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President Panuelo Promotes Micronesia Challenge and Blue Prosperity Micronesia During Address at the Virtual Island Summit
PALIKIR, Pohnpei—On September 8th, 2020, His Excellency David W. Panuelo—President of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)—participated in the 2020 Virtual Island Summit. Joined by the Honorable Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji, the Honorable Lourdes Leon-Guerrero, Governor of Guam, and the Honorable Enele Sopoaga, former Prime Minister of Tuvalu, President Panuelo spoke about the importance of conservation and detailed the Nation’s efforts in this regard. Following the President’s address was a moderated question and answer session.
The President’s address to the attendees of the summit can be found, in full, below.
Before I begin my statement, I would like to offer my prayers and deep condolences for the families and loved ones of those who have passed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I bring you warm greetings from the Federated States of Micronesia. Please allow me to pay my respects and recognition to:
- The Honorable Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji
- My good friend, the Honorable Enele Sopoaga, Former Prime Minister of Tuvalu and current Member of Parliament;
- The Honorable Lou Leon-Guerrero, Governor of Guam;
- Daniel Kammen, Former Science Envoy from the U.S. Department of State;
- The Virtual Island Summit Sponsors & Partners, including the Waitt Institute and Hawaii Green Growth;
- Ladies & Gentlemen.
Thank you for the opportunity to join this important conversation. For the bulk of my statement today, I will describe some of the actions our Nation is taking to innovatively and proactively protect our natural environment. We will explore this topic by starting with a review of two of our exemplar programs, Micronesia Challenge and Blue Prosperity Micronesia respectively, and conclude with a discussion on our Nation’s leadership in other environmental protection activities and endeavors.
At the outset, for those of you unfamiliar with Micronesia: imagine 607 islands, with physical sizes ranging from much less than an acre to 334 square kilometers. Our Pacific neighbors like Samoa may think they are small, but Samoa has more than three times the amount of land than Micronesia does. What Micronesia has in abundance, however, is ocean: our nearly three million square kilometers of ocean is about one third the total size of China’s land area. We are a Big Ocean State. The Ocean feeds us, connects us, supports us, protects us, and unites us. Any discussion about our Nation’s health or economy necessarily discusses our Ocean as well.
In 2006 the Federated States of Micronesia founded, with its brothers and sisters in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Territory of Guam, the Micronesia Challenge. This was a first-of-its-kind environmental protection initiative. The Micronesia Challenge had pledged to protect 30% of our region’s marine resources and 20% of its terrestrial resources by 2020.
Our region has largely met this goal, which has since inspired similar regional island commitments such as the Caribbean Challenge Initiative, the Aloha+ Challenge, and the Coral Triangle Initiative. Before I describe how we are expanding our ambition, please allow me to briefly detail these successes—in part because 2020 so desperately needs good news, and in part because I am, quite frankly, very proud of our Nation’s public servants who have dedicated themselves to this honorable and noble work.
Our region has developed over 150 protected areas, including the standardization of marine and terrestrial monitoring protocols and region-wide databases. More than 3,000 people have been trained in management, planning, marine and socioeconomic monitoring, climate change adaptation, communications and behavior change, and/or enforcement. All told, we are protecting more than 1,300 species of fish and more than 480 species of coral.
For those who prefer a terrestrial example, the Mahkontowe Conservation Area in the FSM’s State of Kosrae is a 15 square kilometer ethnographic and biological landscape with archaeology inside of it. It’s culturally significant because it tells the origin story of Kosrae, and how a mother whale and her daughter later became Lelu Island and Kosrae Island. It’s an example of a community-based historic preservation project because the preservation was proposed by the community’s elders, and it’s biologically significant because it is home to the lowest lying cloud forest in the world. Whether it’s the Arno skink, the Kosrae flying fox, the Micronesian pigeon, the Montane cloud forest, the fern-sedge savanna, or mixed broadleaf forest, the Mahkontowe Conservation Area protects it. It is one of the 150 examples of protected areas developed through the Micronesia Challenge region-wide, of which about 60 are within the Federated States of Micronesia.
During this new Decade of Action, from 2020 to 2030, for the World to tackle the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the Micronesia Challenge has committed to protecting 50% of our region’s marine resources and 30% of our region’s terrestrial resources by 2030. This goal is both lofty and noble. In July 2019, when the Micronesia Island Forum agreed to this pledge, Vice President George and I had a number of lengthy discussions about how we can make this happen.
Part of the answer was through the development of a new partnership with the Blue Prosperity Coalition to develop the Blue Prosperity Micronesia program. A partnership inclusive of the Government of the Federated States of Micronesia and its states of Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae, the Waitt Institute, Oceans 5, National Geographic Pristine Seas, Micronesia Challenge, and Micronesia Conservation Trust—Blue Prosperity Micronesia seeks to protect 30% of the FSM’s total Exclusive Economic Zone by 2030.
This commitment—equivalent to 897,000 square kilometers of Marine Protected Areas—would create the largest network of marine protected area in the region, and the 7th largest in the world. Protecting this area will help ensure that fisheries continue to flourish, ecosystems remain intact, and better buffers for climate change.
Ladies & Gentlemen,
One year ago, if you visited the FSM you might see a one-time-use plastic shopping bag, or a Styrofoam container. This year, 2020, I signed into law legislation that made it illegal to import Styrofoam and one-time-use plastic into the Federated States of Micronesia.
Less than a week from today, on September 13th, 2020, we celebrate the second annual Micronesian Clean-Up Day. All across the region, from Palau to Majuro, citizens will be working together to remove trash, like plastics and junk cars, from our islands.
Over the next several months, the Honorable Yosiwo P. George, Vice President of the Federated States of Micronesia, and I will be advocating for our Congress’ support towards making renewable energy usage and production part of our petroleum corporation’s mandate.
Ladies & Gentlemen,
A better world is not something we ask for. A better world is something we build. We define a better world through consensus, with a foundation of empathy and love for other human beings. We construct a better world by acknowledging that we are who we choose to be, and then choosing to take responsibility for both ourselves and our communities.
I look forward to your questions. Thank you.