Articles: Marshall Islands Court, Legislative, Health and Economic Updates
FISHING: THE U.S. District Court of Guam denied the owners of the Marshalls 201 fishing vessel the motion to dismiss the case and the motion for summary judgment. The vessel was seized for illegally fishing inside the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone in the South Pacific Ocean. Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood ordered the U.S. Attorney's Office and Daniel J. Berman, the lawyer of Marshalls 201, to submit a new proposed scheduling order to the court. Berman argued on behalf of the Marshall Islands Fishing Company (MIFCO), the owner of the vessel, that the United States lacks the legal authority to claim and enforce a 200-mile exclusive economic zone around Baker and Howland Islands. The vessel, partly owned by the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority (MIMRA) and Koo's Fishing Co., was arrested by the U.S. Coast Guard on Sept. 9, 2006. The arrest of the fishing vessel triggered protests from the local island leaders prompting diplomatic letters to the federal government to negotiate settlement.
COMPACT: THE U.S. Pacific islands of the Northern Marianas, Guam and Hawaii stand to get a reduced amount of federal reimbursements for hosting migrants from the Freely Associated States this coming year. Hawaii state Sen. Kalani English, the newly elected president of the Association of Pacific Island Legislatures, said his state, Guam and the Northern Marianas must form a coalition to effectively compete with the mainland states for the annual $30 million Compact-Impact appropriations. “There’s a cap on federal monies for Compact-Impact, $30 million. The CNMI, Hawaii and Guam receive these monies. But other states will begin applying for it. We understand that Arkansas and a couple of other states are looking into applying for reimbursements,” English told Variety in an interview.
REPORT: The chief executives of the Northern Marianas, Guam, Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia have written Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye to lobby for another Institute of Medicine report on the health status of the U.S.-associated islands in the Pacific. The leaders said the last IOM report was “a sentinel document which has stimulated much positive change and improvement in the health status in our region.” But the progress, they said, had been uneven and the challenges to improve the islands’ collective health status were daunting. The report, titled “Pacific Partnerships for Health-Charting a New Course,” was published in 1998. “We ask that, as with the previous IOM report in 1998, your office champion a new IOM report for the region, which can inventory our successes and shortfalls in the health sector and redevelop a new set of recommendations that are consistent with the first decade of the new millennium and beyond,” the leaders said in a letter written in the recently ended Micronesian Chief Executives Summit in Palau.
LEGISLATURE: Pacific island lawmakers ended their three-day general assembly on Guam yesterday with a plan to further discuss global warming when they meet again as a smaller group in November. The just-concluded Association of Pacific Island Legislatures' 27th general assembly addressed a wide range of issues that affect islands in the region, said Speaker Judith Won Pat of the Guam Legislature.Because of time constraints, the association's members were unable to extensively discuss the effect of rising sea levels on the tiny island nations in the Micronesia region. But global warming will be discussed at the association's board meeting in the Marshall Islands in November, Won Pat said. General assembly delegate Alik J. Alik, vice speaker of the Marshall Islands' Nitijela, or Parliament, said concerns about rising sea levels have prompted some people in the island republic to relocate or consider relocating. Certain areas in the Marshall Islands are just a few feet above sea level, and the republic's shorelines are starting to diminish, Alik said.
The association also passed a resolution calling for the need to train island residents across the Micronesia region for skills that will be needed for the U.S. military buildup on Guam. Alik said he fully supports the proposed military buildup on Guam because of the economic benefits -- not just for Guam, but for the rest of the region. But at the same time, Alik said Guam should be given a bigger role in making sure the island's environment isn't harmed by the military's expansion plans. If the military expansion will require use of land outside of what the military already owns on Guam, landowners should be fairly compensated, he said. He said that in the Marshall Islands, some of the islanders still continue to press for additional compensation from the U.S. government for bomb tests on Marshalls atolls decades ago. "For islanders, land is all we have," Alik said.
FINANCES: The national planner in the Marshall Islands is urging the government to address skyrocketing prices of fuel, electricity and food by helping to “put money back into people's pockets.” Carl Hacker, director of the government's Economic Policy, Planning and Statistics Office (EPPSO), called for reducing or eliminating student registration fees for public schools “to give some much needed financial relief to people.” Hacker expressed concern in a letter to President Litokwa Tomeing over the recent dramatic increase in food and other costs hitting residents in the Marshall Islands. On Majuro, gas prices hit $5.70 at the pump this week, the power company raised electric rates more than 15 percent in April to 31 cents and 39 cents per kilowatt hour, respectively, for residential and business customers and rice prices have leaped from under $8 per 20 pound bag to more than $10, with further increases expected with the arrival of the next shipment of rice next week. “Policies or directives that can help put money back into people’s pockets will become more important as a result of the rising cost of living, particularly given that wages and salaries have not risen as fast as the cost of living for many years.”