Yap Exotic Island of Stone Money

October 30, 2010

Yap is one of the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia. It covers an area in the Western Pacific from 7-10 degrees North longitude and 137-148 degrees East latitude containing 78,000 square miles of State territory. In Yap’s territorial waters there are 142 islands and atolls, many of which are uninhabited. Population (approximately 60%) is concentrated primarily on Yap Proper, made up of 5 volcanically raised islands containing approximately 38 square miles. Twenty other islands and atolls contain 700 or less inhabitants each. The total population of the State is around 11,000 inhabitants.

Yap is serviced by Continental Micronesia, who has one flight direct from and to Guam and Palau per week on Wednesday. There are also two night per week on Thursday and Saturday from Guam through Palau and returning the same route. Additional air service is under negotiations with the present and other providers. Yap is also serviced by three different ocean vessel cargo carriers. They are the PM&O Line from the U.S. West Coast, Dolphin Lines and Saipan Shipping that connect with Matson Lines in Guam. Yap’s port is capable of handling small to medium vessels. Distances from Guam and Palau are 520 and 280 miles, respectively.

The State of Yap is a strong supporter of foreign investment. The State government is keen to offer, as a facilitator, various types of assistance to foreign investors and local counterparts who wish to invest in Yap. The Yap State Government is fully committed to promote the development of a healthy private sector. In so doing, the private sector is expected to take full control of business economic activities in the state. The government will continue to invest in and provide basic facilities, social services, and infrastructure required for continuing economic development. Government involvement in business activities, if needed, will be limited to fostering business growth by providing assistance in meeting regulatory requirements, business extension services, and facilitating.

Yap State offers numerous investment opportunities to investors. The vast spans of ocean surrounding its islands offer substantial opportunities for ventures in commercial fisheries, fish processing facilities, mariculture and, as yet untapped, commercial exploration of ocean bed minerals and exploitation of many other marine resources. It also offers investment opportunities in the agriculture industry such as coconut-based products. Yap’s unique traditional heritage and tropical setting offers a tremendous potential in tourism related activities.

Many of these areas of investment remain to be exploited. They offer great opportunities for investors who possess the resources and technology to harness the potential to mutual advantage.

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Layoffs and slowing economy hit Pohnpei workers hard

February 18, 2010
By Gary T. Kubota
gkubota@starbulletin.com

KAHULUI » Maui Land & Pineapple Co.’s job cuts are expected to hit the Micronesian community on the Valley Isle particularly hard, with about 80 contract workers from Pohnpei being laid off.

The firm had hired them and provided dormitory housing and meals near pineapple fields below Makawao.

Most of the Pohnpei workers, who were field laborers, will be receiving an airline ticket from the firm to return home, but about 10 workers who have family members on Maui will stay to find other jobs, some workers said.

Pohnpei islanders and other citizens of the Federal States of Micronesia may travel and work anywhere in the United States without a visa or work permit, under an agreement with the federal government and their country.

Marcelino Welter, a Pohnpei work supervisor, said he plans to stay on Maui and find another job because he has two daughters living here.

Welter said he sends money back to Pohnpei to help support his wife and five sons.

Welter said working at Maui Pine gave Pohnpei islanders a chance to earn money and also learn English as well as American culture.

He said he will miss working with his fellow islanders at Maui Land & Pine and feels sad that they have lost their jobs. “Most of them, they are my friends. They’re hard workers. They know the work is hard, but they liked working in the fields.”

Victor Kato, another Pohnpei islander, said he plans to go back to his home island to be with his wife and three children.

Kato said he was earning $8 an hour packing pineapple at the cannery and does not know what he will do for a living in Pohnpei because jobs are few.

“It’s just sad,” he said.

Meanwhile the company has announced that 75 ILWU workers are among those being laid off but is still working with the union to determine those individuals whose positions will be terminated.

Union officials said their contract generally calls for giving preference to workers based on seniority. A number of union workers said they felt uneasy not knowing who is being laid off.

“I don’t know if it will be me,” said Renie Bartolome, a company boiler operator who has worked for the company for 18 years.

William Kennison, Maui division director for the ILWU, said the challenge will be finding work for employees in a slow economy. “The timing is so bad,” he said.

James Hardaway, special assistant to the state labor director, said he felt it was too early to predict the future for those being laid off.

Hardaway said the 270 workers laid off when the Kapalua Hotel closed in 2006 found jobs, and state labor officials expect job growth in certain segments of the economy, some slower than others.

“We’ve had several years of robust growth, when it comes to jobs being created,” Hardaway said. “We still have job growth, just not as robust as before.”

He said construction is expected to slow but continue to grow, and that state labor officials expect an increase of 3,300 jobs in education and health services and another 3,300 in the food preparation service industry.

Hardaway said there has been a decrease in employment in the airline transportation sector, the leisure and hospitality industry, and in water transportation, including interisland cruise employment.

He said small farmers on Maui, who were facing a labor shortage a year ago and looking at hiring foreign laborers, might be able to provide jobs for laid-off pineapple workers.

“We don’t know what the situation is right now,” Hardaway said.