The presidents of Palau, Kiribati, Nauru, Marshall Islands, and the FSM gathered last week for the Micronesian Presidents’ Summit in Koror, Palau.
At the end of the two-day meeting, the leaders issued a joint communique’ highlighting several medical and economic commitments.
These include regional cooperation on COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, as well as plans to put together a quarantine-free “travel/transport bubble” between the 5 COVID-free member states, with connections to low-risk jurisdictions outside the bubble.
Nauru Airlines offered to facilitate air services between the member states.
This year’s MPS is historic since it is said to be the largest in-person and online meeting of Pacific leaders since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
All five Pacific island nations have remained COVID- free since the pandemic started — which makes Micronesia one of the only regions on earth which can still claim that distinction.
At the first day of the summit, Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. welcomed the assembled dignitaries — He said the main question that they have all faced has been what are they doing to tackle the pandemic?
Aside from Remengesau, Jr., Marshall Islands President David Kabua, Nauru President Lionel Aingimea attended the meeting along with other government officials.
Federated States of Micronesia President David W. Panuelo and Kiribati President Taneti Maamau joined the meeting virtually.
Remengesau Jr. said for Palau and the other COVID-free nations — the practical thing, the only decision, that really made a difference was the closing of their borders.
Because of limited resources and limited capacity, closing the borders had been a blessing but it also affected their economy.
Remengesau Jr. said: “We have a pandemic economic situation in Palau. And we need to get out of it. But I think that by gathering here today, we send a strong message to the rest of the world, that life matters in the Pacific and Micronesian region.”
According to an earlier release about the summit, the leaders plan to take advantage of this COVID-free status, turning the event into a key forum for shared regional priorities including rapidly expanding debt-stress, leadership of the Pacific Islands Forum, and the possibility of regional travel bubbles.
During the meeting, the 5 leaders reiterated their firm commitment to the appointment of Micronesia’s candidate, Ambassador Gerald M. Zackios.
The Presidents agreed that this issue is non-negotiable for all 5 Micronesian nations, and that violation of the “Gentlemen’s Agreement” could result in their withdrawal from the PIF.