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The Government of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) has informed Fiji as hosts of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat through a diplomatic note its intention to withdraw from PIF.
The note, which followed a convening of the Micronesian Presidents Summit (MPS), begins a one-year process for the FSM to formally withdraw from the PIF, starting on 17 February, 2021, and concluding on 14 February, 2022.
The FSM intends, however, to remain a full member of CROP agencies, made up of eight regional organisations.
President Panuelo spoke with the Presidents of Nauru, Kiribati, Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) regarding the MPS’ withdrawal from the PIF.
“I’ve consulted with our Speaker of Congress, Wesley W. Simina, and other Senators. A decision has been made for our denunciation of the PIF.”
President Panuelo and the other Presidents of the MPS spoke at length about their internal processes for PIF withdrawal. While there was discussion on the MPS countries jointly submitting their denunciations at the same time, it was agreed that the members of the MPS will denounce PIF in a sequence, so as to allow their respective internal processes to properly conclude.
“Much of the MPS’ discussion was with regards to how leaving the PIF impacts—or, conversely, doesn’t impact—assistance from foreign donors. One of the MPS Presidents described what amounted to a threat from one external partner that leaving the PIF would mean a loss of funding, to which that President noted to the MPS that the exclusive beneficiaries of that funding are countries in the South Pacific (as opposed to the North Pacific). Another MPS President described in detail how multiple countries, who otherwise donate to the PIF, are now seeking closer bilateral relations, and how his Government has assessed that withdrawal from the PIF is advantageous, said President Panuelo.
For his part, President Panuelo noted the FSM National Government’s Working Group for PIF withdrawal has been preparing a similar report, which notes that leaving the PIF has “no serious impact” for the FSM.
Despite an assurance from the PIF Chair and Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Kausea Natano of a review of the selection process, Micronesian leaders informed the Forum chair that they don’t trust the Forum processes given the public denial by some Pacific Leaders that the ‘gentleman’s agreement does not exist.’
PM Natano joined the special MPS Leaders meeting last Monday.
President Panuelo and the other Presidents of the MPS said while they appreciated the Chair’s attempt to convince them to re-think their decision, Micronesian leaders were united in their decision, “because countries who were familiar with the gentleman’s agreement openly and boldly claimed it doesn’t exist.
“As a result, trust in the structure of the PIF’s dynamics was fractured.”
“It would take a very monumental reform of the PIF, in my humble opinion, for us to be able to come back to the table to discuss future options,” President Panuelo said to Chairman Natano.
“As sovereign nations, we will continue to work with you closely on issues like climate change and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing…. But, as I was telling my fellow Presidents ago, I have [made the decision] for our denunciation to be sent, and it will be sent later today (Wednesday),” said Panuelo.
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