A Guam senator reminded members of the Filipino community in the CNMI about their value as part of the Commonwealth's workforce, saying that their “biggest asset” is their own contribution to the economic development and success of the islands.
Sen. Sam Mabini reiterated how the Filipino workers in the Commonwealth serve as the “backbone” of the island economy during a meeting hosted by the Philippine Consulate General on Saipan at the Filipino Workers Resource Center on Thursday night.
“Remember that that's the power you have. You are part of the future economic development of the islands. Keep that in mind and remind others about that,” Mabini addressed some 60 Filipino leaders from Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.
Mabini is on island along with other lawmakers and dignitaries from neighboring Pacific islands for the Association of Pacific Island Legislatures' 31st General Assembly, which seeks to foster regional cooperation on a host of issues such as tourism, airlines, environmental protection, and economic development.
Born and raised in Guam, Mabini said that her advocacy for the plight of Filipino workers not only in Guam and the CNMI but throughout the world stems from her own lineage, recounting her family's story to her audience.
“I cannot turn my back away from things I believe I can make a difference,” said Mabini as she revealed that she was born to a mother who worked as a seamstress and her father who was a carpenter and was among those recruited in the '60s to rebuild Guam following the war.
“My parents are like many of you,” she said. “Their life experience is different only because they're in Guam. But many of my relatives who just arrived in Guam, they're also hoping for green card.”
According to Mabini, Filipinos throughout the world become a “great asset” in the labor force of countries where they are employed because of qualities such as fluency in the English language, intelligence, hard work and perseverance, and their audacity to take on jobs that others wouldn't do.
“That's why Filipinos are the No. 1 export of the Philippines,” she said.
While there are similarities between the situation of Filipino workers in Guam and the Northern Marianas, Mabini also noted the differences, affirming that more Filipinos in Guam are already permanent residents or U.S. citizens by now and that the Filipinos in the CNMI lead “hard” and “confusing” lives as a result of Public Law 110-229 or the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 which placed CNMI immigration under federal control.
Mabini said she can help create “bridges” or “connections” among personalities who are considered advocates or those who support Filipino workers, citing her role on getting Guam Consul General Bayani Mangibin introduced to CNMI Senate President Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota) who visited Guam recently.
Mabini, who is a board member of the Filipino Community of Guam, a network of 70 Filipino organizations, vowed to look into developing a relationship between the Filipino communities of the two jurisdictions.
With the impending closure of the Saipan Consulate, Mabini also pledged any assistance so that the Guam Consulate can better reach out to the Filipino community in the CNMI as it takes over the consular responsibilities.
Mabini, who volunteers hosting Guam's Megamixx 101.9FM Damdaming Pinoy show, disclosed her offer to accommodate Mangibin in the radio show to address the Filipinos in the Commonwealth. Although the radio show has better quality airing on Rota, Mabini said the community can access the show through the Internet via www.justin.tv.
Quoting Philippine Ambassador to the U.S., Mabini called on all Filipinos in the CNMI to “reach excellence in contributing toward economic development” by being the best that they can be and become more invaluable to the islands.
“Be optimistic, pray, and keep your eyes and ears open,” she added.
While Thursday's attendees expressed different priorities and concerns to Mabini, all were in unison to recognize the visiting Guam senator for taking time to meet with her kababayans on Saipan, with a few from Tinian and Rota.
Rene Reyes, founding president of Marianas Advocates for Humanitarian Affairs Ltd. Or MAHAL, sought help from the Guam lawmaker in getting someone to heed the plea for improved status especially for long-term workers in the Northern Marianas.
For his part, Fr. Ryan P. Jimenez said Mabini's message sends out hope and empowerment to Filipino workers whose status in the Commonwealth remains clouded with uncertainty. He asked the senator to convey to Guam Consul General Mangibin his request to give priority to the workers of the CNMI.
Representing the Saipan Lions Club, Ladyvir Canape concurred with Mabini in saying that the Filipinos in the Commonwealth and in Guam will have a more solid voice when they unite and come together as one.
United Filipino Organization president Bong Malasarte, meanwhile, echoed Mabini's positive message and called on the Filipino community to look forward and continue their hard work despite all uncertainties facing foreign workers in general.