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[Yap State News Brief] Summary of the Congressmen’s Briefing with Yap State Legislature

Resource: Yap State News Brief (August 23, 2013)

 

The Meeting with Chairman Joseph Urusemal and Chairman Isaac Figir took place on Tuesday,  August 20, 2013 from a.m. 10 to 12:55 p.m. in the Yap State Legislative Chamber with Speaker Henry Falan, Governor Sebastian Anefal, Vice Speaker Ted Rutun, Floor Leader Sabino Sauchomal, Chairman Charles Chieng, Chairman Jesse Raglmar, Vice Chairman John Mooteb, Vice Chairman Joseph Giliko, Vice Chairman John Masiwemai and Senator Jerry Fagolimul, DY&CA Director Ruotpong Pongliyab, FSMTC Yap Branch Manager Peter Garamfel, and YSL Assistant Legislative Counsel  Genevieve M. Mangefel.

Speaker Falan opened the meeting by expressing thanks to the Yap Congressional Delegation for initiating the meeting in offering to brief the members of the Legislature. He pointed out the need to share information on an issue – fiber optic connectivity to Yap, and related issues – that has been discussed many times in past leadership meetings. The meeting, although informal, was official.

The Speaker said he would like to bite the bullet and share from the meeting that was held with the Governor yesterday on the issue of Fiber Optic Connectivity for Yap specific to the full grant offer by the World Bank to fund Yap’s connectivity.

Speaker Falan reported that the state leaders have had meetings with one or two teams from the World Bank by James Neumann and officials of FSM TC&I, and later another technical team of World Bank and ADB. All the meetings had been towards the efforts of Yap’s fiber optic connectivity to the Guam-Palau cable with a spur to Yap. The Project is a Palau Project to which Yap is looking at for possible connectivity.

Speaker further reported that the two important issues that would allow Yap access to the WB grant which will make the Yap connectivity happen are 1) the need, a WB requirement for the grant, for liberalization of the telecommunication services in the FSM, by the FSM and specifically the Congress to approve the liberalization of telecommunications in its September Session, and 2) the need to complete the liberalization efforts by February 2014, so the technical people can present the project to the Board of Directors of the World Bank for consideration and or approval. If this deadline were missed it would be unlikely that the project can commence, and the grant offer by the World Bank will then be taken off the table.

This offer by far a very important offer of a life time that if missed we may not come close to another again, and the Speaker also said that in the meeting yesterday with Governor Anefal, it was agreed on what we could do to help in convincing the Congress of the importance of Yap’s connectivity by way of an appropriate resolution of the Legislature and a communication from the Governor.  The reason we ask the Governor to be in this meeting is so that what we convey to you reflects what we said in the yesterday’s meeting with the Governor.

Speaker pointed out that the World Bank offer includes assistance to upgrading FSMTC among other in-country preparation needs, and a grant for Yap’s connectivity.

Chairman Urusemal thanked the Speaker and members of the Legislature and recognized Governor Anefal’s presence and others present in the meeting. He said that he and Chairman Figir are happy for the opportunity to come to provide a briefing to the Speaker and members of the Legislature and pointed out that they have similarly met and briefed the Governor and the Lt. Governor.

At that point, Chairman Charles Chieng pointed out the need to seriously look at a briefing of all branches instead of separate briefing for each branch as part of our important effort to bring together all the branches of government and people, after the recent ETG Project had divided the leadership and the people.

Chairman Urusemal said that that is how they would like to do the briefing and it would be much simpler and easier for them to come and do one briefing for everybody. The decision to send the letter was a way of paying respect to the Legislature and Governor for in their view it would be them that should call for the briefing after the Delegation informs them of their presence in Yap.

Chairman Urusemal gave the floor to Chairman Figir, who addressed the issue of the Fiber Optic Connectivity by saying that he basically does not know much about the Fiber Optic to be verse in discussing it, although he said that fiber optic is said to be the latest in telecommunication. Chairman Figir said that there is a need to learn more about fiber optic – all relevant costs, the economic impacts, etc – and as of today in terms of pending legislations in the Congress, other than one introduced before, there is no bill or legislation in the Congress.

