Kilili insists Inos should ‘exercise authority’


Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) is urging Gov. Eloy S. Inos to “exercise the authority he already has, to use the federal money that is already there, to help more people, more quickly, and get that money flowing into our economy.”

Sablan, in a statement to media, also said the last thing he wants “is an argument over semantics about what ‘being denied’ or ‘turned away’ means.”

“When we say people are being denied or turned away, we mean that they are not getting the help they need. They do not have to line up at the food stamp office and be told they do not qualify. The point is that, in this state of disaster, they should qualify,” Sablan said.

He earlier claimed that due to eligibility guidelines “hundreds of people who desperately need food assistance—and who should be qualified for such aid in this state of disaster—are being denied by the Nutritional Assistance Program.”

“We should all be concerned that there are people who are not getting the help they desperately need in this state of disaster. Many, many families lost all their food in Typhoon Soudelor,” he said.

Sablan maintains that ”many families are not lining up at the food stamp office for disaster assistance because they took one look at the income guidelines released by the local government and knew they would not be eligible.”

Sablan said the Food and Nutrition Service has authorized the CNMI government to open up eligibility for food stamps to any household in the Northern Marianas with an income up to four times the normal income required to receive food stamps.

He said this increased eligibility means that, for instance, a household of four with a monthly income less than $3,732 should be eligible for assistance.

In contrast, under the current income guidelines that NAP uses for the disaster program, a family of four has to have a monthly income of less than $933 to qualify.

Sablan said the CNMI government, however, has decided not to increase income eligibility.

“The Food and Nutrition Service has informed me, however, that the Commonwealth government has decided not to increase income eligibility and that only those households that meet the normal NAP income guidelines are being given emergency food stamps. As a result, people in need are being turned away,” Sablan added.

The lawmaker added that the FNS has authorized government to spend all of the $3.5 million in surplus food stamp funds that they were granted in fiscal 2015.

“You have the money. You have the authority. And here we are over two weeks after the typhoon struck and so many of our people are hungry,” Sablan said.

Working on it

Lt. Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said they have been addressing this issue almost three weeks ago, even before Sablan’s letter came out.

“There’s continued talks between local government and FNS. The critical part of that is, if we go over what is allotted, then the current recipients of NAP will suffer, will be either denied or suffer in 2016,” he said.

Torres said they will be releasing documents to the public showing their talks with FNS.

He said they initially got approval of $3.5 million but then received succeeding letters saying that they can only disburse $1 million and another one saying that they have to make sure that their funding is enough otherwise current NAP households might be affected.

“We would like to give to everybody, don’t get me wrong, but again there are federal guidelines that we have to abide,” Torres said. “It doesn’t make sense for us to jeopardize those who are already in need.”

The documents that Torres mentioned, however, have yet to be released.

NAP recipients

As of last week, the number of households seeking assistance from the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs’ Nutritional Assistance Program have increased to over 5,000.

NAP director Walter Macaranas said they were able to issue benefits to 454 households last Thursday in the amount of $148,152 under the disaster program.

NAP added that as of Thursday, only three households were denied eligibility.

Joel D. Pinaroc | Reporter
Joel Pinaroc worked for a number of newspapers in the Philippines before joining the editorial team of Saipan Tribune. His published articles include stories on information technology, travel and lifestyle, and motoring, among others. Contact him at

Related Posts

Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.