Leaders brace for Young visit

Posted on Feb 08 1999

Leaders of the CNMI Legislature are hopeful of the Northern Marianas visit of U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) and other key members of Congress which begins next week amid fresh attempts by White House to strip local control over its labor and immigration.

House Speaker Diego T. Benavente said it will provide an opportunity for island officials to present a progress report on the reforms undertaken by the commonwealth government since a U.S. Senate oversight on the CNMI was conducted in March last year.

“We had asked for time to show that we can resolve our problems with local solution,” he said in an interview. “We have, in fact, resolved these problems.”

But Benavente maintained the legislature will give way to the Tenorio administration and the private sector to present an overview of the present situation on the island, including its deeply battered economy and tight financial shape of the government.

Senate President Paul A. Manglona underscored the need to highlight ongoing reforms which they had promised to deliver in previous meetings with other members of the Congress.

“We just have to explain what we have been doing and follow up where we left off during our last meeting in D.C.,” he said, adding that Young is fulfilling “his promise last year to meet with” other CNMI officials.

“Legislators are going to have to report on legislation and the actions that the legislature has done so far,” Benavente explained. “It will be very minimal.”

Young, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee which has jurisdiction over CNMI and other insular areas, called off his visit to Saipan last year and this will be his second attempt since then.

It also comes on the heels of renewed pressure from the Clinton administration for a federal takeover of the island after the 902 talks held on Saipan last month collapsed.

Edward B. Cohen, President Clinton’s special representative to the bilateral talks, stood firm of the need to put CNMI’s control on immigration and minimum wage under federal authority, saying local efforts remain inadequate.

CNMI leaders have vowed to thwart the move, warning of its devastating impact on the island economy which has thrived on a locally-set minimum wage level and largely has depended on foreign manpower.

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