NMBAC, Kilili at loggerheads

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and his staff joined members of the Marianas business community for a meeting with Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) in Washington, D.C. on Monday. All agreed that the Trump administration decision to cut the number of CW permits this year to 9,998 was not what they wanted. Looking ahead, Sablan asked the governor to use his influence with the President to roll back a further cut to 4,999, already announced for next October. “In Congress, we are making good progress on consensus legislation that will ensure the Marianas economy has the labor it needs,” Sablan told the group. “But the Trump administration decision to cut to 4,999 permits in October cuts in half the time we have to act and makes it even more difficult to get a long-term solution into law. Short-term, the decision is also very bad for our economy.” (Contributed Photo)

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.

Bea Cabrera
Bea Cabrera, who holds a law degree, also has a bachelor's degree in mass communications. She has been exposed to multiple aspects of mass media, doing sales, marketing, copywriting, and photography.

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