Torres in Fiji for utility financing endeavor

Invites CUC board but Sablan blasts board for undisclosed trip

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres flew to Fiji last weekend to meet with the management of the Fijian Electricity Authority to discuss undisclosed “financing options” applicable to the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. on Saipan.

Torres is in Fiji to meet with its local power authority, on an invite to tour their power facility and discuss public utility financing, according to an administration official yesterday, who also disclosed that Torres’ trip was funded on the Governor’s Office account, and that the governor would return to Saipan on Wednesday.

CUC board chair Adelina Roberto also joined him on the trip, according to the Office of the Governor.

It’s not immediately clear if other CUC board members joined Torres on the trip.

In a letter dated Jan. 24, 2016, Torres wrote to the CUC board to invite chair Roberto and CUC board members to accompany him to Suva, Fiji, to meet with the Fiji Electricity Authority to discuss “financing options” that may be applicable for the future developments of Saipan’s utility.

These “financing options” were not elaborated on further in the letter.

CUC chief financial officer Matthew Yaquinto, who has an extensive background in the management of utility finances in prior international positions, is not part of the trip to Fiji. When contacted, Yaquinto declined to comment.

Torres said with the expected increase in demand caused by continuing economic development in the islands, “now is the right time to envision the next steps to ensuring sustainable and adequate power generating capabilities.”

“This meeting will assist the board and the administration in laying this important groundwork,” Torres said.

Board member David Sablan, though, told Saipan Tribune that he did not know about the trip and that it was never discussed among the board. “We never discussed about this in any of our meetings,” Sablan said.

If the governor invited the board members to the trip, Sablan said that it is “inherent” to the chair to decline and say that they can’t go as a quorum.

“I don’t believe that it is necessary for the entire board to go there,” Sablan said, “It should just be the chair and CUC should pay for it.”

“If I was invited, I would explain to the governor that we are already in discussion regarding the [integrated resource plan].”

Sablan did not recall seeing a copy of the letter.

Sablan said he is curious to know what Fiji has to do with CUC.

Sablan was only alerted to the issue when he received a memo saying that fellow director Albert Taitano was named acting chair. Sablan said he questioned the memo, asking what had happened to vice chair Eric San Nicolas and secretary Chris Concepcion—who were supposed to be acting in the event that the chair wasn’t around—according to CUC bylaws.

Sablan points out that even treasurer Joe Torres—although not in the line of succession—wasn’t appointed as acting.

Calls to board members San Nicolas and Concepcion were not immediately returned as of press time.

A former CUC chair, Sablan also questioned that if there are indeed four members of the board on the trip, why was there a need for four members to go on the trip? This number would constitute a quorum, and may be a violation of the Open Government Act.

Sablan also raised the question of who is going to pay for the trip. While Sablan said that CUC should pay for their own trip expenses, as they are an “autonomous, revenue-generating” agency, the board never discussed the trip during their meetings.

“We must pay and it should be decided by the board,” Sablan said, “None of it was discussed.”

Should the trip be paid by the Office of the Governor, Sablan said, the Office of the Attorney General should look into it as they are an autonomous body.

Sablan said he would oppose—if members who were on the trip—say that CUC should pay for its costs. (with Frauleine Villanueva-Dizon)

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at

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