The Commonwealth Planning and Development Advisory Council convened its inaugural meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018, for the creation of the CNMI’s first comprehensive sustainable development plan.
Established by Public Law 20-20, the advisory council provides policy direction for the new Office of Planning and Development, which will be led by its director, Kodep Ogumoro-Uludong.
Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres appointed Ogumoro Uludong on Jan. 8, 2018, and has since initiated the office’s mission of providing short and long-range guidance for economic, infrastructural, and physical development for the CNMI.
A former project manager for the Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance, Ogumoro-Uludong holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Southern California and a master’s degree in Communication from the University of Texas, El Paso.
He also held a fellowship in conservation under Rare (www.rare.org) and completed a Pacific Island Community Adaptive Co-Management Course at the University of South Pacific in Fiji.
Presently, he also serves as a director for the Commonwealth Development Authority and the Northern Marianas Housing Corp.
“The mission of the Office of Planning and Development is to establish development objectives, standards, and principles for our islands’ desired land use for residential, recreational, agricultural, commercial, and industrial needs. As outlined in Public Law 20-20, the goal of this office and this advisory council is an enormous task, but it is also a rewarding undertaking. With community engagement and the resources, we can tangibly set the course for development in the CNMI that is consistent with the proper protection of our environment and historical heritage,” Ogumoro-Uludong said.
Per P.L. 20-20, the advisory council consists of the: Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality, Department of Public Works, Department of Public Lands, Department of Lands and Natural Resources, Department of Commerce, Commonwealth Zoning Office, Commonwealth Utilities Corp., Marianas Visitors Authority, Office of the Mayor of Rota, Office of the Mayor of Tinian and Aguiguan, Office of the Mayor of Saipan, Office of the Mayor of the Northern Islands, Saipan Chamber of Commerce, and Governor’s Strategic Economic Development Council.
At the inaugural meeting, members unanimously voted to include the Department of Labor, the CNMI Public School System, the Northern Marianas College, and the Northern Marianas Trades Institute to include policy discussions on U.S. workforce development. The council elected Commerce Secretary Mark O. Rabauliman to serve as its chairman.
Torres noted that the council is an impressive composition of individuals with a desire to create a development plan that advocates for environmental protection, sustainability, and infrastructure effectiveness.
“With the surge of economic development in the CNMI over the last couple of years, it has been a goal of mine and the Legislature to properly plan out a sustainable path to prosperity on all three islands moving forward. We all want to ensure that we have the infrastructure put in place to accommodate the existing developments, but we must also advocate for our cultural preservation and environmental stewardship. The creation of this long-term plan takes all of us, and we are looking forward to the policy discussions between our government, our private sector, and other community groups,” Torres added.
Elements of the comprehensive sustainable development plan include land use, community design, transportation, regulations, public facilities, public lands, housing, redevelopment, conservation, recreation, safety, tourism, development policy, capital improvements, labor and workforce development, and best practices (from other jurisdictions).
Senate President Arnold I. Palacios, who authored P.L. 20-20, added that the plan is to define what is sustainable growth and to ensure that agencies are communicating with one another.
“Over the last several years, the governor, the Legislature, and I have conversations with our constituencies to ensure that our infrastructure will be ready for these new developments, and our community has every right to know where we stand. It is that very reason that I drafted this law to create the planning office to properly plan for our future. Not only do we need a master plan, but we need to increase the effectiveness of government and private actions and improve the coordination among the different agencies. Ultimately, we must leverage our resources to guide the future development of the CNMI in a sustainable manner that benefits every single person that call these islands home,” Palacios said. (PR)