People’s Petitions and Public Letters
“We, the undersigned:
• As residents of the State of Yap, are aware of the many economic problems facing this State and the country; and
• Are also aware that there are potential economic development and investments being proposed by the Chinese Exhibition and Travel Group (ETG) for the State of Yap; and
• Are concerned as to the full impact of such proposals on our people, traditions, culture, land, ocean, and identity; and
• Are concerned and committed to the welfare of our people, communities and islands and we recognize the importance of all our people being fully informed and provided an opportunity to participate and submit their views in any and all discussions on the investment issue;
Therefore, we the undersigned:
• Are hereby requesting the Government and the Leadership of the State of Yap, to fully inform, educate and disseminate to the general populace relevant information regarding the components, impact, and status of the proposed ETG investment in various mediums and forums;
• That such mediums and forums be conducted thoroughly both in town and in all outlying villages and islands in a regular and frequent manner;
• And that no further agreement and promises, both written and oral, be made by the Government and the Leadership of Yap, on said proposal by ETG until such time that the people of Yap have duly expressed their free will on the said proposal in a plebiscite to be funded by the Government of Yap.”
The petition is addressed to Speaker Henry Falan and according to the communication, copies were also made available to the Office of the Governor, Council of Pilung and the Council of Tamol by the petitioners.
(Around January to April, 2012,circa 1,700 signatures)
(File: ETG petition)
Relevant news: Yap Legislature Receives Petition on ETG Proposal
of Yap Office
P.O. Box A, Yap, FM 96943 Telephone: 350-7273
June 24, 2012 (Feast of the Birth of St. John the Baptist)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In recent months the people of Yap have become increasingly concerned about a development project submitted to our State Government by a company of the People’s Republic of China called the Exhibition and Travel Group, also known as “ETG”. This development company proposes to build eight to ten hotels by 2015, two to three world-class golf courses, casinos, and other related facilities for tourists from Asia. ETG promises to build enough hotels to give Yap a 10,000 room guest capacity by 2020. In addition, ETG is promising to make infrastructure improvements with respect to our roads, medical facilities, airport capacity, and utilities.
Much of the public concern since mid 2011 has come about because of the lack of information provided to the public or their elected representative in the State legislature. It was not until June 13, 2012 that the Governor’s office formally transmitted to the State Legislature copies of the documents relating to the development of ETG’s project. By then, the following documents had already been signed and issued: (1) a Strategic Framework of Cooperation between Yap State and ETG signed on April 21, 2011; (2) a Memorandum of Understanding between Yap State and ETG signed on October 21, 2011; (3) a Memorandum of Understanding between the Council of Pilung and ETG signed on January 12, 2012; (4) a Memorandum of Understanding between the FSM Government and ETG signed on April 26, 2012; (5) A Foreign Investment Permit issued to ETG on June 4, 2012; and (6) A Business License issued to ETG also on June 4, 2012. In addition to these agreements, the Governor’s office has been negotiating with ETG an Investment Agreement that will determine the conditions, responsibilities and liabilities of Yap State and ETG as the project progresses. The Attorney General’s Office is now reviewing the second draft, dated May 8, 2012, of this Investment Agreement.
The State Legislature formally learned of these documents just ten days ago. The lack of detailed information coming from the Governor’s office, even as government and traditional leaders were being flown to China for meetings on the project, has caused concern and anxiety among the citizens of Yap both locally and overseas. The public’s concern has resulted in two resolutions by the State Legislature calling ETG to refrain from further action in Yap State until the legislature has sufficient information to insure that their plans are in the best interest of the people of Yap. Two separate petitions from the people of Yap have also requested that more facts about the process be revealed to the public. While these resolutions and petitions have gone unheeded by Governor’s office, there was a Town Hall meeting on May 8th at which the Acting Attorney General was present to discuss the ETG project. Unfortunately, since the public did not see any details of the project agreements, participants could only ask very general questions and received very vague answers that were not supported by any specific documents.
