Support for shortening tourists’ stay is scrapped


Support to encourage Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to shorten the length of stay for tourists was scrapped last Wednesday.

Rep. Ivan A. Blanco’s (R-Saipan) House Resolution 20-09 failed to garner enough support at the House Committee on Federal and Foreign Affairs led by chair Rep. Gregorio M. Sablan Jr. (R-Sablan).

The intention of the resolution was to encourage the government to shorten the stay period of tourist from countries under the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program from a maximum of 45 days to a maximum of 15 days.

Sablan noted in a previous committee meeting that the reasoning behind shortening the length of stay of tourists is to prevent birth tourism and stop overstaying tourists.

“The committee voted against introducing it in the House,” Sablan told Saipan Tribune in a previous interview. He added that the issue is out of the CNMI Legislature’s control.

“[To] lessen the number of days [for the Guam-CNMI visa waiver program], it requires an act of the U.S. Congress. We have no jurisdiction on that,” he said, adding that he also wishes not to disrupt the program as it would also affect Guam’s tourism industry.

Countries in the Guam-CNMI visa waiver program include Australia, Brunei, Hong Kong. Malaysia, Nauru, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom, including tourist target markets Japan and Korea.

The Marianas Visitors Authority, Saipan Chamber of Commerce, and the Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands all opposed H.R. 20-09.

MVA stated in their comments that H.R. 20-09’s intent was unclear.

“The resolution seeks to reduce the period of authorized stay for the Guam-CNMI visa waiver program in order to deter individuals who enter the CNMI as tourists from ‘violating their visa parole, overstaying and working illegally.’ However, decreasing the stay period for the Guam-CNMI visa waiver program will have no effect on the parole program since visitors from China and Russia enter the CNMI via parole, precisely because they are not on the list of the visa waiver program countries,” MVA pointed out.

According to the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, the resolution sets additional limitats for tourists, which may lessen the island’s appeal and cause “tourism industry distress.”

HANMI also opposed the resolution.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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