US to airlift 297 FSM citizens stranded on Guam

PANUELO: Then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper, left meets with Federated States of Micronesia President David W. Panuelo at the Pentagon, in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 11, 2019. The FSM government has accepted an offer by the U.S. military to airlift nearly 300 FSM citizens stranded on Guam for months. Photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia

The Federated States of Micronesia government is working out the details with the U.S. government for the military airlift of at least 297 FSM citizens who have been stranded on Guam for months.

Dec. 5 is the target date for the first repatriation flight, according to FSM President David Panuelo's office.

"The FSM National Government can confirm that at least 297 FSM citizens are genuinely stranded on Guam, though depending on one's definition this number can arguably rise to above 330," stated Richard Clark, special assistant and press secretary to President Panuelo.

The Dec. 5 flight will transport 25 medical patients and their attendants, all of whom were referred by the MiCare Health Insurance provider, according to Clark. The plan is to also bring an additional eight students, all of whom have completed or otherwise are no longer enrolled in tertiary education, Clark stated.

"The overwhelming majority of the medical patients have been in Guam since early to mid-March," Clark stated. "The vast majority were previously in the Philippines before arriving in Guam, but several of them were in Hawaii."

There are two senators in the 21st FSM Congress stranded on Guam and one of them will be able to return home on the Dec. 5 flight. The senators have also been in Guam since early to mid-March, Clark stated.

US, Australian diplomats also on the flight

In addition to the stranded FSM citizens, the flight will also transport U.S. Ambassador Carmen Cantor, her spouse, and her two daughters; U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission H. Kristin Westphal; and Australian Ambassador Jo Crawley and her spouse, reported Bill Jaynes, managing editor of the Kaselehlie Press, citing information from a diplomatic note from the FSM Department of Foreign Affairs.

Japan’s Deputy Chief of Mission, Mizuuchi Kentaro, also is expected to be on the first flight back to the FSM.

The U.S. government made the offer to provide humanitarian flights, the Kaselehlie Press, based in Pohnpei, reported in its Nov. 18 edition.

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