While the general assembly of island legislatures considered its guiding theme networking took place and new ideas were discussed.

Guam played host to the 23rd General Assembly of the Association of Pacific Island Legislatures at the Legislative Hall on July 19 and 20. Delegates from nine of the 12 island governments that make up APIL were represented including the Northern Mariana Islands Chuuk Kosrae Pohnpei Yap Kiribati the Marshall Islands Palau Hawaii and Guam.

The theme of this year’s assembly “Environment and Cultural Tourism: Bridging the Islands ” featured an overview of 13 years of Micronesian tourism markets by John C. Salas associate professor of international tourism at the University of Guam. With focus on the environment presentations were also conducted on the budding businesses of eco-tourism and eco-culturalism along with discussions about recycling agriculture and an in-depth look at popularity and profitability of the Chamorro Village Night Market.

Sen. Joanne M.S. Brown vice president of the association said the presentation on the benefits of marine preserves was highly anticipated as many of the delegates have expressed an interest in developing preserves in their own islands similar to Guam’s in Tumon Bay. “The assembly is a good opportunity particularly for developing islands to get together and identify the unique aspects we all share ” she said.

Brown’s statement effectively summarized the mission statement of APIL which also encourages mutual assistance amongst the Pacific islands. The APIL Secretariat Walden Weilbacher a native of Pohnpei now based at the organization’s headquarters on Guam describes APIL as a regional effort. “APIL is a forum of regional lawmakers or policy makers ” he said.

Providing opportunities for all Pacific islanders is a sentiment echoed by Timothy P. Villagomez vice speaker of the Northern Mariana Islands and president of the association. Villagomez calls APIL a powerful organization that gives members a chance to exchange ideas and reinforces commonalities in culture fishing agriculture and other environmental issues of concern in the Pacific islands. “It’s an opportunity to re-emphasize the importance of our environment particularly for those who rely heavily on tourism ” he said. MBJ