Members of the Senate Committee on Executive Appointments and Government Investigations are optimistic that Benjamin K. Petersburg’s appointment to the Commonwealth Development Authority board would bring a different perspective.
Petersburg, who is a lawyer and previously worked in the law offices of Bruce Berline and Mark Hanson, was appointed to be a member of the CDA board. His credentials were reviewed last Wednesday by the Senate committee in a public hearing held at the Senate chamber on Capital Hill.
Committee chair Sen. Francisco Q. Cruz (R-Tinian) said they are glad Gov. Ralph DLG Torres appointed a lawyer to the board. “We’re glad that someone who has knowledge of the law and knows how to draft legislation is appointed. Now CDA won’t[have to] use the Office of the Attorney General in drafting legislation or asking for legal opinions.”
He said Petersburg, once confirmed by the nine-member CNMI Senate, could help the CDA in looking into legislation that would make the agency perform its duties better “especially now that we are looking forward to CDA working with other agencies. …We [want to] make the CNMI more prosperous, where the community would benefit through job opportunities and others. Those are the things that I’m looking forward to.”
Committee vice chair Justo S. Quitugua (Ind-Saipan) said that Petersburg could assist CDA in by drafting new laws that concern the agency or amend existing statutes. “Is it possible to suspend the qualifying certificate for 15 years or hold it? Or is it necessary to suspend or repeal it totally? He could help look into that area.”
He added that the QC program currently offers tax breaks that aim to attract new investors.
Quitugua, once Petersburg is confirmed, suggested that CDA should also start mapping out plans based on the renewed economic development on the island. His major concern, however, is the uncertain future of the CNMI-Only Transitional Non-immigrant Workers Visa program.
“Right now, there’s a shortage of apartments and housing, and we need to address that. But what happens if the CW-1 program ends in 2019 and the workers leave? We will be expecting a lot of empty and vacant apartments and foreclosure of properties. I hope CDA would look into it.”
Sen. Sixto K. Igisomar (R-Saipan) also advised Petersburg not to be afraid of changing what he thinks are antiquated systems and rules that are no longer work. “Whatever service you could give, provide it. If it requires changes through statute, bring it to us. The legislators will be behind you.”
Petersburg told Saipan Tribune that he could also help the board with his critical thinking and problem solving skills. “Those are the skills that I will bring to the CDA. Help them in tackling the problems and challenges the CDA is facing.”
“I personally thank the members of the committee. And they had made some great suggestions along those lines. I will certainly take their concerns to heart and along with the board, management, and staff we’re going to assess and review what is in place and see if there are necessary changes to be made.”