Friday, December 04, 2009

Micronesian leaders talk collaboration

Micronesian leaders talk collaboration

By Amritha Alladi • Pacific Daily News • December 4, 2009

Micronesia's leaders discussed ways to streamline federal resources to help boost the region's sustainability, tourism, energy efficiency and work-force development on the first day of the 12th Micronesian Chief Executives' Summit yesterday.

"The initiatives that come out of this are ones that we can implement within our own respective communities, and then also collectively at the region," said Gov. Felix Camacho. "So the key is -- as Micronesian leaders -- how can we come together to collaborate and do things on a regional basis that would benefit all of our people?"

He said one initiative that already has proven successful is the biosecurity plan, through which the local governments, along with the U.S. Department of Defense, work together to protect each of the islands' environments from invasive species or any other hazards that may pose a threat as a result of transporting cargo between the islands.

Additionally, the "Micronesian Challenge" initiative has designated 20 to 30 percent of each jurisdiction's land and ocean resources to be preserved through 2020, he said. The joint plan will present almost $27 million more in funding opportunities for the region.

To promote the region's tourism, Camacho said, the leaders are considering how to bring in other airlines and get more seat capacity. There's also a plan to start cruise lines in Micronesia as an alternative to those in the Caribbean or in Europe.

Ideally, the leaders want to create a tour of Micronesia for tourists from Asia to visit each of the islands, Camacho said. The military buildup will also present more opportunities for growth, he said.

"With more military personnel here they can do R&R and visit throughout Micronesia as they have breaks," Camacho said.

On energy, Camacho said it makes sense for the other islands to join the energy initiatives to pool resources, either in the form of federal funding or in the form of bringing trainers to Micronesia or attracting investors.

Lorilee Crisostomo, administrator of the Guam Environmental Protection Agency, highlighted the steps that have been taken by the islands to establish energy efficiency.

For example, Guam received more than $29 million through federal stimulus funding to retrofit low-income housing, public buildings, parks and highways, as well as install LED lights on highway and provide scholarships for engineers, she said.

About $166,000 in cash was given back to consumers who turned in their old appliances to be properly disposed, she said.

In the Federated States of Micronesia, officials enacted a plan in which they have connected photovoltaic grid systems in Kosrae, the outer islands of Chuuk and Yap, "making these islands the first 100 percent renewable islands in the Pacific," she said.

Work-force development

Recommendations for work-force development were presented to the chief executives by Guam Department of Labor Director Maria Connelley.

Connelley said the two initiatives that have continued to attract interest are:

# An initiative to implement more programs for veterans and people with disabilities, and

# Another initiative to start master-apprenticeship programs in the local arts, such as training young people to become master weavers, carvers and artisans, she said.

There is no challenge in acquiring federal funds for work-force development because Guam has been responsive, transparent and accountable in the way the funds are used, Connelley said.

"Even if we have to go to the national level or even if we have to change the law or create the law, that's not difficult," Connelley said. "You just have to get with the right people to do it."

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