September 05, 2011

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press

August 26, 2011 Peilapalap, Pohnpei, FSM -Pohnpei's Governor John Ehsa held another in what has been a series of press conferences during his administration. Whereas in the past the Governor announced the main topic of the conference this time he spoke on a hodgepodge of subjects that he felt are important to Pohnpeians.

In terms of visitors, he said, this summer was a busy one. He once again thanked all of the participants in this summer's Pacific Partnership visit.

He said that currently United States CCAT teams are on island doing a variety of construction work and also providing training for Pohnpeians in construction engineering.

He mentioned the visits of two separate delegations from China that took place this summer. A troupe of acrobats from the Guangdong province visited and performed last month. Last week a troupe of Wushu martial artists also visited and performed in Pohnpei.

Governor Ehsa thanked the people of China for their development work in alternative energy systems in Pohnpei. He said that six trainees from Pohnpei will be going to China to train on the installation, use, and maintenance of biogas systems.

The governor also announced that the people of Japan through JICA is still moving forward toward the relocation of the Pohnpei landfill using the popular and environmentally sound Fukuoka method.

He also said that the Japanese government is currently entertaining the possibility of providing a new field trip ship that may be based in Pohnpei.

Governor Ehsa did not provide a list of ongoing and approved infrastructure projects to the media during the conference. He did not read it off either saying that it was too long of a list. He said he would provide that list at a later date.

"The road has been a major complaint of Pohnpeians," Governor Ehsa said. The State has not had the money to do the repairs of potholes and other problems because the money that might have been used was instead used to provide matching funds for a major International Monetary Fund project.

However, the Pohnpei State Legislature recently voted to provide $170,000 to fund pothole maintenance and drainage provision in several sites island wide.

All Pohnpei public schools started on time and with no problems at the beginning of this school year with the exception of ESDM. The problem there was that the contractor did not finish the bathrooms in time for the opening of the school year but Governor Ehsas was told that problem would be resolved within a week.

On the subject of the Pohnpei State Legislature Governor Ehsa said that he was glad that PSL filed suit regarding the implementation of a school lunch program in Pohnpei. He announced that the court decided that all students who are required to stay at school for two or more hours after lunch time must be provided with lunch.

He announced that 70% of Pohnpei's schools are now served lunch. As soon as stoves are installed within a month the coverage will be 100% of Pohnpei's schools. He said that he has developed a budget for 37 new cook helpers who would work on a contract basis. Included in that budget is a plan for one solid meal per week. Currently all school lunches are soup.

Lynn Pangelinan, of the U.S. Embassy said that the Parent Teacher Associations of some of the private schools have banned sodas, instant ramen or other junk foods from being served in school cafeterias. In light of the problem of noncommunicable diseases Pangelinan wanted to know if Pohnpei would be serving healthy meals to school children.

"That was the original intent of the program," Governor Ehsa said, "and we're committed to that." He said that developing a healthy lifestyle is sometimes very difficult later in life after a person's taste has become established. It is much easier to make a difference in diet and healthy lifestyles choices at the elementary school level. The original menus developed for the program were all healthy local foods.

Governor Ehsa said that some of the biggest resistance to the school lunch program has come from businesses located close to schools who sell junk food to children. Some discussion has taken place in the government about the possibility of legislation about establishing a defined distance from a school that a business that sells junk food should be.

The last topic on Governor Ehsa's agenda for the press conference which was aired live on V6AH radio, was an emotional plea to the public. Last month, Becky Schaffer, a brand new World Teach volunteer was killed in a tragic accident at Nanpil waterfalls. Later some opportunist in Pohnpei stole her laptop computer. Ms. Schaffer's family wants the laptop computer back because of the memories of her life that are stored there. Governor Ehsa asked for the community to do the right thing and give the computer back to the grieving family.