TOGETHER, WE CAN
As 2021 ends, we look back on an extraordinary two years of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us experienced loss, sorrow, and heartaches. We made necessary changes in plans, expectations, traditions, and adapted to the “new normal.” As we move into the new year with refreshed minds and renewed hope, let’s continue to look around and appreciate all that life has to offer.
I’ve been reflecting on the past five years of my administration and how far we’ve all come after two devastating typhoons—Super Typhoon Soudelor and Super Typhoon Yutu—left the Marianas with no power for weeks. Many of our residents had their roofs ripped off while many others had no home at all. It was one of the most challenging times in our history. Downed poles and strewn vehicles blocked the roads, making some areas impassable. With the help of federal funds, the Commonwealth was able to begin rebuilding itself.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, my administration formed the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers through an executive order in May 2020. We needed a council who could focus on improving the lives of those who mattered most—those who call the Marianas home. GCEA’s mission also focuses on transforming the Marianas into a world-class destination. Within this council, the Public Private Partnership program was created, and together with our PPP partners—made up of dedicated community members, businesses, and organizations—we have achieved so much. In one year, GCEA accumulated 70 PPP Partners, who were instrumental in transforming and beautifying 74 sites on Rota, Tinian, and Saipan.
I thank each council member and PPP volunteer for their service to the Marianas. I receive many compliments about how we have been able to create a warm sense of community, where residents are actively engaged in making the Marianas a better place to live for all. It’s a true testament to the determination and commitment we have to each other. The Hafa Adai & Tirow spirit is alive and well in the Marianas! For this, I am grateful and proud.
Speaking of pride, GCEA launched its community-building campaign called the Marianas Village Pride that aims to directly improve life at the village level—the Adopt-A-Median program, MVP Village Flag Art Contest, MVP Lessons and Coloring Pages for our schools, MVP Bus Stop Beautification Contest, and the MVP Christmas Decorating Contest. This is only the beginning. The MVP Campaign will continue to grow in 2022 to inspire more residents to become active in village beautification, ignite village and Marianas pride, and promote the unique spirit of each village as part of a unified Marianas.
Within the first month of launching the campaign, we received great feedback from our partner schools and businesses. As of this week, Adopt-A-Median Partners rejuvenated 12 medians in busy, important intersections around the island, making our streets and sidewalks safer for motorists and pedestrians. Schools have already committed to adopting the sidewalks, crosswalks, and medians around their campuses. Together, We Can!
More improvements planned for 2022
We will be expanding our PPP program in 2022. Our partners have laid a solid foundation for the program, and we will begin Phase 2 of our destination transformation plans. We have identified key sites on Rota, Tinian, and Saipan that will be transformed and reimagined. I am most excited to see the Garapan Fishing Base Boardwalk concept come to life. We will continue to share more of what the council has planned in the first quarter of 2022.
Another GCEA initiative to look forward to is the implementation of the Marianas Universal Garbage Collection plan. Through an executive order, we created a Universal Garbage Collection Task Force. The task force included private citizens and representatives from the government, environmental, business sectors to identify a plan for a Marianas-wide garbage collection system. The vision includes providing efficient, responsible, and sustainable collection of solid waste for homes, businesses, and public areas that will also combat illegal dumping. Their recommendation has been received and is now under review.
2022 is a time for new beginnings. I look forward to a new year in which my staff and key agencies will continue to support the exceptional work of our public servants, private sector partners, and community volunteers. May 2021 find its rightful place in lasting memory, and may we continue to make our way to a new year of recovery, revitalization, love, and joy. Felis åño nuebo, stay safe, and take care, Marianas!
For more information, visit the GCEA at cnmieconomy.com, on Facebook and Instagram (@cnmigov.economy), or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Ralph DLG Torres is the 9th governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and is co-chairman of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers.