Joint State and National COVID-19 Task Force meeting: MV Chief Mailo and Medical referral repatriation

On Tuesday, January 5, 2021, T.H. Reed B. Oliver, Governor of Pohnpei State, T.H. Feliciano M. Perman, Lt. Governor of Pohnpei State, and Chairman of Pohnpei COVID-19 Task Force, Mr. Wincener David,  hosted a joint Pohnpei State/FSM COVID-19 Task Force meeting at the Governor’s conference room in Peilapalap.  T.H. Ausen T. Lambert, Speaker of the 10th Pohnpei State Legislature, and T.H. Stevick Edwin, Vice Speaker also attended.  From the FSM National Government, T.H. Carlson Apis, Secretary of the Department of Transportation, Communication, and Infrastructure,  T.H. Eugene Amor, Secretary of Finance and Vice-Chairman of the National Task Force, Acting Secretary of Health and Social Affairs, Mr. Marcus Samo led the National team.

The meeting was called to discuss the arrival of the MV Chief Mailo from the Republic of Philippines and the repatriation of stranded medical referral patients in Guam. After a welcome by Governor Oliver, Secretary Apis started with an update on the MV Chief Mailo’s position and disposition of the crew.  He related the position of  MV Chief Mailo to be southwest of Pakin outside of Pohnpei’s 12 nautical miles boundary.  He said Chief Mailo reported being short on fuel, food, and in rough waters with a crew of 12, including two passengers.  He also shared that MV Chief Mailo had been in the Philippines for dry dock services but was unable to return as scheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Recently, they had been in isolation for two months in Manila prior to departing from General Santos City where they picked up a 10-year-old boy from Polowat who had been lost at sea.

During the discussions, Secretary Apis said that the arrival of Chief Mailo was not communicated to the Pohnpei State Task Force initially, and this was a communication failure that is most unfortunate.  Vice Speaker Edwin expressed his disappointment in the sequence of events that placed Pohnpei State leadership in a position to deny access pending further information on Chief Mailo that was not provided before her arrival.  Governor Oliver thanked Secretary Apis and Vice Speaker Edwin for their frank and honest comments and expressed the need for continued open and honest communications during the meetings to find a solution for the care and provisioning of MV Chief Mailo.  Lt. Governor Perman also asked why the Chuuk State Government denied the MV Chief Mailo access to Chuuk when she is homeported in Chuuk State.  Mr. Tom Kostka from the FSM TC&I’s Marine Division noted that Chuuk State’s protocols place the crew of MV Chief Mailo in the category of non-essential personnel, and this along with the fact that three members of her crew being tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in 2020 was most likely their determining factors to deny access to MV Chief Mailo.

Governor Oliver advised Secretary Apis, Secretary Amor, and the FSM COVID-19 Task Force that in a previous meeting of the Pohnpei Task Force the decision was made to assist the MV Chief Mailo, but this will require collaboration and cooperation from both State and National to render the proper assistance to Chief Maillo while observing and upholding the no disembarkation order instituted by Pohnpei’s Constitutional Emergency order.

Pohnpei Port Authority Seaport Manager, Mr. Baron Mendiola requested FSM Patrol Boat assistance to guide the MV Chief Mailo into Pohnpei waters where they will then observe the pre-14 day quarantine requirements while onboard the vessel, similar to MV Caroline Voyager.  Chairman of Pohnpei State COVID-19 State Task Force, Mr. Wincener David, added that after the pre-14-day quarantine is complete, Pohnpei State Health personnel will administer COVID-19 tests to the crew and provisioning will commence.  The MV Chief Mailo departed the Philippines on December 24, 2020, where they were also administered two COVID-19 tests before departure according to Secretary Apis, with negative results.

A joint working group will collaborate to ensure the proper steps are taken to ensure the MV Chief Mailo is brought into anchorage in Pohnpei waters, COVID-19 testing is completed for the crew, quarantine is enforced and provisioning is accomplished.  Pending confirmation by FSM National Government, the MV Chief Mailo is expected to be guided into Pohnpei waters on January 6, 2020, to complete her pre-14-day quarantine, and then undergo an additional 21 days quarantine in our waters while arrangements can be made to repatriate the crew members to Chuuk State.

On the issue of medical referral repatriation, Secretary Apis expressed his personal opinion that Pohnpei State, as the readiest state in the FSM should take the lead to inform the national government of their readiness to repatriate their medical referrals.  Governor Oliver reiterated the cooperation and collaboration of both State and National Task Forces to accomplish the repatriation at the earliest date possible.

Also present at the meeting were Dr. Eliaser Johnson, Assistant Secretary Moses Pretrick, and Mayson Fredrick from the FSM Department of Health and Social Affairs.  Chief of FSM Immigration Division, Mr. David Wolphagen also accompanied the National team.  From Pohnpei State, Director of Resources and Development, Mr. Hubert Yamada, Director of Finance and Administration, Ms. Christina Elnei, Pohnpei Public Broadcasting Corporation Commissioner, Mr. Peterson Sam, Special Assistant to the Governor, Mr. Kapilly Capelle, Public Affairs Officer, Mr. Petriko Hairens, Budget Office Mr. Leon Panuelo Jr. and Overseas Development Assistance Coordinator, Ms. Shirley-Ann Ligohr joined the meeting.