(October 31, 2003) The Department of the Interior's Office of Insular Affairs announced today that it has opened an office in Honolulu, Hawaii to monitor federal assistance to the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau. Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior David B. Cohen also announced today that long-time Technical Assistance Specialist Roylinne Wada would be the field director and lead specialist for the Honolulu office.
"The new Compacts require the U.S. and the freely associated states to work as partners to ensure that there is proper accountability for Compact funds," said Cohen. "The Honolulu office will be the focal point of our efforts in this regard." Nikolao Pula, Director of the Office of Insular Affairs, was in Honolulu earlier this week to officially open the office.
Cohen said that Wada is the ideal person to run the Honolulu office. "She has a tremendous amount of experience in the freely associated states," said Cohen. "She knows all the players well. She was a key member of the Compact negotiating team. Also, she is from Hawaii, so this is a coming home for her." Cohen said that he hopes to have a staff of up to seven in place in Honolulu by early next year.
The new office is located at: Pacific Guardian Center, 733 Bishop Street, Suite 2530 (Makai Tower), Honolulu 96813. The phone number is (808) 525-5088 and the fax number is (808) 525-5399.
The Honolulu-based staff will have several responsibilities. They will be responsible for the day-to-day monitoring of grant assistance under the Compact, and will spend a large percentage of their time in the freely associated states. The Honolulu personnel will also perform staff work for the U.S. delegations to the bilateral joint committees with the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia, respectively, that will establish budgets for Compact funds, apply performance measures and standards to Compact grants and oversee the trust funds that will be established under the Compacts. Additionally, the Honolulu office will monitor the activities of other federal agencies that provide programs and services in the freely associated states.
The Honolulu office will also administer the "Compact Impact" grants that will be provided to Hawaii, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa to mitigate the impact of migration of citizens of the freely associated states under the Compacts. The Compact legislation recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives would provide $30 million annually for Compact Impact grants to be divided among the four jurisdictions.
"The Honolulu staff will have to interact with our partners from the freely associated states, with the regional offices of our federal sister agencies in Honolulu and San Francisco and with the home office in Washington, D.C.," said Cohen. "Hawaii is the one place in the U.S. that has a business day the overlaps with all of those places. Also, it has a greater concentration of institutional knowledge on the Pacific than anywhere else in the U.S., with the East-West Center, the University of Hawaii Center for Pacific Islands Studies, the Pacific Business Center, the Army Corps of Engineers, all of the hospitals that serve the freely associated states and a whole host of other institutions. The ability to interact with such a wide variety of experts will be a real benefit to the team in Honolulu."
The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to approve the amended Compacts of Free Association with the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia, with action by the U.S. Senate still pending. Financial assistance under the current Compacts expired on September 30, 2003, but a continuing resolution has kept the funds flowing.