Officers of the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. board who were among those who went to Fiji with Gov. Ralph DLG Torres last week said they see nothing wrong with the trip they attended.
CUC board chair Adelina Roberto and secretary Chris Concepcion told Saipan Tribune that the trip was a “learning trip” and a “fact-finding mission.”
“We left here with the understanding that we are going to see the different alternative energy that the Fiji Electric Authority has, and how viable and economical it is to operate,” Roberto said.
“I don’t think there is anything wrong with the trip. I think it is more of a fact-finding mission. The government invited us to join and as the officers of the board, I think it was appropriate for us to join, the chair, vice chair, secretary, and the treasurer,” Concepcion said in an interview.
In a letter dated Jan. 24, Torres wrote to CUC board chair Adelina Roberto to invite her and the CUC board of directors to accompany him to Suva, Fiji “to meet with the Fiji Electricity Authority and discuss financing options that may be applicable for future developments of your corporation.”
Aside from Roberto, Concepcion, vice chair Eric San Nicolas, treasurer Joe Torres, Gov. Torres was also accompanied by members of the Legislature on the Jan. 31 to Feb. 3 trip to the archipelago in the South Pacific.
The trip was paid for by the Office of the Governor.
Concepcion said they met with the chairman and chief executive officer of the Fiji Electric Authority and was able to tour their power plant.
“I’m very impressed with the conditions and the way they handle their power plants over there,” Concepcion said.
“The Authority operates heavy oil diesel power plant, water turbine, and windmill power. Solar is under independent power producer. Yes it is a learning trip, and gave us the opportunity for first-hand experience,” Roberto said.
He added that they discussed issues and challenges encountered by the utilities company including board issues and rates.
“It was a very, very informative meeting,” Concepcion said.
However, CUC board director David Sablan—who was not on the trip—earlier expressed his concern that board members who were on the trip constituted a quorum and may have violated the Open Government Act—a concern not shared by Roberto.
“The four board members were all invited to join the governor on the trip to Fiji, and we do not believe that we are in violation of the law. We are all aware of the law that no decisions can be made outside the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands,” Roberto said.
Sablan stated that it should be “inherent” to the chair to decline and say that they can’t go as a quorum.
“I don’t believe that it is necessary for the entire board to go there,” Sablan said, “It should just be the chair and CUC should pay for it.”
Sablan said the trip was not discussed during their meetings and did not recall seeing the Jan. 24 invitation from the governor. The board had a public meeting last Jan. 21 but reconvened on Jan. 25.
Roberto did not answer when asked by Saipan Tribune if the board discussed the invitation in one of their meetings.
While Concepcion did not also recall discussing the trip during the board meetings he attended, he said that it didn’t matter how many board members there were on the trip.
“It doesn’t matter how many we were there because no decisions were made,” Concepcion said.
He said there was “no planning” on any kind of decision.
“No deliberations were made, no decisions were made, while we were on this trip,” Concepcion said.
Sablan also raised concerned on how the Fiji trip will affect the possibility of CUC putting out request for proposals for their IRP.
“Whatever future decision we make for CUC it will not be affected,” Roberto said.
“It won’t affect anything that has to do with the IRP. The IRP still stands as it is,” Concepcion said, “We haven’t received the final draft of the IRP.”
Saipan Tribune reported earlier last month that according to acting executive director Gary Camacho, Leidos Engineering LLC submitted to the board a package and that results from their models are already being reviewed by CUC.