The Catholic Church raises concern not only for the doubts and anxiety caused by the lack of specific information from the government, but also because this lack of information violates the civil and political rights of the people of Yap to participate in a decision that would change the quality of life and culture on Yap forever. The Church also raises concern over some aspects of the tourism project itself. Let it be known that the Catholic Church is not opposed to the economic development of Yap or the tourism industry. However, when the Church reflects on economic development, it does so in the context human development. In this context, economic development must serve the development of the entire person, body, mind, spirit and culture. People are more important than material goods or money and any development project needs to be judged not only in terms of the dollar sign, but also with respect to the effect on the human person and life in our communities. While ETG’s promises that their project will bring fast money and economic prosperity to Yap, the Catholic Church is concerned that certain aspects of ETG’s project will harm the quality of life in our communities and lessen our sense of cultural and human dignity.
The Catholic Church has serious concerns about certain aspects of the ETG project:
- The most obvious concern is the interest ETG has in bringing casinos into Yap. At present gambling is not legal in our State. Is our executive branch entertaining such a project proposal or providing guarantees to ETG that the law will be changed?
The criminal activity that accompanies the casino industry is well documented from the experience of other nations in the Pacific rim that have permitted gambling. This criminal activity includes illegal drug trade, money laundering, prostitution and human trafficking. The proposed casinos will be operated by foreign businesses that ETG calls “Third Party” participants. These businesses are unknown at this time and so it is not possible to perform any background checks on them. And yet ETG insists in the Investment Agreement that these unknown businesses enjoy the same rights as are given to ETG in the Investment Agreement currently under review.
At present the FSM is on the US State Department’s watch list for its inability to legislate or enforce laws that prohibit human trafficking. The Yap public safety department also lacks the manpower or resources to effectively detect or protect against money laundering, illegal drug trade and prostitution. How will our communities and families be protected against these crimes that have repeatedly accompanied the gambling industry even in the most developed nations?
- A second concern is this project’s impact on the environment. ETG is not being held accountable to an environmental impact assessment by the Governor at this time. The reason for this is that such an assessment requires a detailed Master and Business plan. ETG has admitted that such a plan cannot be drawn up until it knows how much land it can acquire and where this land will be. Under these circumstances, how can the Governor’s office pretend to answer the public’s questions about environmental impacts if it is not possible to do an impact assessment at this time? And yet the Governor’s office proceeds with agreements that gradually increase Yap State’s commitment to ETG’s project.
As the largest construction project in the history of Yap and the FSM, the ETG project is certain to have large-scale effects on all sectors of the environment. For example, the golf courses alone, three of which are initially planned by ETG, will have detrimental effects on the lagoon. Golf courses located in tropical ecosystems require massive amounts of fertilizers, which, when washed off into the lagoon, produce nutrient loads that destroy the fragile coral reef ecosystem and related fisheries. What laws and agreements will there be that will hold ETG responsible for not endangering the reef system on Yap?
- The project will also require ETG to lease large parcels of land on Yap, a significant portion of which is collectively owned. This will constitute the largest transfer of land use in the history of Yap over a period of just a couple years. For generations land has formed the basis of our social systems for the estates, clans and villages. What will be the social and cultural effects of converting our land into a monetary commodity that is no longer tied to our estates or villages? How will our people deal with the very sudden and rapid loss of this cultural heritage? What will this do to the unity among our families? Will some people in positions of traditional authority profit more than others? Will the pilmingaay and other members of the lower castes benefit from this project equally in an economically just way? In other words, will the rich get richer and the poor get poorer?
- Finally, it should be noted that the current drafts of the Investment Agreement with ETG provide few details that bind ETG to the infrastructure improvements they first promised. The current agreements hold ETG to very few specific requirements and leave the Church wondering whether the negotiations with ETG are receiving careful thought and deliberate review.
My brothers and sisters, I ask the members of the Catholic Church and of the other Churches on Yap to encourage our elected representatives and public servants to slow down their attempts to approve the ETG project. Hold your public servants accountable to a review of the ETG proposal that is thorough and transparent. We are being asked to risk our cultural heritage and ancestral lands on this project. In light of the considerable and unprecedented scale of this project, the Church maintains that the people of Yap have a right to full and transparent information in all subsequent negotiations with ETG. The people of Yap should not be asked for their approval prior to a complete study on the full social, economic, and environmental impacts of this project. Once appropriate information is provided, I ask each of you to exercise your civil rights to participate fully in this decision that will determined the lives of future generations on Yap – even if this participation requires a plebiscite. Your participation must be based on full, detailed and transparent information, not on vague undocumented assurances or dreams of prosperity decorated with colorful pictures.
