhance existing ties, expand future discussions and agree on beneficial initiatives for the benefit of the Western Micronesian region.

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