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 [Context]

The following texts are cited from a set of discussion threads on a facebook page, Yap’s Development, initiated by Mr. Dieter Kudler on November 6th, 2012. We re-post the entire discussion threads here (up to 7:30am on November 15th, Micronesia time). Quite an amount of friends have shared their concerns, thoughts or ideas regardless of the differentiated residences, ethnicities and positions. In fact, the variety of participants’ concerns has enriched the scope of the whole discussions, as long as the dialogue is conducted in a candid manner without being disrespectful to one another’s opinions. We appreciate all the participants who have shared their opinions on the facebook forum.

It is the sixth part of the whole discussion threads.

Source:  http://www.facebook.com/groups/404462399564440/permalink/508353445842001/

 

 

[Discussions]

 

Clement Yow Mulalap Siro.

First of all, I want to thank Mr. Kudler for starting this thread. I deeply appreciate reading all the various points being made and all the information being shared in this thread. I wish that this sort of conversation were taking place in the general public, with our leaders and elders and youth and other elements of the Yapese community participating, but for now, I am glad that this conversation is taking place anywhere at all.

Secondly, I wish to address one of Mr. Kudler’s comments in this thread—specifically, the comment at http://on.fb.me/XCpqnF

. Sir, regarding your explanation of your use of the term “anti-development,” I must respectfully disagree with your assessment of the current situation in Yap and its impact on potential foreign investment in Yap in the future. Mr. Kudler, you state that “chasing ETG out of Yap would send a very strong signal – no international investor would be willing to go through the same trouble.” You also state that “a ‘no to ETG’ means a ‘no to development.’” Sir, I think these two statements overstate the impact of Yap’s resistance to ETG and mischaracterize the resistance in Yap to ETG’s proposed Project in Yap.

For one thing, I have read numerous comments by folks in this group and other online groups (as well as by members of the Concerned Citizens Group during one of the Group’s broadcasted public meetings) stating that while they oppose ETG’s proposed Project in Yap, they are not anti-development. There are, of course, members of the Yapese community who do not want any foreign investment whatsoever—and those members should be taken seriously, too—but it seems to me that the strong majority of Yapese (as well as non-Yapese) who speak out against ETG’s proposed Project still welcome development (whether in the form of foreign investment or some other form), as long as the development is appropriate for Yap and her people, and as long as the Yapese people are full participants in the development process. As a member of the Yap State Youth Facebook group eloquently indicated the other day (see here: http://on.fb.me/RVQvNI

), many people in Yap support investment-related development as long as it is “environmentally safe, culturally preserving, and economically favorable,” and as long as the people of Yap have a say in—if not power over—all aspects of development projects in Yap. This holds true whether a project is ETG’s or someone else’s. If a potential foreign investor thinks that it is “trouble” to invest in a place featuring this sort of direct public involvement in development projects and this sort of public preference for an environmentally, culturally, and socially appropriate investment scheme, Mr. Kudler, then perhaps the “trouble” lies with the foreign investor and not with Yap and her people.

