New cable in the offing for FSM and other islands

In a joint statement released Dec. 11 and Dec. 12, the United States, Japan and Australia committed to a new underseas cable connecting Kosrae in the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru and Tarawa in Kiribati with the existing HANTRU-1 cable at Pohnpei in the FSM through a first submarine cable connection “to improve internet connectivity to these three Pacific nations by providing funding.”

The proposed undersea cable will provide faster, higher quality, and more reliable and secure communications to approximately 100,000 people across three countries. “This will support increased economic growth, drive development opportunities, and help to improve living standards as the region recovers from the severe impacts of COVID-19,” the statement said.

The aim is also to help increase the availability of digital government services, particularly in education and health, and provide businesses and households with improved access to services, information and trade, and employment opportunities.

“We will continue to coordinate closely with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to ensure this project complements investments by these institutions to enhance digital connectivity in FSM, Kiribati, and Nauru,” the statement said.


FSM raises need for European representation

President David W. Panuelo of the Federated States of Micronesia wrote to Charles Michel, president of the European Council; Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission; and Josep Borrell, high representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy; requesting that the European Union consider opening a European Union Delegation Office in the FSM, according to a Dec. 10 release

At present, the North Pacific is served by the European Union through an office Fiji.

“It is the view of the FSM National Government that it would be to the benefit of both the five sovereign Micronesian nations of the FSM, the Republic of Nauru, the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Kiribati, and to the European Union itself, if a separate and distinct European Union Delegation Office was hosted in the North Pacific for the purpose of directly coordinating with North Pacific countries,” the letter said. The reasoning is to better address the needs and the priorities of the countries in the North Pacific and “would represent and equate to limitless opportunities and mutual benefits in our partnerships,” the letter said.

In other FSM news, Gov. Alexander R. Narruhn of Chuuk called on Panuelo to request “assistance under the FEMA program” after severe flooding in Chuuk “especially in the Mortlocks and Northwest regions” and declared a state of emergency, due to damage and destruction of crops and other agriculture, housing and personal property – as well as a shortage of drinking water, medicine and food.

Narruhn said he would also provide assistance from the Chuuk budget, in his Dec. 10 letter to the president.


NMI COVID cases continue to rise

As of Dec. 12, 134 new COVID cases were confirmed between Dec. 10 and Dec. 11, bringing the islands’ totals to 1,908 cases since March 28, 2020. Additionally, there have been 13 hospitalizations, four of which were vaccinated.


Carrier headed for Guam

Joint Region Marianas confirmed that “a big ship visit” (typically referring to an aircraft carrier) will take place in Guam from Dec. 23 to Dec. 28. More than 5,000 military personnel will be on-island and about two-thirds of the group will be “out in town to enjoy our island’s culture and people for the Christmas holiday,” according to the Guam Chamber of Commerce.

The USS Carl Vinson carrier group, which most recently visited Guam – arriving on Nov. 11 or Veterans Day – was in the Philippine Sea a week ago for a nine-day exercise.

In other U.S. military news, APTIM Federal Services LLC of Baton Rouge, La. was awarded Dec. 10 a $12.2 million modification to a contract for “recurring maintenance and minor repair of petroleum Systems.” Work will be performed in Tamuning, with an estimated completion date of Dec. 31, 2022. Fiscal 2010 revolving funds in the amount of $12.2 million were obligated at the time of the award by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Huntsville, Ala.


Applicants for NMI residency get extension

Applicants for Long-Term Resident status in the Northern Mariana Islands will have their parole and work authorization automatically extended, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced Dec. 8. The parole extension applies to parolees who filed their Form I-955, Application for Marianas Long-Term Resident Status and Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization before Aug. 17, 2020, and whose application is still pending on Dec. 31, 2021. The extension runs through June 30, 2022, or the date of a final decision on the application for Marianas Long-Term Resident Status, whichever is earlier.


Chinese vessel entered Palau’s EEC

The U.S. Coast Guard announced Dec. 10 that in the first week of December it responded to a request from Palau to assist with locating the Chinese flagged research vessel Da Yang Hao and observe its activity.

The 4,600-ton vessel entered Palau’s exclusive economic zone on Nov. 29. On Nov. 30, Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu received notification from the Palau Division of Maritime Security that the Da Yang Hao was north of Kayangel State within Palau’s EEZ without proper authorization. The government of Palau requested assistance from the Coast Guard pursuant to the U.S.-Palau bilateral law enforcement agreement.  JRCC Honolulu deployed a Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point HC-130 Hercules aircraft to locate the research vessel and confirm it was not in distress given its varying course and minimal speed while operating in the Palauan EEZ.

The Hercules located the research vessel approximately 100 nautical miles west northwest of the main Palauan island of Babeldaob transiting at slow speeds eastbound. The Da Yang Hao communicated to the Hercules via radio that it was conducting storm avoidance. A subsequent overflight the following day relocated the research vessel transiting slowly north approximately 190 nautical miles northwest of the islands, approaching the limits of Palau’s EEZ.


Men fishing illegally apprehended

Guam Department of Agriculture conservation officers conducting night enforcement patrol in the Piti Bomb Hole Marine Preserve Area apprehended and arrested two men, while a third fled the scene, according to a Dec. 10 release. The officers retrieved “miscellaneous fishing paraphernalia and marine catch from all three individuals,” the release said.  


Beautification task force to benefit from equipment

Acting Governor Joshua F. Tenorio presented the Guam Department of Corrections more than “$10,000 worth of new equipment and supplies to be used towards the upkeep and maintenance of the Guam Adult Correctional Facility along with Guam’s parks, roadways, and beaches,” according to a Dec. 10 release. This is the first installment of a $50,000 award from the U.S. Department of Interior via the Office of Insular Affairs Technical Assistance Program grant.

The equipment included various large landscaping items, gloves and trash bags, as well as road safety equipment “to support beautification efforts islandwide.” DOC will also utilize the new equipment to assist the Guam Department of Parks and Recreation and the Islandwide Beautification Task Force to help maintain Guam’s public spaces, the release said.