19th Micronesian Executives Summit Begins In CNMI

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Leaders present opening remarks, suggestions for focus

By Alexie Villegas Zotomayor

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Dec. 5, 2013) – People make the difference. This was what Northern Marianas Governor Eloy S. Inos told his fellow Micronesian chief executives yesterday at the opening of the 19th Micronesian Chief Executives Summit (MCES) at the Fiesta Resort Saipan.

Governor Inos, the 19th MCES chairman, invoked the legacy of the Micronesian ancestors in his welcoming remarks.

"We can look back at our history and learn from the fortitude of our ancestors. If there’s one thing they left us to learn from, it is that people make a difference," Inos.

He asked his fellow chiefs and the members of the audience to carry on this legacy and "be the people who make a difference. This is it. This is our opportunity to raise the standards and improve the quality of life for all."

Inos recognized the parallel histories and cultures in the region as he talked about the 19th MCES theme, "With the sea, we are one."

He talked about how they as "seafaring people" share a "rich" and "resilient" history.

Governor Inos said, "We all come from tight-knit communities linked by strong historical, cultural and economic ties. And as this year’s theme suggests: ‘With the Sea, We are One,’ we share ever more common values and principles. And through the fabric of the MCES, we hold a strong regional alliance and a collective effort to defend our island communities and the great people we serve."

For Inos, sustainable economic growth is the key to the success of the islands.

Inos said, "Through the MCES, we must capitalize on the opportunity to strengthen each other’s economic framework and to reap benefits through mutual considerations."

At the change of command yesterday in Hibiscus Hall at the Fiesta Resort, Governor Inos took over the chairmanship of the Micronesian Chief Executives Summit from Marshalls President Christopher J. Loeak.

Loeak recognized Inos for stepping up to the plate in Majuro and accepting the opportunity to host the 19th MCES.

Referring to the summit’s theme, Loeak said it was a fitting tribute to their common endeavor of uniting with one voice on issues that affect their people.

He said they are now more determined than ever to build a better future for their people.

Through the summit, he said they can build a cohesive partnership.

Loeak also mentioned that the region must take meaningful steps to reduce carbon emissions.

FSM President Emanuel Mori, in his speech, thanked Saipan for hosting the Summit.

He called Saipan his "second home."

He thanked the governor and the people of the CNMI for "the warm hospitality."

He said that climate change is an issue important to all of the islands "because we are vulnerable to climate change."

In the years that he has participated in the summit, he said he has seen accomplishments; however, previous fora had crowded agendas that prevented them from accomplishing more as it put a strain on the resources.

He suggested streamlining the forum agenda, dealing with three major issues at a time and working on them in the next five years rather than having more which he said proved difficult for them to do considering their limitations in budget, among other things.

He noted that the three most critical issues for them are (1) the Micronesian Challenge; (2) tourism; (3) and the Micronesian Center for Sustainable Development.

In his speech, Guam Governor Eddie B. Calvo said there is consistency in Micronesia, even with the turnover in leadership.

"Though we may represent different communities in Micronesia, though the membership may change over the years, there is still consistency in that we represent the great people of Micronesia that have a long history," he said.

He also spoke of "dynamic ties" in the region in the 21st century.

He said along with this dynamism come challenges and opportunities.

"The opportunities are there. We are now in the so-called Asia Pacific Era. The greatest economies of the world surround the Micronesian region. You have the United States of America — the largest economy in the world. We also have the second and third largest economies, China and Japan, as well as the Asian tigers.

Calvo said that, as this century unfolds, this dynamism presents great opportunities and also major concerns.

He said they see the importance of the Asia Pacific region, and they will feel the impact of decisions made in capitals "far, far away."

He asked for the Micronesian people to focus on the issues "that are important to us."

He touched on climate change.

"All of us in Micronesia are impacted by climate change," said Calvo.

He noted that when it comes to climate change, "we contribute the least."

However, the islands feel the impact of climate change the most.

He said through the summit they have an opportunity to move forward "to focus on these issues, to focus on the challenges and to focus on the opportunities."

For Governor Calvo, it is important for Micronesia "to come together speaking in one voice."

With one voice, he said, "we can focus on the best interests of the people of Micronesia."

Governor Calvo said, "There is strength in numbers."

He said he sees the region as a significant contributor to progress not only for the Pacific, but also for the world.

Pohnpei Governor John Ehsa thanked the CNMI for its "hospitality."

He said the summit’s theme is significant.

He expressed Pohnpei’s gratitude to the CNMI for hosting people from Pohnpei.

Ehsa, who spent 13 years on Saipan, said the summit demands their cooperation.

He recognized that climate change is a significant issue for the region.

He cited the recent onslaught of Typhoon Haiyan that hit Yap, Palau and the Philippines as a result of climate change.

He recognized the recovery efforts of Yap and Palau.

He said, "This important issue of climate change will define our time."

He recognized Micronesian leaders for raising the issue of climate change in the highest of forums — the United Nations.

Yap Governor Sebastian L. Anefal reiterated Mori’s suggestion to focus more on a limited number of issues.

He said they should focus more on environmental issues, on the impact of climate change, among others.

He also expressed Yap’s appreciation to the CNMI for agreeing to host the 19th MCES.

"You have done a good job," he told Governor Inos.

He also said the theme is fitting: "With the sea, we are united."

Kosrae Lt. Governor Carson Sigrah also thanked the CNMI for the warm welcome.

He noted how they all faced similar challenges "with our economic growth. . ."

He said Kosrae is looking forward to working with the region in pursuit of appropriate solutions to the problems they all face.

Palau President Tommy Remengesau also called Saipan, "a home away from home."

He thanked everyone for "thoughts" and "prayers" and said they "miraculously" survived Typhoon Haiyan with zero casualties.

He said it was the strongest typhoon to hit Palau.

He said Palau will do its best to recover and rebound.

Remengesau recalled how the summit began in March 2003 "with 15 people and five issues on the agenda."

He suggested that the forum focus on dealing with invasive species, that "bio-security and invasive species issues are critical to the region."

Climate Change

The Micronesian chiefs all congratulated Governor Calvo on his appointment by President Barack Obama to the White House Climate Change Task Force.

"We are prepared to assist and support you in any way we can," said Governor Inos to Governor Calvo.

Ehsa vowed to support Calvo, promising to provide all the information that Calvo needs.

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