For another thing, Mr. Kudler, I appreciate your fear that the way in which the Yap State Government and the Yapese people have convulsed in response to ETG’s proposed Project may scare off potential foreign investors in the future. However, Mr. Kudler, please remember that the main reason why there is such turmoil in Yap about ETG’s proposed Project is that the Investment Agreement giving rise to the Project was negotiated largely in secret by a small group of people despite repeated entreaties by the Yapese people (through public petitions and the like) demanding more information, more public participation in the negotiations, and a general slow-down to the process. Furthermore, the current Investment Agreement between ETG and the State of Yap—an Investment Agreement that, in my opinion, imposes a number of significant obligations on the State of Yap without imposing similarly expansive obligations on ETG—was signed in great haste, at night, during a weekend, without advance notice to the public, and without having been submitted to the people of Yap (or even to the Yap State Legislature) for review (let alone approval). You seem to imply, Mr. Kudler, that if Yap were at peace right now and if Yapese people were willing to acquiesce to the demands of foreign investors without voicing their strong concerns—concerns which are also being voiced by the people’s representatives in the Yap State Legislature—then that will be an ideal situation for foreign investors to invest in Yap. I am sorry, Mr. Kudler, but I cannot subscribe to this notion. I cannot subscribe to the idea that the best way to attract foreign investment is to remove as many roadblocks to investment as possible, including encouraging the Yapese people and their elected representatives to be as quiet as possible about their concerns and to not be too involved in the negotiations processes. Mr. Kudler, it seems to me that many Yapese are willing to welcome foreign investment into Yap if the Yapese people have significant say in the process—something that the Yapese people did not have prior to the signing of the Investment Agreement between ETG and the State of Yap. If some foreign investors are turned off by this sort of involvement by the Yapese people—if foreign investors consider this sort of public dissension to be “trouble”—then perhaps those foreign investors are not right for Yap. In my opinion, Yap is too fragile an entity to engage in that sort of capitulation.

11 hours ago

Clement Yow Mulalap Mr. Kudler, it seems to me that if Yap is able to put together a comprehensive action plan for seeking foreign investment—a plan that lays out what Yap’s true development goals are; a plan that identifies key areas of concern for Yap and her people; a plan that strives to safeguard Yap’s environment, culture, society, and other elements that make Yap unique and special; a plan that welcomes significant public involvement in the development process—then Yap can be in a perfect position to attract the investors that Yap wants and needs. Not only will such a plan allow Yap to streamline its development efforts and target areas of actual need for Yap, but such a plan will likely make foreign investors even more attracted to investing in Yap. I am no businessperson, but it seems logical to me that a businessperson who considers investing in an area may appreciate knowing how, exactly, that area is set up to accommodate the businessperson’s investment, including whether that area has a specific plan for incorporating and implementing investment-related development projects. Reducing uncertainty is a key element to encouraging investment growth, and a comprehensive and sustainable development plan by Yap will go a long way toward reducing that uncertainty.

Unfortunately, Mr. Kudler, as far as I know, the State of Yap did not put together such a plan before it entered into negotiations with ETG and signed the Investment Agreement with ETG. Consequently, Yap and her people are being forced to work with (if not accommodate) a proposed Project whose goals and parameters are not necessarily in alignment with the wishes and aspirations of the Yapese people—wishes and aspirations which were not solicited to an appropriate extent by those who negotiated and signed the Investment Agreement. This, Mr. Kudler, is why there is so much opposition to ETG’s proposed Project in Yap. It is NOT because Yapese are somehow “anti-development.” There seems to be an ongoing effort in Yap and online to, essentially, demonize those who oppose ETG’s proposed Project as being somehow “anti-development.” If being “pro-development” means silencing oneself and letting a select few people engineer investment schemes with potentially massive destabilizing impacts on Yap and her people without allowing the Yapese people to participate significantly from the beginning, then perhaps one needs to rethink what being “pro-development” truly means.

8 hours ago

Clement Yow Mulalap Finally, Mr. Kudler, in light of the strong public concerns about the signed Investment Agreement between ETG and the State of Yap, are you willing to support the dissolution of the signed Agreement in favor of (possible) new negotiations with ETG which will feature significant public involvement/input? There are many Yapese people—including members of the Y.A.P. group and of the Concerned Citizens Group, as well as of the general Yapese public—who are brimming with ideas about Yap’s development, and who will likely be key contributors in future negotiations with ETG as long as they are given the opportunity to participate. Will you support the Agreement’s dissolution, Mr. Kudler, and give the Yapese people their voice back?

Again, thank you, Mr. Kudler, for starting this thread. I appreciate your advocacy for Yap, and I hope that you do not take any of my comments as personal affronts to you. We have a basic disagreement about how Yap should pursue its development goals, but at least we are talking about this disagreement rather than stifling it for the sake of appearing attractive to foreign investors. Have a good day, Mr. Kudler.

