Citing that the CNMI still has “many unknowns” at this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force chair Warren Villagomez underscores the need to continue the state of emergency declaration that gives the Finance secretary unlimited reprogramming authority.
In response to a question about the concerns by some lawmakers about the year-long state of emergency declaration during Friday’s radio news briefing, Villagomez said he supports Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig’s reprogramming power to be able for the CNMI act expeditiously in its response to COVID-19.
He said Atalig’s power allows the CNMI to readily respond if there is an upsurge in the CNMI’s number of COVID-19 cases.
He assured that they make sure to consult the Office of the Attorney General on things that they need in terms of their response to the pandemic to keep the community healthy and safe.
At the same radio press briefing Friday, Atalig said he is of the opinion that the state of emergency should continue as it gives him the flexibility should the CNMI get into situation of a community spread or if anything happens in terms of their COVID-19 prevention and mitigation.
“I need that flexibility to ensure that I can reprogram or move funds or get funds to address the emergency should that happen,” he pointed out.
Atalig said the CNMI is still in a pandemic and that they are still moving forward with their plans and ensuring to get all people vaccinated.
“And, in the meantime, until we get there, we need to keep that measure in place. It gives us that flexibility to respond and attack the situation if it happens [on] our islands,” he said.
At a recent House session, Rep. Sheila Babauta (D-Saipan) said she finds it “very concerning” that the executive order declaring a state of emergency in the CNMI has been renewed monthly for over a year now, particularly since this grants the Finance secretary unlimited reprogramming authority.
At that same session, Rep. Christina E. Sablan (D-Saipan) said it is important to get the legal search done as to the constitutionality and the options that the Legislature may have in modifying and rejecting the executive order.
Sablan said she would also like the House’s legal counsel to look into not only the constitutionality but also the possibility of violation of the current fiscal year Budget Act, Public Law 21-25.