Gov. Ralph DLG Torres accused the House of Representatives Judiciary and Governmental Operations Committee yesterday of misinforming the community, saying he and his family never used Boating Safety vessels for fishing or recreational purposes, and that YouTube star Robert Arrington of Deer Meat for Dinner channel was never compensated with CNMI money for promoting the Northern Islands and the Commonwealth.
Torres talked about his trips to the Northern Islands with Arrington and his family and friends in 2020 in an interview with KKMP radio’s Gary Sword. The video of the interview was forwarded to the media yesterday and posted in the governor’s Facebook account.
This is the second in a series where Torres said he will provide “factual and historical information” in order to set the record straight. The first video released two weeks ago addressed the JGO’s allegations regarding power and water billings associated with his private house in As Teo.
Torres said his understanding and belief is that Arrington actually spent over $100,000 of his own money, paying for his own crew, his staff, and buying the roundtrip ticket for his family. “Imagine that, having someone who truly cares for the islands, truly cares for our culture, [and] wants to come here and promote [the] CNMI,” he said.
The governor said the CNMI never paid a penny to Deer Meat for Dinner and Arrington, who was here just to promote the Marianas.
“We had over 21 million viewers. Imagine that for a program or a project that can easily cost way over $500,000,” he said.
Torres said Arrington brought his family, he loves the islands, he loves the CNMI’s local culture, and that he should be praised for everything he has done. He pointed out that Arrington left Florida, flew here with his crew, with his family and rode 200 miles north to showcase the beauty of our islands to the rest of the world—the last frontier. “That is something that we all should be proud of,” the governor said.
Torres said the JGO misinformed the community about Arrington’s trip.
“We are all trying to promote the CNMI,” he added.
As to the question about the Northern Islands trips during the pandemic in 2000, Torres said he has always been an advocate of diversifying the economy and tourism. He said the Northern Islands have always been a priority for his administration as well.
“I want to create new jobs, showcase the Northern Islands, but at the same time also give hope and resettle our people that they continue to call the Northern Islands home,” he said.
Torres said he remembers growing up when his father told him and his siblings that if there’s anywhere in the world where he wants them to go together as brothers, it would be to the Northern Islands. The governor said he and his siblings did those trips to the Northern Islands in 2003 and 2004.
“I kind of still remember the feeling and the sentiment when I first went to the island of Pagan, how beautiful it was, and it still is pristine. Just immaculate all around. And it’s a feeling that you cannot explain,” he said.
Since then, Torres said, he continues to protect the Northern Islands, while giving the rest of the world the opportunity to experience the last frontier. “I’m not a governor of just Saipan, or Tinian and Rota. I’m also the governor of the whole entire chain, the Northern Islands, which include Alamagan, Pagan and Agrigan,” he said.
Torres pointed out that the Northern Islands mayor was in those trips.
Regarding Arrington’s trips, the governor said Boating Safety boats of the Department of Public Safety have been used for safety on different occasions such as the Saipan International Fishing Tournament, Tagaman, paddling, canoeing, and other activities. He said Deer Meat for Dinner was just an additional program to promote the Northern Islands.
Torres noted that the Northern Islands trips were supported by its mayor, for Northern Islands people to see this as an opportunity to showcase the islands.
“I’m heartbroken…because his (Arrington’s) whole family wants to promote something that we have here, yet it was taken out of context,” he said.
Torres said Arrington was not compensated by the government; all he asked was to be brought to the Northern Islands.
The governor said the government spent less than $70,000 to accommodate Arrington, while the latter spent over $100,000 of his own money to bring his crew, his family, equipment, and so forth, to promote the entire Northern Islands and the CNMI.
Torres pointed out that there is no federal program that opposed the Northern Islands trips, or that made an issue of the use of these vessels.
“They want to promote the use of these vessels and we’re utilizing it the right way,” he said.
The JGO brought up the amount of fuel consumed by the vessels that were used to go to the Northern Islands, and that the use of this fuel on these vessels was excessive. But Torres said this is an insult as it takes 200 miles one way to go out to the Northern Islands.
“So for me, we should put more effort across the islands, the whole chain of islands and give opportunity. There’s not a gallon or more to say that it’s excessive when you’re going to go up there and visit our own people,” he said.
Torres said to insinuate about the use of fuel being excessive is an insult in itself. “I love our people in the Northern Islands. They know I love them, and I’m here and will always be here. I want to continue to promote the Northern Islands and give them opportunity. Again, not just for economic reasons, but also to resettle,” he said.
The governor said another project that they have been working on is getting an airstrip on Pagan up and running.
Torres said for the record, he has not once ever used any federally funded DPS vessel for recreational purposes. He said DPS boats are there to just provide him and his family protection.
Torres said he has a 14-foot boat that he occasionally use to take his children go fishing within the reef.