Torres: $15M will be well spent; I would do it all over again


Although some community members have raised concerns about the CNMI government’s decision to allocate $15 million worth of federal funds to restart Japanese tourism in the CNMI, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres believes it’s the right thing to do and he said he would do it all over again if needed.
During a news briefing last Saturday to formally announce the launch of TRIP Japan as well as United Airlines’ new direct route from Saipan to Narita, Torres addressed some concerns raised over his decision to allocated $15 million to TRIP Japan while the CNMI community continues to struggle with issues such as inflation.

“Tourism is our only industry. If we cannot bring in and continue bringing in our tourists, then where are we going to be at in the future? So if you ask me, ‘Is this $15 million well spent?’ Absolutely! And I would do it all over again because it is the right thing to do. I continue to emphasize that tourism is the driving force of our economy,” he said.

Torres said this $15 million will not only be used to provide incentives for the airline that will be servicing TRIP Japan, but it will ultimately reopen and create jobs.

“This $15 million will not only create jobs, but these incentives have caused airlines to show interest in providing continuous service for the CNMI. That is what will jump start and continue the success of our tourism resumption efforts,” he said.

Marianas Visitors Authority chair Viola Alepuyo acknowledged that the criticism and concern is valid, but the allocation is much needed if the CNMI is to revive its tourism industry that was stagnant for years as a result of COVID-19.

“It’s not an unreasonable criticism. But we’ve also heard that you either give somebody a fish or you teach them how to fish, right? What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to jumpstart our economy. If we gave that $15 million and divided it amongst all our community members, they get to spend it once. But if we help our economy get back on track, then we can see revenue. We can see the government start to provide services the way they’re supposed to. We can see businesses opening back up and we can see people start getting their jobs back. We’ve seen that happen. So we’re hoping that the Korean and the Japanese market will double what the government currently brings in in revenues, and that it will double the jobs that is being offered to our community members. If all our people are going to expect is to stay home and get handouts, where are we going to be in a year when the money runs out?” she said.

TRIP Japan is set to officially launch on Sept. 1 and is anticipated to bring in roughly 8,000 Japanese tourists.

Kimberly Bautista Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Bautista Esmores has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at
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