Gov. Eloy S. Inos extended anew on Friday a state of emergency declaration for the Commonwealth Utilities Corp., showing a $2 million increase in the Public School System and Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.’s unpaid obligations to CUC in a two-month period—from $16 million as of Aug. 20 to $18 million as of Oct. 18.
Inos’ Executive Order 2013-22 dated Oct. 18 extends the CUC emergency for another 30 days.
The emergency declaration extension allows CUC to continue employing skilled technical foreign workers in the absence of qualified U.S. citizen workers, among other things.
CUC has some 48 non-U.S. citizen workers in various divisions that require their special skills and expertise. Most of them are from the Philippines.
The EO also allows the governor to reprogram funds and suspend procurement laws or rules to address the CUC emergency.
“CUC is owed approximately $18 million by [PSS] and [CHC] and is owed over millions more by residential users,” the governor said in his latest EO.
He said there is conflict and potential conflict between CUC and government agencies over money owed and other issues.
“Such conflict drains resources especially if it results in the parties going to court. Interagency cooperation and oversight is vital to ensure that government agencies can continue its operations without draining CUC’s remaining resources,” Inos said.
The governor added that although the CNMI economy has recently improved, the improvement is “only marginal” and the economy and the government’s finances are “still fragile.”
“This government strains to meet its obligations,” he added.
He also said CUC often only has days’ worth of purchased diesel fuel to power its system because it lacks the funds to buy oil from its sole, cash-only supplier.
CUC has no credit or other means to buy fuel other than the revenue it collects from its customers, Inos said.
Moreover, because of the continued lack of a functioning CUC board and the difficulty the Office of the Governor has been experiencing in its search of volunteers who meet the complex statutory qualifications, CUC’s executive power continues to rest with the governor’s designated executive director.
However, Inos has been saying that he is close to nominating board members for Senate consideration.