Old guard, new faces recognize CNMI challenges


Both veteran legislators and Capital Hill greenhorns who won in Tuesday’s general elections recognize the many issues currently plaguing the CNMI, but all of them assured they are ready to buckle down to work when the 19th Legislature opens in January 2015.

One of the old guards returning to the Hon. Jesus P. Mafnas Memorial Building is Tinian senator Francisco Q. Cruz, who said he will continue to work hard not only for the people of Tinian but the entire CNMI.

“I’m very happy for winning the election because it’s very important to me to serve my people in my capacity fairly and equally. The Tinian Legislative Delegation will continue to deliver services to the people of the island.”

He said he would continue to prioritize issues like the problems besetting the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. and the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.

Cruz said he will also make sure retirees continue to get 100 percent of their pensions.

“It can’t be done by one person but if everyone is unified we could overcome obstacles,” he added.

Former House speaker Arnold Palacios is returning to the Legislature, this time as a senator.

“I’m very appreciative and overwhelmed by the outcome. …There are a lot of challenges ahead of us and I do hope that those of us who won enjoy your victory and then buckle down to work and start thinking how we are going to engage in facing some of the challenges that we have in the Commonwealth.”

He agrees with Cruz that the high cost of utilities on the islands is a big concern that should be addressed.

“The biggest priority right now is CUC. The high cost of utilities is killing our economy. It’s really hurting us. Another big issue is the military buildup. Between the Executive Branch, our congressional delegate, Legislature, and mayors we need to fully engage on this. We’re really behind and we need to do a lot of catching up.”

House Speaker Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero, who won his re-election bid in Precinct 1, said aside from looking for alternative sources of energy to ease the islands’ dependence on fossil fuel, he would also work to help fix the problems of the islands’ lone public hospital.

Deleon Guerrero said rising criminality on the islands is also an issue that should be prioritized. He also believes there’s a correlation between the high crime rate and the proliferation of illegal drugs in the CNMI.

Two greenhorns coming to the Legislature who used to locked horns—Angel Demapan and Edwin Propst—now agree that all hands on deck are needed to move the Commonwealth forward.

Demapan, who like Deleon Guerrero will represent Precinct 1, said one of his priorities would be to prepare the local workforce once the five-year extension of the CW program expires in 2019.

“I’d like to look at the workforce issue because I truly believe that this five-year extension that was given to us is maybe the last chance we get. So if we don’t seriously take a look at that and don’t come together and formulate a comprehensive plan, then will find ourselves in trouble if we’re not prepared. We need to be prepared and engage all stakeholders. We need to engage the community and the public sector,” said Demapan, who is the first ever former Youth Congress member (1998-2000) to be elected to the Legislature.

Propst said he would work to make the Legislature a more transparent branch of government during his tenure.

“I want to embrace the Open Government Act and make sure our Legislature is transparent and open to our community. Under my watch, all legislation should benefit the people and there would be no special interest legislation,” said the incoming representative from Precinct 1.

Like Demapan, Propst’s election to the House is also historic as he is the first non-indigenous to win a seat in the local legislature.

“My priority is to improve the standard of living of our people. I also want to be deeply involved in our precinct by volunteering my free time whenever possible. I also want to work in providing more affordable power for our people.”

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at Mark_Rabago@saipantribune.com

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