Siro.

11 hours ago

Kattinow Gisog Kammagar Yow, but this is business..can u imagine the kind of delays that can come up if the public is invited into negotiations, everybody putting in their two cents on how this company should pursue their project? — how can we assume to tell a business exactly what we want them to do and what we dont want, how we do involve ourselves in their business strategy?? we might as well walk up to every business and start telling them what they ought to do as well, what to sell, what not to sell, what color paint we like on their storefront, what we dont like — that is not our place. if there are serious disadvantages to a business project, we direct our concerns to the government so as to influence the negotiations and regulations that THEY conduct and create. that is how business is managed. there are many ways to manage development, but formal inclusion of public opinion in a company’s business strategy is not one of them. personally, i could never support such a suggestion – its unfeasible, bottomline.

3 hours ago

 

 

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Jeff Mrby Girdii girdii nu waab comes first, government is the people and the people is our government… Each and every single girdii on this island should be inform of what exactly going on with this ETG project. Leaving someone behind will not do any good. It is in our custom that we must inform everyone…We must remember, we are on a democracy faram and not a communist where as, the government decide on behalf of everyone… Speaking of government, isn’t it the “government” that did not consider the girdii at first? Siro and I’m not against anyone in here, I’m trying to share what I think is right ma kemus…. Siro, siro ngomew…..

11 hours ago ·

 

 

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Clement Yow Mulalap Siro.

Kam’magar gow Kattinow nge Mrby.

Kattinow, normally, I would agree with you (just like I normally agree with you on quite a few things), but this is not a normal situation. Specifically, ETG’s proposed Project in Yap is not, in my opinion, a “normal” business that should be treated like any other business (let alone any other foreign investor/investment). If ETG’s proposed Project were a “normal” business, then why did the State of Yap enter into a Cooperative Investment Agreement with ETG—something that the State of Yap has never entered into with any foreign investor in Yap’s history? As you have pointed out in the past, Kattinow, the State of Yap entered into the signed Agreement with ETG so that, among other things, the State of Yap could be legally protected while ETG conducts its massive proposed Project. Now, in my opinion, the signed Agreement does not actually protect the State of Yap (and Yapese in general) to the extent that it can and should, but that does not change the fact that the State of Yap saw that ETG’s proposed Project will likely be of an unprecedented size with an unprecedented impact—whether positive or negative—on Yap and her people, which was partly why (from what I can tell, and from what others have said) the State of Yap entered into the signed Agreement with ETG. ETG and its proposed Project are not “normal” businesses, in my opinion, so the normal rules for treating businesses should not apply to them.

Kattinow, I agree with you that it makes very little sense to have a community “tell a business exactly what we want them to do and what we don’t want”—as a businessperson, I would throw my hands up in the air and abandon my business efforts in that community—but this sort of logic applies with “normal” businesses that do not receive any sort of special treatment from a local government and do not “dream” of implementing massive projects that can threaten a fragile community and its unique way of living. I suspect that the people of Yap would not be incensed right now if ETG were a small-time operator looking at, perhaps, constructing two or three sets of small-scale eco-friendly bungalows in Yap. That is not the situation with ETG’s proposed Project, and so people are understandably engaged and upset.

