FSM government to meet this week to reevaluate repatriation plans

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(PNC file photo)

Federated States of Micronesia President David Panuelo will have a meeting with the Governors of Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae this week to discuss the next steps in its repatriation efforts. 

The FSM National Government recently announced the indefinite postponement of its Dec 5 repatriation flight from Guam to the FSM. 

In an interview with PNC, Richard Clark, the FSM President’s Public Information Officer/Press Secretary, confirmed the meeting. He said the FSM 21st Congress is also convening a public hearing with the FSM National Government on the matter.

There are currently 297 FSM citizens awaiting repatriation on Guam — and that number could rise up to around 330, according to Clark. Around 41 FSM citizens and diplomats entered pre-quarantine on Guam late last month in preparation for the Dec 5 flight back to the FSM.

But in total, the FSM National Government estimates anywhere between 500 to 800 FSM citizens who are stranded abroad and awaiting repatriation. 

Clark said the indefinite postponement of the Dec 5 repatriation flight from Guam is due to several multifaceted and emerging health capacity issues raised by the Pohnpei State Government. 

He said the FSM COVID-19 Task Force and Pohnpei state COVID-19 Task Force were in agreement on following through with the Dec 5 repatriation. But this changed last week, after President Panuelo, upon meeting the Pohnpei State Legislature, discussed at length some of the State Legislature’s concerns regarding the health capacity in Pohnpei State.

“But the results are that the Pohnpei State Legislature was very much concerned about what it might look like if COVID-19 were to arrive in the state and their capacity is insufficient,” Clark said. 

Following those discussions on Friday, Clark said President Panuelo and members of the FSM COVID-19 Task Force began reaching out to technical and health staff in Pohnpei State as well as members of the Executive Branch leadership staff.

At the meeting, officials looked at several scenarios — should they allow the repatriation flight to continue this week — including the possibility of COVID-19 being introduced into the community.

Clark said that following the meeting, President Panuelo stated that it is the intention of the FSM to have an airtight repatriation process and that the health and safety of its citizens is paramount.

Panuelo said ‘there can’t be any gaps — real or presumed — in the FSM government’s repatriation efforts.”