If it were up to him, Sen. Sixto Igisomar (R-Saipan) would work to develop Pagan instead of handing it over to the U.S. military for live-fire training.
“We have the military trying to take over the islands and here you are sleeping…we need to do free trade zones,” he told Saipan Tribune after speaking to the Rotary Club of Saipan yesterday at Hyatt Regency Saipan.
Igisomar said his bill, Senate Bill 19-29, aims to bring agencies together to set off the process of resettling Pagan.
SB 19-29 seeks to amend Public Law 18-16 on free trade zones so that the departments of Public Works, Public Lands, and Lands and Natural Resources, the Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality, and the Commonwealth Ports Authority can collaborate and cooperate with the Northern Islands mayor in identifying free trade zones on Pagan.
“Instead of just doing a resolution, I want it to become a law that they have to do, because the original law [PL 18-16] is lacking on who should coordinate it and it was lacking in pushing the matter,” Igisomar said.
“These people better get their stuff together by actually coming together and communicate with Northern Islands Mayor Jerome Aldan and initiate this so we can start free trade zones,” he added.
Igisomar said that Aldan has reached out to him for his help in trying to kick-start the Northern Islands economy.
Aldan said it has been years since P.L. 18-16 was created as a tool to diversity the CNMI economy, specifically the Northern Islands. If free trade zones were identified, economic activities for diversification that are environment-friendly, suitable to tourism, related businesses, industry, and commercial activities can start.
“Funding will be a challenge, but that is something I hope we can address at a different time, but right now identifying the agencies is a priority and then they can bring up the cost,” Igisomar said.
“We need to do this so we can finish the homestead acts, we need to find a way to bring the people back and resettle them. So these things are parts that need to work,” he added.
When asked if this is also intended to stop the military from acquiring Pagan, Igisomar said it isn’t about stopping the military but resettling people.
“It is alternative zero [as far as the military’s plans go] and it is not even a discussion,” he said.
Other Northern Islands residents have also urged for the resettlement of Pagan. Igisomar believes this bill will ease the woes of Northern Islanders.
“I want to give them infrastructure after identifying free trade zones, so there would be a reason for the people to go there. You need a reason for an economy to be built there, so you’ve got to put the infrastructure there to make a living and not just live off the land,” he said.
SB 19-29 was first introduced in March and is now being with the Senate Committee on Resources, Economic Development and Programs.