Assistant Secretary Babauta Makes First Official Trip to the FSM
US Embassy Media Release #35-2010, August 5, 2010 - On July 26-31, U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Anthony M. Babauta visited the FSM to review progress under the Amended Compact and to view various Compact-funded infrastructure projects. The six-day official visit included stops in Pohnpei and Chuuk States. This was Babauta's first visit to the FSM since being confirmed by the U.S. Senate in September 2009.
Assistant Secretary Babauta called on FSM President Emanuel Mori in Palikir on Monday, July 26. Also representing the FSM were Vice President Alik Alik, Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Lorin Robert, Director of the Office of Statistics, Budget, Overseas Development Management & Compact Management (SBOC) Fabian Nimea, and Project Management Unit (PMU) Acting Program Manager Marcelino Actouka. Accompanying Babauta were U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Robert MacCallum, DOI Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) Director Nikolao Pula, Infrastructure Sector Grant Specialist Steve Savage, Senior Policy Advisor Kristen H. Oleyte, and Policy Advisor Rebecca Zepeda. In the introductory meeting, Babauta highlighted his Pacific Island roots as a valuable asset he will employ to foster US-FSM relations.
The Assistant Secretary and his delegation then met with FSM Congressional representatives, including Vice Speaker Frederico Primo of Pohnpei, Floor Leader Joe N. Suka of Chuuk, Senators Dohsis Halbert of Pohnpei, and Tiwiter
President Mori hosted a reception on the evening of the 26th in honor of Assistant Secretary Babauta and his delegation. The President congratulated Mr. Babauta for being the first Micronesian to assume the important post of Assistant Secretary of the Department of the Interior. The President also referred to the unique and special relationship that exists between the two sovereign nations. At the reception, President Mori and Assistant Secretary Babauta signed two grants earmarked to support the Micronesian Center for Sustainable Future and the Linemen Training Exercise for Yap State Utilities. The Micronesian Center for a Sustainable Future (MCSF), which received a $494,000 OIA technical assistance grant award, is a regional intergovernmental organization whose board consists of the nine chief executives of the Insular Areas. President Mori presides as the Secretary General of the Center. Local dignitaries in attendance at the reception included Governor of Pohnpei State John Ehsa and Vice-Speaker Bernie Martin of the Pohnpei State Legislature.
On July 27, the Assistant Secretary and his delegation called upon Pohnpei State Governor John Ehsa at the Governor's Office in Kolonia. Babauta then held a joint meeting with the FSM Representatives to the Joint Economic Management Committee (JEMCO): Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Robert and Department of Finance Tax Reform Project Manager Evelyn Adolph. In preparation for the upcoming JEMCO meetings in Honolulu, the Assistant Secretary and his delegation discussed issues surrounding the Amended Compact, with a focus on Infrastructure Sector Grant funding.
In the afternoon, the Assistant Secretary traveled to the College of Micronesia National Campus (COM-FSM) in Palikir, where he was shown the campus by COM-FSM President Spensin James. The U.S. delegation then toured the Pohnpei State Public Hospital in Nett with Department of Health Services Director Dr. Elizabeth Keller.
On Wednesday, Babauta attended the Opening of the FSM Congress Special Session, where he was recognized by the national congress. The U.S. delegation then toured infrastructure projects being built with Amended Compact funding: Kolonia Elementary School, Nanpei Memorial School in Kitti, Pohnlangas High School in Madolehnimw, and a medical dispensary in Madolehnimw. The three schools are part of $4.5 million in Compact Infrastructure Sector projects slated to be completed this August.
On July 29, Assistant Secretary Babauta and his delegation travelled with U.S. Ambassador Peter A. Prahar to Chuuk. The delegation first called upon Chuuk State Governor Wesley Simina at the Governor's Office in Weno. That evening, Governor Simina hosted a dinner in the Assistant Secretary's honor at the Truk Stop Hotel.
On Friday morning, the U.S. delegation visited schools and medical dispensaries on the islands of Chuuk Lagoon, including Tonowas, Etten, and Fefan. They were accompanied by FSM Senator Joe N. Suka, who represents these areas. In the afternoon, the Assistant Secretary met with Mr. Alan Burnham and the staff at the Chuuk Financial Control Commission (CFCC). Later that day Babauta received a briefing and tour of Chuuk State Hospital from Department of Health Service Director Julio Marar, as well as of the Chuuk Public Utility Corporation (CPUC) Power Plant by CPUC Acting CEO Larry Gouland.
The U.S. delegation rounded out the visit with a tour of the Amended Compact funded Weno Road Project. The 4.2 mile, twenty-five million dollar initiative includes construction of new water and sewer lines. Currently in Phase I, the project is set to be completed in 2012.