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After Meeting with FSM Petroleum Corporation/Vital’s Board of Directors, President Panuelo Reinvigorates Executive Branch’s Advocacy for the FSMPC/Vital Transformation Act and Calls for National Coconut Export Strategy
PALIKIR, Pohnpei—On January 8th, 2020, His Excellency David W. Panuelo, President of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), and the Honorable Yosiwo P. George, Vice President of the FSM, met with the Board of Directors and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the FSM Petroleum Corporation (FSMPC), more commonly referred to as Vital. The purpose of the meeting was to update the President on matters such as the proposed FSMPC/Vital Transformation Act, the current state of the Integrated Coconut Processing Facility in the FSM State of Chuuk, the registration of farming cooperative micro enterprises, and more. The primary outcomes of the meeting were the President’s renewed vigor towards advocating for the FSMPC/Vital Transformation Act, the directive to develop a National Coconut Export Strategy, and the reinforcement of the FSM National Government’s confidence in FSMPC/Vital to enhance the Nation’s energy security and promotion of economic development.
The FSMPC/Vital Transformation Act is a proposed Bill for an Act that wouldn’t fundamentally alter FSMPC/Vital’s mission of delivering affordable, accessible, and high quality energy products and services, but would elementally evolve that mission to include a focus on renewable, sustainable, and clean energy (e.g. solar energy) in addition to its present mandate to provide petroleum-based energy products and services. President Panuelo advised that he has directed the Department of Resources & Development, the Department of Environment, Climate Change, & Emergency Management (DECEM), and other stakeholder agencies within the FSM National Government’s Executive Branch to do the appropriate advocacy work to appeal to the 21st FSM Congress to review and, ideally, vote for the Transformation Act to become law.
It was noted that the Transformation Act, if passed, may play a role in FSMPC/Vital’s capacity to become accredited with the Green Climate Fund (GCF). Such accreditation would strongly enhance the corporation’s capacity to attract grants and additional investments, such as the contemporary partnership with SoftBank Energy, Ltd.
“We’re hoping that the Transformation Act will allow us to evolve from a fuel-based electricity supplier to a…cheaper, greener solution,” CEO Jared Morris said to President Panuelo.
CEO Morris also spoke in detail about how FSMPC/Vital has been expanding its Pohnpei-based coconut product line, in large part through the solidification of a reliable network of suppliers.
“I’m pleased to report that in the last 12 months we’ve been able to register small businesses with the registrar…[and we] have five farmer groups in Pohnpei who have already incorporated as small, micro enterprises—with another seven on the way. That’s eighty to ninety (80-90) farmers regularly supplying coconuts to us over the last 12 months. It’s…in excess of 30,000 pounds of coconuts to the factory in Pohnpei per month,” CEO Morris said. “We are confident that…this year we’re going to step up from 30,000 pounds per month to 70,000 pounds.”
It was advised that the 30,000 pounds of coconuts per month result in products such as soaps and oils, but when FSMPC/Vital increases its monthly supply to 70,000 pounds that the FSM can “start to see export growth. Small, but export growth. But…the really good thing is the increase in the number of registered small businesses—it’s NOT one-off, it’s been month-on-month growth, a [very real] and consistent supply of coconuts.”
“What about the other three states?” President Panuelo asked with regards to farming cooperatives. “Where are they in terms of similar arrangements?”
CEO Morris explained that that, in the FSM State of Yap, FSMPC/Vital works with the Yap Cooperative Association (YCA). “They’re participating through supply of copra, because when you dry it—it can last a little longer. We have processing capacity to do…approximately 100,000 pounds of copra per month. And we export the copra oil from there,” CEO Morris said.
“In Kosrae,” CEO Morris continued, “We just finished our preliminary discussions with markets in Guam and Hawaii—I am hopeful that we can sign an agreement to supply with them fresh coconut. We have confidence in the supply chain coming in from Kosrae.” It was noted that FSMPC/Vital has had success in building a reliable supply network. President Panuelo emphasized his full confidence in FSMPC/Vital to expand its work in this area, and that he would support FSMPC/Vital however he can in ensuring foreign markets like Guam and Hawaii can benefit from FSM-grown coconuts.
“In Chuuk, we’re continuing the engagement process with communities…we have communities ready to supply us, but there is a little bit of tension between what [FSMPC/Vital] can process and sell. The supply side is now stripping our ability to process…leading us up to the end of this year, when we have the Integrated Coconut Processing Facility ready, we’ll have 100% use of coconut, and 0 waste,” CEO Morris said.
It was explained that the Integrated Coconut Processing Facility—which, when fully operational, will purchase whole coconuts every day and at all hours (24/7, 365 days a year)—that FSMPC/Vital expects to start exports in the first quarter of 2021.
“This is, by far, the most promising project for the FSM,” President Panuelo said, following up by asking how the FSM National Government can absolutely ensure its success for the Nation and its citizens going forward.
While several ideas came up—including, for example, mandating that the Government’s ships operating under the Department of Transportation, Communication & Infrastructure include coconut collection as part of their mandate when on field trips to remote islands—the one that garnered the most discussion, and perhaps as well the most passion, was for a National Coconut Export Strategy to be developed and subsequently utilized by all parties.
“I think it’s time for us to formalize a Task Force whose deliverable is to put together a National Coconut Export Strategy,” CEO Morris said, explaining that such a Task Force would include bodies ranging from the College of Micronesia-FSM and DECEM to the FSM Department of Justice and the FSM Social Security Administration. The resulting National Coconut Export Strategy would thusly describe each organization’s specific and unique role as the Nation prepares to evolve its economy and enhance its capacity to provide economic opportunities for citizens of all backgrounds.
“Do it. I want you to work with [The Honorable Marion Henry, Secretary of the Department of Resources & Development] and other appropriate Cabinets and officials; recommend a draft to me, make this a priority,” President Panuelo said.
“We look to [FSMPC/Vital] as the entity that can really transform and catapult us into a new level of development, strengthening food security, energy security, and all the other areas you’re working on. Be sure that we are 100% in support of your efforts and that when there are things that we need to do or take action on, call on us—my office is open to you,” President Panuelo continued.
The FSM National Government extends its appreciation to the FSMPC/Vital’s CEO and Board of Directors for their ongoing work to benefit the Nation and its citizens.
Interested in learning more about how FSMPC/Vital works to make the FSM paradise in our backyards? Visit their website at https://www.vitalenergy.fm/.