Micronesian leaders: Guam fuel tax bad for region

GOVERNOR Ralph D.L.G. Torres and other Micronesian chief executives have expressed concern about a Guam measure that will tax liquid fuel transshipment through the U.S. territory.

Bill 257-34 will have a negative impact on the economies of the other Micronesian islands, according to a letter addressed to Guam Speaker Benjamin Cruz and signed by Torres, Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo,  Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr., FSM President Peter M. Christian, Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine, Chuuk Gov. Johnson Elimo, Pohnpei Gov. Marcelo K. Peterson, and Yap Lt. Gov. James Yangetmai.

The bill introduced by Guam Sen. Telena C. Nelson proposes to eliminate the tax exemption on liquid-fuel transshipment through Guam.

 “As we are sure you are aware, our communities share many of the same challenges in the Micronesian region,” the Micronesian leaders stated in their letter to Guam Speaker Cruz. “History shows that when faced with obstacles, we strive to work together with the goal of reaching a solution that is beneficial or not harmful to any of our jurisdictions. As such, if this bill were to pass, the negative effects would be detrimental.”

The leaders are hoping that their concerns will be discussed by the Guam Legislature before it acts on the bill.

The Guam tax bill was among the various concerns that the leaders discussed during the three-day 23rd Micronesia Islands Forum held on Saipan last week.

They also adopted the following resolutions:

  • • Resolution 23-5 which calls for a sustainable transportation network in the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands to support the economic development and stability of crucial air and sea transportation routes;
  • • Resolution. 23-2 which pertains to shifting distributions of tuna stock and other climate change impacts on food security;
  • • Resolution No. 23-3, to request assistance to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing in Micronesia; and,
  • • Resolution 23-4 to expand telehealth and telemedicine in the U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands to enhance health capabilities and capacities to deliver effective clinical and public health services.

In addition, the Micronesian leaders signed a letter to Director Mark A. McClardy of the Airports Division, Federal Aviation Administration-Western Pacific Region to ask for the continuation of Airport Improvement Program grants for the entire Micronesian region provided through the FAA.

The leaders said cancelation of the grant program would be devastating to their economies as tourism remains the largest economic sector in the region and the safety of airports is a major concern.

The Micronesian forum likewise discussed workforce issues and possible measures that will strengthen island residents’ education, training and apprenticeship as well as technical assistance opportunities.

The problem of invasive species was another topic of discussion. The leaders talked about the coconut rhinoceros beetle found in Rota in Oct. 2017; the little fire ant in Yap in Aug. 2017; and the giant African snail in Majuro, the Marshall Islands in Nov. 2017.

Climate change, transportation, health, education, fisheries management among other critical issues affecting all islands were also discussed during the forum.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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