The House of Representatives put off accepting yesterday a letter from the Office of the Governor that informs lawmakers of the executive order that ended the yearlong price freeze that has been in place in the CNMI in the wake of Super Typhoon Yutu, which hit the Commonwealth last October 2018.
During yesterday’s session on Capital Hill, House Speaker Blas “B.J.” Jonathan Attao (R-Saipan) asked the House to put off accepting Governor’s Communication 21-83, which informed the Legislature of acting governor Arnold I. Palacios’ signing of Executive Order 2019-14 to rescind the price freeze over the weekend.
Attao later told Saipan Tribune that he requested that the House defer action on the communication until clarity is met on the rationale behind ending the 2018 price freeze since he noted that several members of the House have received calls about its abrupt end last week, causing commodities such as gas and grocery prices to shoot up.
“I am sure a lot of people are noticing that prices are changing already, so we left it on calendar so we can ask the [Torres] administration what was the rationale behind lifting the price freeze,” Attao said.
“I know it has been a year since Super Typhoon Yutu, but not everybody has recovered from it…so we wanted to know the rationale behind this and how to fix it because the prices are going up and we are getting a lot of calls from our constituents.”
Technically, the CNMI is still under a state of significant emergency, therefore Palacios could reinstate the price freeze. It was not clarified with Attao, though, whether a new price freeze would reflect prices that went up during the rescinding of the 2018 price freeze.
During House discussions, Rep. Tina Sablan (Ind-Saipan) reiterated that she believes it was time that the Governor’s Office submit a report on the nature of the emergency, plans for addressing the emergency, and any funding that might be needed for the emergency—as required under Public Law 3-68, Section 403.
“It is time—actually way overdue—that we have this conversation on the continuing state of emergency declarations without any reporting from the governor as required by law,” Sablan said yesterday. Sablan expressed similar sentiments at the Oct. 28, 2019, session, where a previous communication from the governor’s office noted a renewal of the emergency declaration through Executive Order 2019-12. The emergency declaration originally started on Oct. 26, 2018.
Attao noted that the reporting requirement from the Governor’s Office regarding the emergency declaration would also be included in their discussions with the Executive Branch.