The first CNMI-Guam Working Group started its inaugural meeting yesterday, allowing both the CNMI and Guam governors and lawmakers to tackle problems affecting the region collectively.
After signing a memorandum of agreement last Dec. 17, 2017, Guam Gov. Eddie B. Calvo and Gov. Ralph DLG Torres met for the Marianas working group yesterday at the Saipan World Resort.
“It’s about time,” said Torres, who believes that both the CNMI and Guam deserve more than what they are getting from Washington, D.C.
The first of a two-day meeting with legislators from both the CNMI and Guam legislatures, including CNMI and Guam Cabinet members, began yesterday.
According to Torres, both territories are dealing with similar issues such as the rhinoceros beetle infestation, drug issues, rehabilitation issues, labor issues, and more.
“What we are learning here—what we are experiencing here—we share it together as one Marianas and show [Washington, D.C.] that we are one body and one heart. We are going to be working together toward addressing our issues together,” said Torres, adding that both the CNMI and Guam would lobby for one another in Washington, D.C.
Calvo, who has met Torres on several occasions in Washington, D.C., said that both territories deal with issues that stem from decisions made thousands of miles away from both territories.
“Whether it’s CW issues here or H-2B issues on Guam, it makes it really difficult for us to really reach our full potential as a people. I [believe] the people of the CNMI and their representatives and the people of Guam and our senators coming together in dialogs such as this [is important]. We look at where we have mutual interests, on where we can work better toward cooperation, building close socio-economic ties, and also collaborating a little more on dealing with the powers in D.C. as well,” said Calvo in an interview, adding that he looks forward to more discussions and cooperation in the years ahead.
The working group was attended by several high-profile officials such as Guam Labor director Sam Mabini, Guam Economic Development Authority deputy administrator Mana Silva Taijeron, Guam Port Authority general manager Joanne Brown, special assistant to the Guam governor Tony Ada, former assistant secretary to the Department of the Interior and executive director of the Pacific Basin Developmental Council Esther Kia’aina, and more.
Most of the Guam representatives are former senators.
Saipan was represented by both lawmakers and Cabinet members alike, including House Speaker Rafael Demapan (R-Saipan), vice speaker Janet Maratita (R-Saipan), Reps. Lorenzo I. Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan), Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan), John Paul Sablan (R-Saipan), Alice Igitol (R-Saipan), and Sens. Jude Hofscneider (R-Tinian), Sixto Igisomar (R-Saipan), and more.
Other ranking CNMI individuals include Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente, Community and Cultural Affairs Secretary Robert Hunter, Finance Secretary Larissa Larson, Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Christopher Concepcion, Commonwealth Ports Authority executive director Chris Tenorio, Public Safety Commissioner Robert Guerrero, Fire and Emergency Medical Services Commissioner Clyde Norita, and more.
The working group was further broken down into seven groups, each relating to commerce, labor, education, tourism, and the like.