A delegation of business representatives from Saipan are expressing disappointment over what they say is Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan’s (Ind-MP) unwillingness to support their efforts to have the foreign worker program extended beyond 2019.
In a statement, the Northern Marianas Business Alliance Corp. also expressed surprise at this development, having already discussed the subject with Sablan in August 2017.
Saipan Tribune tried to obtain comments from Sablan last night via email.
The law that created the CNMI foreign worker program, also called the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker program or CW program, would phase out the program in 2019.
The NMBAC statement yesterday expressed frustration over what the membership described as Sablan’s “unwillingness” to embrace a proposal “that enjoys widespread support in the Commonwealth.”
The group said that much like the H.R. 33, “which directly led to the recent drastic reduction in the CW visa permits…Sablan appears to prefer working with other members of Congress without consulting with the CNMI government or the business community.”
“Despite our repeated requests, Delegate Sablan refused to share any specifics of the legislative solution he has been pursuing,” states the press release.
Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands president Gloria Cavanagh, who is also an NMBAC board member and is in Washington, D.C. with the rest of the NMBAC, was displeased with Sablan’s actions.
“We are very disappointed by the treatment of our delegate today. We came to meet him to tell him that we want to put aside politics and work for the economy of the CNMI,” she said.
“However, we will not let this deter us from working to get our CNMI economy what is needed to continue to thrive,” she added.
NMBAC board members are in Washington, D.C. with Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to meet with members of the U.S. Congress and federal agencies to stress the detrimental impact of phasing out the CW program at a time when the CNMI economy is on an upswing and the importance of securing visa-free tourism in the Commonwealth.
NMBA also intends to advocate for legislation that will bring long-term stability to the CNMI economy. The proposal to amend the law is supported by the CNMI Legislature as well as by the mayors of Guam, Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.
Despite this, NMBAC chair Alex Sablan shares Cavanagh’s positive outlook. “The NMBAC board will continue meeting agendas led by Gov. Torres over the next three days in Washington, D.C.”
“We are to meet and discuss the detrimental impact related to the recent reduction of 3,000 CW-1 visas for fiscal year 2018, [the] unintended consequences of H.R. 339, now Public Law 115-53, and our proposed legislative provisional changes that will provide stability to grow the economy and continued opportunities for the CNMI’s future,” he added.