President Surangel Whipps Jr. left on Sunday to attend the Pacific Island Forum’s Leaders’ first in-person meeting in Suva, Fiji this week,  Minister Charles Iyar of MPII – Ministry of Public Infrastructure and Industry said yesterday.

Among the pressing items expected to be on the table at the Forum leaders’ meeting include the planned withdrawal of the Micronesian nations from the PIF, regional security, and climate change issues.

The planned withdrawals of the five Micronesian nations from the Pacific Island Forum, Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Nauru, and Kiribati, were put on hold pending the discussions of substantive reforms by the Forum and its leadership.

In February, Federated States of Micronesia President David Panuelo announced that PIF had promised “reforms” within the Forum leading the Micronesian presidents to “pause” the withdrawal efforts until this June.

President Whipps had stated repeatedly that the issue with Micronesia was very clear.  He said trust and integrity are central to the matter and must be addressed by the Forum.

 “Ongoing discussion continues to be an ongoing discussion, but Micronesia has been very clear from where it stands,” Whipps said.

He said that Micronesian nations are open to working things out but it also expects respect from the other member- nations of PIF.

Meanwhile, looming climate change concerns and geopolitical maneuverings in the region are bringing the regional leaders toward seemingly unavoidable engagement to address regional issues.

For instance, the signing of a security pact between China and the Solomon Islands raised concerns among some of the members of the Forum.   Loud reactions were made to the visit of China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi to 10 different member countries in the region in May.

“I think what’s most important is transparency and working together as a region to ensure that we continue to maintain freedom and democracy in our region,” Whipps said in response to the regional security issues.  (By: L.N. Reklai)

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