Editor’s Note: The following was originally published in the opinion section of the Saipan Tribune in June 2016. It is being republished here at the request of the author. It is being published in two parts; this is the second part.
Last of two parts
1) Promotion of tourism destination:
The Marianas Visitors Authority is doing an effective job of promoting the CNMI as “a premier tourist destination.” It is anticipated that arrivals will definitely increase over the next several years. Based on available information and based on projections, there will be a need for rooms to accommodate visitors of 946,500 room nights. At an average three nights occupancy per room, we are looking at 7,780 hotel rooms should be available by year 2021. The result of the projected influx of tourists/visitors to the CNMI looks very promising. We must therefore be prepared to cope with the anticipated increase in arrivals. We must collaborate with our government as well as the pertinent agencies of the U.S. government to complement our needs for a successful economic development.
2) Identify needs of the industry- bring them to fruition:
a) The business community and the CNMI government must work closely to solve the most critical issue facing us today: nonresident workers.
Even if we reduce the size of the CNMI government and train local residents (U.S. citizens) to take on jobs presently held by nonresident workers, there are not enough local manpower to satisfy the needed numbers. Subject to verification, the estimated number of government workers is approximately 4,000. Several months ago, the CNMI Department of Labor estimated the number of unemployed is 10,000. This number should be segregated by age and job classification or proficiency. We will then be able to identify what jobs might be available to accommodate the 10,000 or so unemployed.
b) We in the CNMI can no longer handle the growth of our economy without an external element. Over the years we have witnessed the growth of our economy. Such growth demands skilled and unskilled workers. The local residents who are willing and able to work will no doubt find a job. But the local source will never be able to fully accommodate the total need of our economy. The answer therefore is quite obvious: nonresident workers.
3) Seek the understanding and support of the U.S. government:
a) Those of us in the business community are painfully aware of our critical need for imported workers. Over the years we have learned to rely on these workers to enhance the needed manpower. Many of these workers, (majority of whom are from the Republic of the Philippines), have been in the CNMI for over 20 years or more. The CNMI hase become their home. They have children born in the CNMI and are U.S. citizens.
b) We should ask our leaders in the CNMI government and Delegate Greg Kilili C. Sablan to provide for these Filipinos and their family members by granting them U.S. permanent resident status. I strongly believe that they truly deserve favorable consideration by the United States and grant them U.S. permanent residence in the CNMI. I suggest that Filipinos who have been in the CNMI legally and continuously for a period of 10 years or longer be extended U.S. permanent residence. I heard from a reliable source that, in the last U.S. Congress, the Senate passed legislation to grant permanent residence status to most CW workers (S. 744, immigration bill, 113th Congress). But the provision died, along with the entire immigration bill, at the hands of Republicans who were opposed to “amnesty.” Of course, CW workers were granted legal CW status, thus they are legally in the CNMI.
c) The above suggestion will reduce the need for CW-1 requirements. Anyone eligible for U.S. permanent residence as stated above must apply to ensure they qualify under the established regulation.
d) I for one feel that there are many deserving Filipinos who deserve our consideration and sincerely hope that our political leaders, especially Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan, should be given full support as he deals with his colleagues in Congress and, hopefully, with the administration.
e) I have learned that during World War II, Filipinos were actively engaged in fighting during the battle of the Philippines. They were and still are staunchest allies of the United States of America today. The ethnic compatibility between Filipinos and the people of the Northern Mariana Islands are quite evidently favorable.
David M. Sablan Sr. is a former president of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce and a retired executive of TanHoldings Corp.