Feb. 13, 2004
CUC told to focus on environment, personnel
Engineering consultant Harris Group is advising the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. to address environmental and personnel issues as it pursues the privatization of its main power plants in Lower Base. CUC executive director Lorraine A. Babauta, in a report to the CUC board, said that Harris Group advised the utility firm to look at the related environmental impacts of the project. In particular, it said CUC needs to check on the U.S. Clean Air Act and Pre-certification that would prove that bidders “have technology and experience with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Utilities commission proposed
The House of Representatives entertained the introduction of legislation proposing to establish a Public Utilities Commission--or a regulatory body seen to control rates imposed for water, electricity, cable television and telecommunication services. Vice Speaker Timothy Villagomez, chairman of the standing committee on Public Utilities, Transportation and Communications, offered the bill during the lower chamber’s 3pm session yesterday. He explained that the bill essentially seeks to create a commission that would mainly be responsible for setting utilities rate structure.
Feb. 13, 2005
$10.9M proposed for salary hike, retro pay
House minority members are pushing for a nearly $11 million appropriation to raise government employees’ salaries and pay off retroactive compensation, retirement, and healthcare contributions of government employees. House Bill 14-304, authored by Rep. Jesus Attao, aims to allocate $10.9 million to settle unpaid frozen steps, within-grade increases, and retroactive adjustments owed current and former employees in the last five years and 14 years, respectively, pursuant to Public Law 7-31. “It is only fair and appropriate for the government to settle the long overdue payments so that former and current employees can enjoy their rightful salary and to avoid any litigation,” said Attao.
’CDA should write off CUC debts’
Saying that the money involved was a federal direct grant assistance that required no repayment, a lawmaker proposed that the Commonwealth Development Authority just write off a longstanding $45 million principal loan of the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. In a newly introduced House Bill 14-285, Vice Speaker Timothy Villagomez said the loan was part of the $140 million in direct assistance given to the CNMI by the federal government “without any repayment.” He said that CDA merely acted as conduit for the distribution of these funds for infrastructure development in the CNMI. CDA, he said, distributed the funds to various government agencies besides CUC, “without requiring these agencies to pay back the funds given to them.”
Feb. 13, 2007
Cohen: Most CNMI bonding firms are insolvent
In the event of a total shutdown of the garment industry, thousands of displaced alien workers would get stuck on island as neither the government nor the private bonding companies could easily repatriate them due to a lack of funds, according to Interior deputy assistant secretary for insular affairs David B. Cohen during a recent U.S. Senate hearing. “It will be quite a challenge. If they [garment workers] are to exit in the next few months and the 19 remaining factories close shops, it’s really a challenge. I don’t think that funds are sufficient. The bonding companies will not do the job because a lot of these companies are insolvent,” said Cohen when asked by Sen. Jeff Bingaman if the CNMI would be able to handle the repatriation.
PHI belies claim that price of meds here ’prohibitive’
PHI Pharmacy has belied claims that the cost of medicines in the CNMI is prohibitive, branding the allegation as “ridiculous” and challenging those making the claim to prove it. PHI Pharmacy president and board member Bruce Cohen was reacting to a story published in the Pacific Times in its Feb. 9, 2007, edition that quoted California-based entrepreneur Sedy Demesa as saying that the cost of medicine in the CNMI could be 5,000 percent of the base cost compared with the U.S. mainland. Cohen said this is an “unfounded ridiculous statement,” adding that these statements, made by a “non-pharmacist,” would mean that what is being sold in California for $10 is being sold for $500 in the CNMI.