CNMI Division of Customs Director Jose Mafnas was voted as this year’s chair of the Oceania Customs Organization—a 23-member group of nations in the Pacific region—during their annual conference from June 11 to 14 in Melbourne, Australia. The CNMI will be hosting the 2019 conference.
American Samoa, Australia, the Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna join the CNMI at OCO.
Mafnas said he was humbled in earning the post but also gave credit to the efforts of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Finance Secretary Larrisa Larson in supporting all of their programs in the CNMI Customs.
Mafnas, who attended the conference with officer Reina Camacho, said that he was asked to do a presentation on the reforms made by his division in connection with the Customs’ role in regional integration aside from the progress made in reforms made with their programs.
“I know that we have visitors that came here and saw our programs and assessed our operations, but I would also like to take note—on the many conferences that I attended—one of the issues that have been brought up from my colleagues and members is the lack of political support from their heads and leaders,” Mafnas said.
“As I hear those mentioned, I said to myself that what a lucky person I am. Because without the governor’s support, it will be harder and tougher for myself and the secretary to implement the programs that we have.”
He also commended the hard work Customs officers and staff had been putting in. “I applaud all Customs staff for their hard work in improving our practices, policies, and procedures that we changed to make our services more efficient. This is not mine alone, we, including the secretary and me, from top to bottom are involved to make sure our programs are successful.
Kiribati, PNG, and Vanuatu were the other members that made presentations on topics such as trade facilitation, strengthening cooperation, and information exchange on law enforcement matters, development of technical and professional capability of Customs in the Pacific, and strategies for the reform of Customs administrations.
Torres and Larson lauded Mafnas’ election as OCO chair especially that the CNMI had been part and an active member of the group for the past three decades while also receiving a lot of training and support
“It’s a big accomplishment for the CNMI. The OCO has provided a lot of training for our staff and has also done a lot of collaboration on issues facing our region. We’re happy to have that news as he came back,” added Larson.
Torres added, “Congratulations to the director for being the OCO chair. Earning that recognition is a big deal for the CNMI since it had been part of the organization for the past 30 years. Thank you also to all the employees for making sure to support the cause of our chair.”