At least 16 of the 28 members of the Legislature are going to Guam next week for the inaugural session of the Mariana Islands Legislature Association, which brings together CNMI and Guam lawmakers to address issues of mutual interests such as trade, transportation and healthcare. The number could still change in the coming days.
Senate President Ralph Torres (R-Saipan), after a leadership meeting yesterday afternoon, told Saipan Tribune that seven senators—including himself—will be attending the MILA session set for Nov. 12 and 13 in Guam.
Of the eight sitting senators, only Sen. Frank Borja (Ind-Tinian) will not be at the MILA session. One Senate seat remains vacant, over a month since it was officially vacated by Juan M. Ayuyu.
Among 20 House members, at least nine are Guam-bound as of yesterday.
House Speaker Joseph Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan), one of those attending the inaugural MILA session, said the number could still change.
The eight other House members going to Guam are Reps. Ralph Yumul (Ind-Saipan), Antonio Benavente (Ind-Saipan), John Paul Sablan (Cov-Saipan), Tony Sablan (Ind-Saipan), Larry Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan), Mario Taitano (Ind-Saipan), Richard Seman (R-Saipan) and Christopher Leon Guerrero (Cov-Saipan).
As of yesterday, at least five said they won’t be able to attend the session: Reps. Edmund Villagomez (Cov-Saipan), Antonio Agulto (Ind-Saipan), Teresita Santos (R-Saipan), Ray Tebuteb (Ind-Saipan), and vice speaker Frank Dela Cruz (Ind-Saipan). Agulto and Tebuteb initially decided to be at the session.
House floor leader Ralph Demapan (Cov-Saipan) and minority leader George Camacho (R-Saipan) remained undecided as of yesterday.
“I still have days to think about it. Still checking whether I still have office budget for the trip,” Demapan said.
Four others could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Each lawmaker is responsible for his own airfare and other expenses.
Guam Speaker Judith Won Pat has proposed three areas of concern: the creation of a regional healthcare network, formation of a free trade zone, and the establishment of cruise lines that will service Micronesia.
CNMI lawmakers, meanwhile, are adding interisland travel including allowing small aircraft to fly from Tinian to Guam without U.S. Transportation Security Administration clearance. A specific trade concern is to allow the CNMI to import live cattle to Guam by updating Guam’s existing quarantine regulations.
MILA seeks to improve the quality of life, relationships and future of the CNMI and Guam communities.
From Guam, House members will be traveling to Rota for a Nov. 15 session.