Kattinow, I believe that it is a good idea for the Yapese people to be involved in deciding whether to go forward with ETG’s proposed Project and, if so, how that proposed Project should turn out and be run. I do not necessarily believe that that should require the Yapese community to be intimately involved in every aspect of ETG’s proposed Project, but at this point, it would be nice if the Yapese people were involved in SOME manner rather than be shut out from a Project of such scale. The Yapese people can be reasonably involved by, for example, having community elders participate in environmental impact assessments; having village leaders take charge of land surveys; holding regular town hall meetings with ETG’s reps and getting ETG’s reps to brief the Yapese community about every major step in ETG’s proposed Project; creating a community “Board of Directors” that supervises ETG’s proposed Project and has the authority to curb the actions of ETG and “Other Project Participants”; giving Yapese villages/municipalities the final say in whether any major aspect of ETG’s proposed Project can proceed in a particular village/municipality; involving select representatives from each village/municipality in a new round of negotiations with ETG rather than limiting new negotiations to a small group of government workers; etc. These would be unusual, unprecedented measures, but ETG’s proposed Project is an unusual, unprecedented project. I would almost certainly never support these sort of measures with a typical business, but ETG and its proposed Project are not typical, in my opinion.

6 hours ago ·

 

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Clement Yow Mulalap Kattinow, I understand your point that the Yapese people can participate in this process by “direct[ing] our concerns to the government so as to influence the negotiations and regulations that THEY conduct and create.” Unfortunately, Kattinow, the time to do that was over a year ago, when formal negotiations between the State of Yap and ETG began, but the general Yapese public was not allowed to participate in those negotiations. Furthermore, the people’s representatives in the Yap State Legislature were also not directly involved in the negotiations, therefore further limiting the Yapese people’s participation in the process. This is the sort of concern that I think Mrby (like many other Yapese) is expressing in his comment.

To my recollection, there was only one town hall meeting about ETG’s proposed Project before the State of Yap and ETG signed the Agreement. I listened to most of that town hall meeting on the radio. That meeting took place just a few months before the State of Yap signed the Agreement with ETG, took place after several public petitions were submitted clamoring for greater public participation, and involved a lot of public complaints and concerns and general dissatisfaction with ETG’s “dream” and with the way negotiations seemed to be going. It would have been nice to have had at least one more town hall meeting afterward so that the State of Yap’s negotiators could have addressed the people’s concerns from the original town hall meeting before signing the Agreement with ETG, but that did not happen. Also, to my recollection, there was only one public hearing (spread out over a couple or three days) by the Yap State Legislature on ETG’s proposed Project before the State of Yap and ETG signed the Agreement. I also listened to that public hearing on the radio. That public hearing took place very shortly before the State of Yap signed the Agreement with ETG. Although the Members of the Yap State Legislature suggested many revisions to a draft of the Agreement and implored the State of Yap’s negotiators to give the Legislature final approval power over an Agreement, the version of the Agreement that was ultimately signed was not the version that was presented to the Yap State Legislature and that was suggested by the Members of the Legislature, and the final Agreement did not give the Yap State Legislature the power to approve or reject the Agreement. How could the people of Yap be expected to “direct our concerns” to elected representatives to influence the negotiations when those representatives were essentially shut out of the negotiations process, and when the general public was also essentially shut out of the negotiations process, prior to the signing of the Agreement?

Finally, there are many ways that the people of Yap can be involved in Yap’s development prospects without actually having the general public be involved in the affairs of a business/investor. One way would be to have a general public discussion about Yap’s development potential, aspirations, and limitations, so as to craft a comprehensive sustainable development plan for Yap that Yap can present to potential foreign investors and use to seek the sort of foreign investment that the Yapese people truly want. Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge, no such plan was put together before the State of Yap signed the Agreement with ETG.

I’m sorry. I feel like I am rehashing old arguments here, but I think those old arguments are at the root of why so many people in Yap are strongly dissatisfied with the signed Agreement and with ETG’s proposed Project in general. Again, I agree with you, Kattinow, that there is a limit to how much a community should be allowed to participate in business affairs, but there should be SOME community participation in managing a business, particularly when the business is unprecedented in scope and scale, and particularly when the business targets a very fragile entity like Yap. There is room for compromise—for reasonable community participation—but that room was kept empty before the State of Yap signed the Agreement with ETG, and that room remains empty, as far as I can tell.

Siro.

 

 

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