The Inos administration is noncommittal about funding the operation of the Northern Marianas Trade Institute, saying the government has to first provide for public schools before it can allocate funds for the private institution.
Press secretary Angel A. Demapan disclosed this to Saipan Tribune yesterday when asked about the institute's request to be allocated a portion of the contract workers fees-or CW fees-that the CNMI government gets each year from the federal government.
Former governor Benigno R. Fitial junked the bill that sought to give the institute $500,000 from the estimated $1.5 million in CW fees remitted to the government. This amount is equal to what the Public School System and Northern Marianas College each got.
According to Demapan, the funding request for the institute is now being reviewed but he pointed out that the total CW amount is just an estimate.
“What’s important to note is that the subject appropriation of $500,000 to NMTI was based only on estimates or projections that included $500,000 for PSS and $500,000 for NMC. Altogether, that would have obligated $1.5 million in CW funds that are only mere estimates and not guaranteed resources, more so at a time when we are seeing reduced numbers in CW renewals,” he said.
Therefore, Demapan said, “before the administration can commit such funds to private institutions like NMTI, it must ensure that constitutionally mandated public educational institutions like PSS and NMC are adequately supported.”
Saipan Tribune learned that due to funding shortfalls for teachers' and instructors' salaries, classes at the institute have been temporarily suspended.
NMTI director Vic Cepeda vowed, however, to continue running the school despite its present financial difficulties.
“NMTI is not closing down,” he told Saipan Tribune, adding that the campus where its offices are also located remains open and registration is ongoing.
In fact, he said, about 180 students have already registered for various courses and many are on the wait-list.
Cepeda also disclosed plans to explore federal grants through the support of some groups and organizations from the U.S. mainland.
According to Cepeda, as soon as funding is identified, classes will immediately start in four basic courses: culinary, hotel and restaurant, auto mechanic, and construction. Teachers for these courses, he said, are on standby and ready to begin sessions.
He remains hopeful that the Inos administration and Legislature will positively respond to their request for funds in order to continue the mission of the institute.
The institute was aided in the past by funding assistance from local and federal sources. Cepeda hopes that financial support such as educational tax credit, grants, and donations will continue to be directed to the institute.
Since its inception in 2008, the institute has produced more than 400 graduates.