Incoming House vice speaker Frank Dela Cruz said the EB-5 Visa Program is a encouraging development but it remains to be seen whether it will have any positive impact on the Commonwealth's weak economy.
“It's something that is new to the CNMI. I cross my fingers anytime something positive like this to come out,” Dela Cruz (IR-Saipan) said in an interview with reporters on Thursday.
The lawmaker, however, stated that he will “not jump for joy” just yet because the program's success remains to be seen.
EB-5 Regional Center is a program where foreign nationals may invest in the center to obtain lawful permanent residency in the United States or “green cards.”
On Wednesday Gov. Benigno R. Fitial announced that Triple J's Marianas EB-5 Regional Center LLC is the first of three applicants in the CNMI to be approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Fitial said the program is going to revolutionize the CNMI economy.
Robert “Bob” Jones, principal of Marianas EB-5 Regional Center LLC, said they submitted the Regional Center project of Surfrider Resort Spa & Beach Club, a 60 to 100-hotel room set to rise in Chalan Kanoa.
Under the EB-5 Visa Program, Dela Cruz said, investors have to invest a minimum of half a million dollars and hire 10 people for two years.
Dela Cruz said there are a lot millionaire foreign investors who are also seeking permanent residency in the United States. He said it's just a matter of marketing the CNMI to the appropriate investors and tourists.
As to how the new majority in the incoming 18th House of Representatives will deal with the administration's proposed measures, Dela Cruz said it really does not matter who introduces the measure. If the Fitial administration has good ideas on how to move the Commonwealth forward, the majority is open and will accept them, Dela Cruz said.
“We're open to look at the measure and if it is in the best interest of the Commonwealth, we will do what is necessary to assist,” he said.
Depending on its urgency, Dela Cruz believes that any legislation should be treated as with any other legislation-it should go to a committee for comments from the public, departments, and agencies.
The majority is open minded, he stressed.
In cases of a gubernatorial veto, Dela Cruz said if they feel that the governor's veto message is not convincing enough, they will override the veto action.
“But if we feel that his veto message has grounds and is credible, of course, why we would we want to override [it]?” he said.
Dela Cruz has high hopes for the incoming House where most of the new members, according to him, were elected for a reason-a people's mandate to make changes in government.
“We continue to send a message that even we lost the ballot in the impeachment, we haven't lost the war yet,” Dela Cruz said, referring to the impeachment resolution that was defeated by Fitial's allies in the 17th House.