It was pointed out that the World Bank in the process of their meetings in Yap said that there is a draft being worked on for the September Session.

Figir said, in that case we will have to wait and see that Legislation in order to make a decision whether it is good for our people or not then decide on what to do. There are concerns and issues to address and questions to ask so we may know what is in store for us in terms of benefits and costs. Less than 20% of the Fiber Optic in Pohnpei is used today. This will be the first major World Bank Project in the FSM.

Figir further added that they have not been purview to the documents on the project but if it is going to be good for the State then he does not see any problem. Basically, we have to look and view the project from the standpoint of benefits to our people, he said.

On the liberalization issue, Figir said that it will decrease price of service from the competition between service providers and that is good, but then the FSMTC outstanding loan is an issue that we need to know what will happen and who will assume the loan, when the FSMTC does not have the money and the FSM Government does not have the money either.

Chairman Figir also wanted to know the position of Yap State on the project as thought nothing has been officially communicated to them, other than a Facebook posting of the State’s position on the project.

It was pointed out by Chairman Raglmar of YSL that the position of the State on fiber optic connectivity has been made for a long time and in one of the recent Leadership meeting that position was also made.

Senator Urusemal warren of the possibility that we may do away with a local monopoly only to be replaced by a foreign monopoly.

To that, Chairman Raglmar pointed out that liberalization is one issue requiring a legislation and the other is the need to enact a law that would establish the competent authority to regulate telecommunication services and perhaps this authority would be the one to make sure that the local monopoly is not replaced by a foreign monopoly.

Governor Anefal, his staff and the General Manger of FSMTC – Yap Branch were excused, and the Briefing by Chairman Urusemal and Chairman Figir took place.

Chairman Urusemal’s briefing to the Yap State Legislature on the First Special Session of the 18th FSM Congress included the following points:

The First Special Session of the 18th FSM Congress was called by President Mori, which convened for 10 days from July 15-24 2013.

The first Congressional Bill that was passed was relating to the FSM Tax Reform efforts. This bill was to extend the Sunset Clause of the Revenue Administration Act (RAA) of 2012 to September 30, 2013 during which all four FSM states is suppose to have passed their State value added tax (VAT) legislations for the FSM RAA to be an effective law, and thus the tax reform to go through. The bill is now FSM Public Law No. 18-06.

On this point, Senator Giliko and Senator Mooteb posed several questions essentially asking what will happen to the FSM Tax Reform initiative at this point given that Yap did not pass its RAA and VAT legislations due to constitutional issues.

Chairman Figir pointed it out that the action by the Yap State Legislature to adopt the report on not passing Yap State’s RAA and VAT proposed legislations will result in no Tax Reform for the FSM if no amendment is made to repeal the sunset clause of the FSM’s RAA of 2012. Chairman Figir and Chairman Urusemal both respect the decision of the Yap State Legislature, and mentioned that whatever the outcome of the FSM tax reform may be, as they are unsure at this point, we leaders will have to live with the consequences of our decisions, and move on with state and nation building.

Chairman Urusemal reported on other bills, which included an appropriation bill of which $550,000 to assist the State of Yap with recurring debts and budget shortfalls. Two other bills were also passed by Congress to forgive the remaining balances of loans by the Congress of the FSM to the State of Kosrae  of which $1.31 million remains, and the State of Chuuk of which $748,804 remains. Chairman Urusemal added that the President has signed all these Congressional Acts into law.

Other resolutions were also reported, including a Congressional Resolution confirming the nomination of Vincent Tafeleluw to be Yap State Representative on the FSM Social Security Board.

Chairman Urusemal and Chairman Figir reported that they will be leaving for the next Regulation Session of Congress in September, and so it was agreed that the Congressmen would contact the Legislature and Governor after their session to know when they will be in Yap in order to plan for a meeting and briefing with the leadership on the session.

Chairman Urusemal thanked the Speaker and the members for the meeting and the Speaker likewise thanked both Congressmen for the coming to brief the Legislature.

The meeting adjourned at 12:55 P.M.

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