In closing, I call on our Governor, our other public servants, and the Councils of Pilung and Tomol to remember the words of our Lord when he said, “Whoever wishes to be the greatest of all must be the servant of all,” because Jesus himself came, “Not to be served, but to serve.” You are chosen to fulfill your duties in the service of our people. The people of Yap have placed their hopes and trust in you. We call upon you today to have the courage to uphold and protect our civil rights to participate fully in this decision, so that as one people we may determine the future of our children and of our State.
Sincerely in Our Lord,
John S. Hagileiram, S.J., Acting Vicar of Yap
YAP WOMEN’S ASSOCIATION
P.O. Box 593
Colonia Yap FSM, 96943
Phone: (691) 350-7504
Date : 7/26/12
Hon. Chairman Bruno Tharngan & Members
Council of Pilung
Yap State-FSM 96943
Hon. Sebastian S. Anefal
Governor, State of Yap
Yap State-FSM 96943
Hon. Henry Falan
Yap State-FSM 96943
Hon. Chairman Ignathio Hapthey & Members
Council of Tamol
Yap State-FSM 96943
Hon. Isaac Figir & Joseph Urusmal
Congress Delegation, Yap State
Yap State-FSM 96943
SUBJECT : Development by the Exhibition and Travel Group
Dear Honorable Leaders,
Siroo! On behalf of the Women of Yap, I am putting forth for your thoughts our utmost concern regarding the Exhibition and Travel Group. So much has been said that it is hard to distinguish facts from rumors, however, there is tremendous concern among our womenfolk in regard to the plan for Yap State Tourism Development by the Exhibition and Travel Group (ETG) in Yap State. These concerns are being put forth to your office in the hope that they may be considered in your deliberation with the above group. Listed below are a few of our concerns.:
A. As of to date, although we continue to say that we are “poor”, everyone still has a home and our elders are dying in their homes and hospital surrounded by family. One of our kinship ties in Yap is our land title. What would happen when someone comes in and takes over our land for us. We have seen in other richer countries such as the United States of America, that although they are super powers and they have all the money in the world, their people are dying on the streets due to starvation and no place to live. The women of Yap are worried that when our lands are leased out to foreigners, some of our traditional kinship threads will be lost and will result in the breakdown of family and community connections.
B. The ETG are from big countries with big companies. Therefore, it is unrealistic to expect that by them building their businesses on our small Island, their first interest will be the Yapese. Our island is very small. Do we really want to see thousands and thousands of aliens living here in Yap? Now with the global warming, our children, brothers and sisters are migrating here from the Neighboring Islands. We are still adjusting to this new situation.
C. When we start to lease those lands to ETG, ownership will be suspended. What will happen to the future of our children?
D. Lastly but not the least, is there a check and balance in our law that ensures that infrastructures being built is environmentally safe and healthy for our land and the Yapese people? In some instances as seen in bigger countries, when a building is to be built, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) must be made by a qualified body. This environmental assessment must include land mitigation, Air quality, Water and tradition of the people. The process must be transparent so the people can have a say in the changes that effect them and to also be prepared for the Immense change. What about our health services? Are we equipped for this migration of thousands of people to our small island? Does our hospital have the facility and know how to take care of this number of population. For example, with the Avian Influenza that originated in China, are we capable of detecting and ensuring that those who are infected do not come to our Island. If this is not in place, chances are that people are going to be driven away from their sanctuaries not because of their choice but because they have to.
So, in our meeting in June, 2012, there was a request from the women of Yap to write to our leaders, to appeal to your sense of community leadership, brotherhood and caring, for our current generation and the future generations to come. We ask that in your deliberation, please decide on what is best for the people of Yap not only in monetary means but our livelihood as well. In your deliberation and decision making, we humbly request to please reflect on and select those decisions that ensures the optimum spiritual well being of our women and children. We acknowledge and appreciate your ever present vigilance in careful decisions resulting in “striking a balance” between the old and the new. Because of this, it has enabled a statehood that allows our citizens to continue to thrive in an environment that is spiritually, culturally, socially, economically and physically healthy. This is all that the women of Yap ask for. So in essence, we , the “Bpin nu waab” strongly feel that this investment is not right for the state of Yap. Therefore, we are humbly pleading to your good office to put a stop to this Proposed Development of ETG.
