Benavente named FSM honorary consul
Lt. Gov. Diego T. Benavente appointed as FSM’s honorary consul to the Commonwealth
Federated States of Micronesia citizens on island joined their visiting President Peter Christian on Saturday at Garapan Central Park for the commissioning of former CNMI Lt. Gov. Diego T. Benavente as the FSM’s honorary consul to the Commonwealth. Christian said Benavente’s appointment is “an extension of [FSM’s] friendship and our family relationship” with the CNMI.
“I look forward to fulfilling my duties and responsibilities in serving all of the FSM citizens living here in the Commonwealth,” Benavente said. He added that when he was still a CNMI House member, he was also a member of the Association of Pacific Island Legislatures and met and worked with the other elected leaders of the Micronesian region.
Benavente likewise served on the board of the Pacific Islands Development Bank and is a board member of the Micronesia Conservation Trust. “I have learned that island leaders should strengthen regional cooperation, and I realize the importance of combining our voices to strengthen our communities throughout Micronesia,” he said.
In an interview, Benavente said he will meet with FSM citizens, including those on Tinian and Rota, to learn about their needs in the Commonwealth. He said he also had initial discussions with Christian about some issues that FSM citizens face in the CNMI.
He said he will serve as a link between the FSM citizens in the CNMI with their consul general’s office on Guam. Christian, for his part, said he is “very happy that we’ve done this [appointed an honorary consul] so that the FSM citizens here will at least have someone to talk to about their concerns.”
The FSM president left Saipan on Sunday morning. CNMI Rep. Ivan Blanco said he is “grateful that Diego accepted” the appointment, adding that FSM citizens in the CNMI have been asking for a consular office on Saipan.
He said the CNMI and FSM have a shared history and “we still have strong family and government ties as we continue to work together through various regional organizations — Diego’s appointment is one way of further strengthening those ties.
” CNMI Rep. Joseph Deleon Guerrero said Benavente is the “perfect guy” for the job, adding that the former lt. governor is very familiar with regional issues. On Friday, Teresa M. Filepin was sworn in as the new FSM consul general on Guam.
In a separate interview, Filepin said her office will work closely with Benavente in providing consular and other services to FSM citizens in the CNMI. Filepin, a former director of the Department of Education in Yap, said he will meet regularly with Benavente and determine how they can better serve the FSM community in the CNMI. Nick Benjamin, a Pohnpei community organizer on Saipan, said he is still hoping that the FSM government will open a consulate office on Saipan in the future.
Own Cholymay, a Chuukese community organizer in the CNMI, told Variety there are over 3,000 FSM citizens on Saipan.
He said the appointment of Benavente is a “big relief” for the FSM citizens because many of them cannot afford to send their official documents for processing in their home country. “We have dreamt of having a consul in the CNMI.
Now we have somebody who can do the job for us,” Cholymay said, adding that Benavente’s appointment was an “historic moment for us.” Grace Sablan Vaiagae, one of the coordinators of the commissioning ceremony on Saturday, said people from Chuuk, Yap, Pohnpei, and Kosrae who are now residing in the CNMI helped organize the event for their visiting president. She said the Pohnpeians on Saipan will also organize themselves within this year.
Aside from Christian, the event on Saturday was likewise attended by FSM Secretary of Foreign Affairs Lorin Robert, Secretary of Justice Joses Gallen, Leo Falcam Jr. of the Office of the FSM President, CNMI Department of Labor Secretary Vicky I. Benavente, and CNMI lawmakers. J. Kennedy D.L.G.
Benjaim was the master of ceremonies. Nolas Kaliga led the singing of the FSM national anthem while Pastor Riden Fiden offered the invocation and benediction.