Rota lawmakers cry foul on Chinese ban

Posted on Dec 19 2004

The Rota Legislative Delegation has urged the governor to beef up immigration enforcement, as the group questioned a move to ban Chinese tourists on the island.

In a Dec. 17 letter to Gov. Juan N. Babauta, Sen. Diego M. Songao said that the decision to bar Chinese tourists on Rota is unfair and would have devastating effects on the island’s economy.

Songao, chairman of the Rota Legislative Delegation, was reacting to an announcement made earlier this month by Marianas Visitors Authority chairman David Sablan that the movement of Chinese tourists would be confined to Saipan and Tinian “for defense reasons.”

“A decision to disallow Chinese tourists on Rota would be arbitrary because it is irrational. The fact that Rota is closer to Guam is meaningless when one realizes that those attempting to infiltrate Guam are neither taking a running jump nor swimming,” Songao said. “From what I understand, they appear to be taking boats over. These boats could just as easily come from the Smiling Cove Marina [on Saipan] as they could from Rota’s West Harbor.”

Songao said that the illegal immigrants on Guam are more likely to be former workers from Saipan, and not from Rota.

He also stated that there was no reason to worry too much about Rota’s proximity to Guam and the security issues it entails. He said that after all, the CNMI would be courting only “affluent Chinese citizens who are highly unlikely to illegally enter the United States.”

Rather than barring Chinese tourists on Rota, the CNMI government should enforce its immigration laws more strictly.

“If you, as governor, are concerned about Rota’s ability to adequately police the Commonwealth’s southern border, then please help us provide a plan to increase security there. If it is felt that Saipan’s labor, immigration and police officers are doing a better job than their colleagues in Rota, then we ask that you provide better training for Rota officers or station more qualified officers on Rota.

“But do not discriminate against your fellow citizens from Rota. We are one Commonwealth. We should certainly act like it. Please do not deny the people of Rota from benefiting from all the hard work your administration has put forth in obtaining [approved destination] status for the CNMI,” Songao said.

Earlier, Babauta announced that he would be leaving for Beijing to officially receive the Approved Destination Status from the China National Tourism Authority and to sign with the Chinese government a memorandum of understanding that would set the guidelines for the entry of Chinese tourists in the CNMI.

The ADS will allow the Marianas Visitors Authority to market the Northern Marianas as a tourist destination for Chinese travelers.

With the approved destination status, MVA projects to bring in at least 55,000 Chinese tourists in fiscal year 2005, almost double the number of Chinese visitors that arrived in FY 2004.

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