Siroo ma kamagargad!
With All Due Respect,
Yap Women’s Association
Attachment: Municipality Signatories
(File: YAP WOMEN Public letter)
Petition in July-August
Yap State Legislature Misc Comm8-168
“From the undersigned people of Yap, respectfully telling the members of the Council of Pilung, Governor of Yap State, Speaker of the 8th Legislature and member of the Council of Tamol, NOT to permit the Exhibition and Travel Group (ETG) to invest in the whole State of Yap.”
Follow-up: This Communication (Misc. Comm. No. 8-168) was assigned to the Legislature’s Standing Committees on Government, Health & Welfare (GHW), Finance and Resources, Education and Development (RED).
Resource: Yap State News Brief, August 16, 2012
Letter from Dalip Pi Nguchol (Three Paramount Chiefs)
Dalip Pi Nguchol
States of Yap
September 17, 2012
The Honorable Sebastian L. Anefal
Yap State Government
Colonia, Yap FM 96943
The Honorable Henry Falan
8th Yap State Legislature
Colonia, Yap FM 96943
The Honorable Bruno Tharngan
Council of Pilung
Colonia, Yap FM 96943
The Honorable Ignathio Hapthey
Council of Tamol
Colonia, Yap FM 96943
Mr. Deng Hong
Chairman, Exhibition and Travel Group
c/o ETG Office in Yap
Colonia, Yap FM 96943
RE: ETG Project
We, the undersigned DALIP PI NGUCHOL, the Paramount Chiefs of all of Yap State, pursuant to our traditional authority which is also recognized by Article III, Section 1, of the Yap State Constitution, do hereby command all of you to prohibit the Exhibition and Travel Group from proceeding with its intended Project for Yap State.
John B. Ranganbay
(File: Dalip Pi Nguchol Letter)
*Note: On September 24, 2012, John B. Ranganbay of the Ru’way Estate voided his signature on this Dalip Pi Nguchol letter. Please check Timeline for his explanation.
Concerned Citizens Group’s Letter to US Ambassador Madam Rosen
On October 16, Concerned Citizens group submitted a letter to US Ambassador Madam Rosen regarding the controversial Chinese investment in Yap. Concerned Citizens group has laid out the chronology of the events, attached Yap State Resolutions (8-31, 8-53), three public’s petitions throughout spring and summer 2012, and residential biologist Margie Falangruw’s statement concerning Investment Agreement draft #5. The group emphasized their position for requiring a sustainable development based on governmental transparency, public participation, and environment/culture friendly scope. They also inquired US’ assistance in legal aid and professional assessment of ETG’s investment.
On October 18, Concerned Citizens group submitted an email to Ambassador Rosen, attached the PDF files of three Yap State Resolutions (8-29, 8-31, 8-53), and asked for clarification regarding her comment on ETG’s investment in Yap reported on Yap State News Brief (October 17). Concerned Citizens group re-emphasized their position, and politely explained the group disagreement with Ambassador Rosen’s remark. The group inquired the context of Ambassador Rosen’s reported comment, as well as her confirmation of the reported comment after reading Concerned Citizens’ letter.
Concerned Citizens Group’s Letter to FSM President
On January 22nd, 2013, Concerned Citizens Group (CCG) met with FSM President Manny Mori on his trip to Yap (http://myfsm.blogspot.com/2013/01/president-mori-heads-to-yap-for-etg.html). Here is CCG’s public letter presented to FSM President (link).
We sincerely thank Natural’s Way for uploading the file.
Pastoral Letter to Brothers and Sisters in the Yap State
On March 1, 2013, Catholic Church issued a letter to brothers and sisters in the Yap State relating to the land-leasing issues.
Concerned Citizens Group’s Letter to Yap State Legislature
On March 6, 2013, Concerned Citizens Group (CCG) submitted a letter to Yap State Legislature, requested to have a public hearing on ETG’s land lease agreement (link)