Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Just a link in its Second Chain

Chain, chain, chain, chain of fools
Five long years I thought you were my man
But I found out I'm just a link in your chain
-- Aretha Franklin, Chain of Fools

Guambat has previously invoked the legendary Aretha to musically frame China's ambitious Pacific chains threat. Since China's "Second" Island Chain plants a fencepost squarely on Guambat's burrow, he takes notice.

Guambat has also illustrated that not all of China's movements to move beyond its chains are overtly militaristic. Especially now, with the world's largest and richest consumer having become China's Golden Goose, China often deploys dollars to insinuate itself in its self-defines spheres of influence.

China is now exercising the latter tactic to strengthen its Second Island Chain, right here in Guambat's backyard. Yap State, in the Federated States of Micronesia, is Guambat's immediate
neighbour to the south.

Yap government, Chinese firm ink major investment agreement
An investment agreement was signed Saturday between the Yap State government and Chengdu Century City New International Convention and Exhibition Center Company Ltd. (ETG) during a signing ceremony held at the Pacific Dive Resorts.

The agreement was signed by Yap Gov. Sebastian Anefal and Deng Hong, chairman of the ETG, who were accompanied by the governor’s Cabinet, chairman and vice chairman; members of the Traditional Council of Pilung; the chairman of the 8th Legislature Standing Committee on Government, Health and Welfare; and other members of the public.

In his brief statement, Anefal said: “The year 2023 brings an end to the economic provision of the Compact between the Federated States of Micronesia and the United States, and to me that would be the funeral for the Federated States of Micronesia. If you want to prolong and postpone this funeral ceremony, then I think we have to take a bold step and this is the right time to do so. During the remaining 10 to 11 years before 2023, I think Yap has to do something.”

The governor hopes the relationship ETG and Yap have established by signing the investment agreement will create and provide the way forward so the "funeral" in 2023 could be delayed further.

Hong thanked the government and the people of Yap for accepting the investment proposal. He said this visit has opened a new page of close relations between Yap and ETG. He also said that by working together, ETG will build Yap to become one of the main tourist destinations in the Pacific region. The ETG chairman mentioned that ETG would be able to complete the construction of all the facilities in Yap within the next five years from the day of signing, if things move forward according to plan.

After the State Legislature concluded the series of oversight hearings with the administration regarding the investment agreement, the state government returned back to ETG to discuss the issue with their legal counsels before the signing of the agreement.

Prior to the signing, the Council of Pilung had taken the matter into its own hands and requested both the executive and legislative branches of government to expedite their work on the agreement so the project could start to move forward.

Hong and members of his delegation left Yap for Chengdu on Sunday, Aug. 12 aboard their private aircraft.

Rolling the Chinese dice
Yap is the closest to Guam of any of the Federated States of Micronesia, just a couple of hours away. Officials there have been discussing and negotiating with developers out of Chengdu in mainland China for more than a year. The agreement signed on Saturday is the fifth version of the contract, which is called a “cooperative investment agreement.”

The pact could bring billions of dollars of infrastructure and commercial development to the state.

The impact of all of this on Yap is a worry. The land of stone money is the most traditional of the Micronesian states, and things haven’t really changed very much there for the past 50 years. It’s a small, tightly knit community where traditional leadership is more highly respected than the elected leadership. Although Gov. Sebastian Anefal signed the agreement on behalf of the state, he would not have been able to do so without the acquiescence of the Council of Pilung, the traditional chiefs of Yap, who were present at the signing.

As originally envisioned, the plan was to bring as many as 10,000 hotel rooms to various locations in Yap, along with golf courses, spas, restaurants and all the other amenities of an intensive visitor industry development. “The objective of this project is to develop the State of Yap into a world renowned tourism destination,”the agreement states.

The parties also agree that “the local culture and environment shall be preserved during the whole term of the project.” The company, ETG, agrees it will not engage or invest in any industrial or mining activities. “Such activities are inconsistent with the principle of self-sustainability underpinning the project concept,” the agreement states.

The scope of the planned development is mind-boggling. ETG agrees to upgrade the airport and seaport facilities to accommodate the requirements of what will be the largest investment and development in the entire FSM, by far, since the founding of the nation. ETG will also fund the creation of a new public park and a new state capitol.

Yap is part of the FSM, which is included geographically, and culturally, to Micronesia. Politically, the FSM, The Republic of the Marshalls, Palau and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands all were carved out of the old Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.

The area includes three major archipelagoes with over twenty-one hundred islands scattered across a vast expanse of water as wide as the continental United States. It is a time and place out of National Geographic Magazine.

Guambat had the privilege to cruise to a couple Yap State islands, Satawal and Ifaluk, a couple of years ago, and brought back these doctored photos.

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