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Regional News

New FSM president meets with US envoy

PALIKIR, Pohnpei (FSM Information Services) — On May 13, 2019, David W. Panuelo, the new oresident of the Federated States of Micronesia, and Yosiwo P. George, vice president of the FSM, received Robert A. Riley III, the American ambassador, in the first official courtesy visit of this administration.

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David W. Panuelo, president of the Federated States of Micronesia, poses with  Robert A. Riley III, ambassador of the United States of America.  FSMIS photo

The purpose of the meeting was for Ambassador Riley to congratulate President Panuelo on his election, and to discuss next steps on Typhoon Wutip-related disaster assistance, how best to improve services for FSM citizens who are veterans of the U.S. military, and concerns with regards to how the REAL ID Act Modification for the Freely Associated States has been implemented in Hawaii.

“I welcome you on behalf of myself, the vice president, and the cabinet…due to the significance of our relationship with the United States, we thank you, [Ambassador Riley] and appreciate this first courtesy call this morning,” said President Panuelo. “I also want to thank you for the declaration President Trump made on [Typhoon Wutip].”

In response to a April 17, 2019 request from the FSM national government, on May 7, 2019, U.S. President Donald J. Trump declared a disaster under the Compact of Free Association, as amended, between the government of the Federated States of Micronesia and the government of the United States of America due to damage resulting from Typhoon Wutip during Feb.19 to 23, 2019. This action makes U.S. government funding available for emergency relief and reconstruction. Though official figures are not yet available, Ambassador Riley advised that he was given the estimate of “somewhere around ten million” dollars to support Typhoon Wutip-related reconstruction and relief efforts.

Regarding the REAL ID Act, President Panuelo expressed his appreciation to Ambassador Riley and the U.S. government for the Dec. 2018 modification — which allows FSM citizens to receive full-term REAL ID driver’s licenses and identification cards — and expressed his concerns about recent developments in Hawaii where FSM citizens have reportedly been having trouble getting their licenses. “I’m hoping this is just localized in Hawaii,” said President Panuelo.

“Sounds like it is,” said Ambassador Riley. “Our Office ANP [Office of Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific Island Affairs within the Bureau of East Asian & Pacific Affairs within the U.S. Department of State] is also engaged in that issue. We hope this gets resolved soon.” Likewise, the Embassy of the FSM, in partnership with the Embassy of the Republic of Palau and the Embassy of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, has been working closely with relevant U.S. government agencies to resolve the issue.

The highly efficient meeting closed with President Panuelo and Ambassador Riley reaffirming the close relationship between the FSM and the United States. “Our door is always open to you [and the Embassy of the United States], and you’re welcome at any time; our lines are open to you; we are two countries that have always shared a very close relationship, and I hope to keep it that way,” said President Panuelo.