WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt has wrapped up his trip to Tuvalu as head of the U.S. delegation to the 31st Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Partners Dialogue, which took place on August 16, 2019. The high-level U.S. government delegation comprised of senior officials from the White House, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Coast Guard, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
While in Tuvalu, the Secretary held bilateral meetings with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga, Fiji Foreign Minister Inia Batikoto Seruiratu, and Mr. Norikazu Suzuki, Japan’s Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs. In addition, the U.S. delegation held a breakfast roundtable with Pacific Islands Forum leaders, and jointly met with the delegations from the Freely Associated States (FAS), in meetings led by Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) President David Panuelo, Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) Ambassador to Fiji Tregar Albon Ishoda, and Republic of Palau Minister of State Faustina Rehuher-Marugg.
“It was truly an honor to lead the United States delegation as a Forum Dialogue Partner and meet with the Pacific Island leaders at the 50th Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “The United States is a Pacific nation, and our country has a deep and longstanding commitment to the future security, prosperity, and well-being of the region. This commitment starts at the very top with President Trump, who recently hosted the Presidents of FSM, RMI, and Palau for a historic meeting at the White House. As a part of the President’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, the United States annually appropriates $350 million for projects, assistance, and operations in the Pacific, including the Department of the Interior’s three new fresh water resilience technical assistance projects that will focus on water and sanitation, drought management, and hydropower.”
On the way to Tuvalu, Secretary Bernhardt also stopped in Hawaii at Indo-Pacific Command, underscoring the fact that the Pacific Islands are key to the President’s vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States is engaged and committed to advancing a regional order based on respect for sovereignty and the rule of law.
The DOI, leveraging Bureau of Reclamation expertise and Office of Insular Affairs funding, has recently engaged the utilities in the FAS to help improve the management of hydropower in Pohnpei, FSM; enhance the operating efficiency of the Majuro, RMI utility; and make Palau more drought resilient through smart water management. These three initiatives will provide technical support to the three FAS to support the water supply and drought management in particular. This investment will total $400,000.
In addition, the DOI, led by the National Park Service, will host a summit in Guam on historic preservation and World Heritage in December for the FAS and the U.S. territories of American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Secretary Bernhardt bears responsibilities for the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in the region. DOI also administers and oversees Federal assistance under the Compacts of Free Association to the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau. Douglas W. Domenech, Interior Assistant Secretary, Insular and International Affairs, and the Office of Insular Affairs support DOI’s mission of upholding trust and related responsibilities by balancing efforts and resources to support stronger health, education, and economic capacities, along with promoting fiscal accountability in the U.S. insular areas.