Saipan mayor comments on interisland air transportation Issues
Sen. Paul A. Manglona, chairman, Senate Committee on Public Utilities, Transportation, and Communications:
First, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to share my comments on the issues surrounding interisland air transportation. As leaders of our community, it is crucial for us to make sound decisions that carefully consider existing circumstances. I think we are all keenly aware that we are in the trenches of a major financial crisis, to the extent that drastic measures are presently being taken. This is evident in the government’s ongoing efforts to perform a substantial overhaul of the budget, my office included, and countless businesses that are following suit by reducing their workforce significantly. No one is immune to the fiscal repercussions of our predicament, but if there are ways that we can mitigate any impact to our people, that should take precedence and be our common goal.
As I drafted my testimony for today’s hearing, I asked myself, “What would happen if we didn’t have cost-efficient and accessible interisland travel, and how would that affect the livelihood of our people?” The first concern that came to mind was access to healthcare. Our people in Tinian and Rota would only be limited to healthcare services that are offered on their respective island. Lives would be at risk and the mere thought was unsettling to me.
Another ramification of a high cost or restrictive interisland travel would be a total elimination of any opportunity for an economic revival on Tinian and Rota. Tourism has been the CNMI’s primary source of economic success and sustainability for quite a while. As such, our communities have been heavily reliant on the financial influx that a thriving tourism industry provides, not to mention the overall economic benefits that follow. Growth in business revenue meant more job opportunities for our people and an increase in tax receivables for our government. A high cost or restrictive interisland travel would be detrimental to Tinian and Rota.
In closing, I cannot emphasize enough that affordable interisland travel is unequivocally needed in the CNMI. Therefore, I urge you to use this opportunity to renegotiate contracts with the airlines that currently provide interisland travel in the CNMI. In your conversations, be realistic about any assistance the CNMI government can provide and clearly communicate the expectations. I am confident that we can reach an agreement beneficial to the community, the airlines, and the government, while making necessary considerations of our current financial woes. Above all, work with the airlines that reciprocate your genuine concern and care for the CNMI.
Ramon “RB” Jose Blas Camacho
Mayor, Municipality of Saipan