Sablan, Demapan offer contrasting views on codel visit
Tag: American Samoa, Army Reserve Unit, CNMI, NPS
By JON PEREZ
Last week’s visit of a delegation from the U.S. Congress elicited contrasting views from Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (D-MP) and Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan).
Despite the short time they spent in the CNMI, Sablan expressed appreciation for their visit. Demapan, however, criticized the brief stop, describing it as a windshield tour and comparing it to the two days the delegation spent in American Samoa.
Demapan was the Federal and Foreign Affairs Committee chairman in the 19th CNMI Legislature and was part of the CNMI panel in last year’s 902 talks.
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-1st Utah), the Natural Resources committee chair in the U.S. House of Representatives, led the delegation after being invited by Sablan to visit the CNMI. Both lawmakers have been discussing the trip two years ago ever since Bishop became the Natural Resources chairman.
Reps. Glenn Thompson (R-5th Pennsylvania) and Bruce Westerman (R-4th Arkansas), and Delegates Amata Radewagan (R-American Samoa), Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-Guam), and Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R-Puerto Rico) were the other codel members.
Sablan thanked Bishop and the rest of the codel members for making the effort to visit. “Traveling around the Pacific is a significant commitment of time, which the chair could have spent in his own district in Utah or somewhere else where his committee has jurisdiction. So, I very much appreciate [their] willingness to come to the Pacific Islands,” Sablan said.
Bishop’s codel traveled from Hawaii to American Samoa, to the CNMI, then to Guam. Except for Bordallo, who is from the CNMI’s southern neighbor of Guam, this was their first visit to the CNMI and included stops on Tinian and Rota.
“I think there is no substitute for having decision makers on the committee actually see what life is like on our islands. This experience will inform their thinking about any island issues that they have to consider in the future,” said Sablan, who added that this could be the first time for a codel to visit Rota.
“The National Park was at work on Rota and briefing the delegation further enriched the visit. And I have to say that Mayor Efraim Atalig and his team really did a wonderful job showing [the island] to the codel,” he said.
The codel visited Rota as part of the NPS study to establish a national park on the island. The Mochong Latte Site, Chugai Pictograph Cave, Bird Sanctuary, Alaguan Bay Ancient Village are the prehistoric sites being considered for a national park. They include unique architectural features known in ancient Chamorro culture that represents the island.
NPS is under the jurisdiction of the Natural Resources Committee along with the insular areas, territories, like the CNMI.
Demapan, however, was not at all impressed, saying the trip was too short to let the committee members know of the issues that affect the CNMI. He said the overnight visit is in contrast to the codel’s visit to American Samoa where they spent two days.
He said Radewagen showed the codel how they have been spending federal funds and what other assistance American Samoa needs. “The codel visited American Samoa’s hospital, schools, canneries, and met with the local U.S. Army Reserve unit and their families.”
“Now, that’s a visit. It’s quite disturbing that the codel did not take the same interest in visiting the CNMI’s hospital, schools, U.S. Army Reserve Unit, and their families. Our people deserve more than a windshield tour and a dinner stopover.”
Demapan said this is one reason why Congress has no idea of what’s happening in territories like the CNMI, which is thousands of miles away from the mainland.
“This is why we continue to suffer from federal overreach…detrimental policies made thousands of miles away by representatives and senators who, for the most part, do not have the slightest idea of where we are or who we are. So once again, a U.S. codel has come and gone, with nothing more than leis to take back to the discussion table in Washington, D.C.”