Gov. Ralph DLG Torres signed last Friday House Bill 19-2 that aims to create a commission that would examine the CNMI’s current political status with the United States. HB 19-2, authored by Rep. Felicidad T. Ogumoro (R-Saipan), is now known as Public Law 19-63.
The law’s purpose is create the Second Marianas Political Status Commission where its primary task is to review, study, examine, conduct public political education, and awareness “and all others that may assist [them] in accomplishing its responsibilities under this Act.”
Examining the current political relationship between the CNMI and the U.S., determine whether the CNMI people are still in favor of continuing political union with the U.S. or prefer other political status options, explore and study alternative political status that favors and acceptable to the people of the Northern Marianas, and submit its final report on their findings and recommendations are the purpose of the law.
Torres said the CNMI’s political status allows the Commonwealth enjoy a special relationship with the U.S. unlike any other place. He added the newly signed law is different from the ongoing 902 talks that only discuss issues like the planned military build up and immigration with the federal government through the Department of the Interior-Office of Insular Affairs.
“It would emphasize the importance of the CNMI being part of the U.S. It is our people’s choice that we became part of the U.S. We were not forced. The changes will also be by the choice of the people of the CNMI,” said Torres in yesterday’s proclamation signing declaring September as Cultural Heritage month.
“It gives us the opportunity to revisit our relationship with the U.S. For us, it is basically saying that we want to have a commission because when we had the covenant and passed it to be part of the U.S. that was done in that way,” said Torres
“It is just to acknowledge that we have our own self government. We just also want to revisit the relationship and make it stronger. The 902 talks, is an avenue to discuss our issues, not just the relationship. Here in the political status, is all about relationship.”
The people of the CNMI, in the early 1970s, chose not to seek independence but would rather have closer ties with the U.S. as a commonwealth in political union. The CNMI, after World War II, was under the Trust Territory in Micronesia administered by the U.S. like Guam and Palau.
The Covenant was established in a 1975 referendum after more than two years of negotiations. Close to 79 percent of the voters in the 1975 referendum voted in favor of the CNMI becoming a U.S. commonwealth.
The Covenant, in general, has U.S. federal laws apply also in the CNMI. The CNMI, however, is outside U.S. customs’ jurisdiction and has its own local income tax system.