CNMI, Guam to have a ‘stronger voice’

THE Marianas Working Group, an inaugural business collaboration between the CNMI and Guam concluded on Friday with a declaration that the islands will have“a stronger voice” on critical issues affecting both jurisdictions.

The two-day collaboration and cooperation concluded at 4 pm with recommendations from each working group.

Each group, composed of government agency representatives from from Guam and the CNMI, presented a completed policy agenda for consideration by both Governor Ralph Torres and Governor Eddie Calvo.

Guam Governor Eddie Calvo and CNMI Governor Ralph Torres pose with participants in the inaugural Marianas Working Group collaboration between Guam and the CNMI that concluded with various recommendations related to critical issues affecting both jurisdictions. Office of the Governor photo

Ms. Nicole Babauta Acting Secretary, CNMI Department of Commerce; Mr. Christopher Concepcion, Managing Director and Mrs. Judy Torres, Deputy Managing Director, Marianas Visitors Authority; Mr. Christopher Tenorio, Executive Director, Commonwealth Ports Authority; Ms. Joanne Brown General Manager, Port Authority of Guam; Mr. Jay Rojas, Administrator, Guam Economic Development Authority; Mr. Tony Muna Jr., Vice President, Guam Visitors Bureau.

The policy agendas recommended by the working groups will guide future discussions and actions of the Marianas Working Group.

The participants were divided into seven groups to tackle issues, identify challenges, and come up with possible solutions to problems.

These groups were Labor and Education, Infrastructure and Telecommunications, Health and Food Security, Ports and Commerce, Homeland Security and Public Safety, Finance and Taxation and Land, Environment & Veterans Affairs.

Mr. Gerald Deleon Guerrero, Special Assistant, Homeland Security and Emergency Management; Mr. Claudio Norita, Commissioner, Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services; Mr. Robert Guerrero, Commissioner, Department of Public Safety; Mr. Jose Mafnas, Director, Division of Customs; Mr. George Charfauros, Homeland Security Adviser; Mr. Charles Esteves, Administrator, Office of Civil Defense; Jenna G. Blas, Public Information Officer, Guam Homeland Security/Office of Civil Defense.

The collaboration started on Thursday when Governor Ralph Torres and Governor Eddie Calvo formally opened the discussions with a ceremony.

Saipan and Northern Island Legislative Delegation chair John Paul Sablan, who is a member of the steering committee that made the Marianas Working Group Inaugural Business Meeting possible, commended both Governors for coming up with the idea, saying this will provide a great opportunity to discuss issues affecting both jurisdictions and will give the islands a unified position and a much stronger voice in DC.

“After two days of discussion between the two islands involving all the stakeholders on different areas of concern, I feel that we have a better understanding of the issues at hand at this moment. One very good example is the issues connected with CW’s and H2B visas that we should work collaboratively on with the Guam government. It’s a federal issue and by appealing to the US Congress as one Marianas, I believe that we can send a strong message and have a stronger voice together. Together, I do believe that the US government will hear our voice and will consider our concerns seriously,” Sablan said.

Ms. Helen Sablan, Director, CNMI State Medicaid Agency; Mr. Warren Villagomez, Director, Public Health and Hospital Emergency Preparedness Program and Epidemiology Lab Capacity; Mr. Brian San Nicolas, Special Assistant for Health Care, Office of the Governor of Guam.

Ms. Thelma Inos, Director, Division of Energy, Department of Public Works; Ms. Joann Aquino, Field Operations Director, Office of the Saipan Mayor; Mr. Oscar Torres, Executive Officer, Military Liaison and Veteran’s Affairs; Mr. Anthony Benavente, Secretary, Department of Lands and Natural Resources; Mr. Manny Pangelinan, Director, CNMI Division of Fish and Wildlife; Mr. Tony Ada, Special Assistant for Policy; and Esther Kia’ain, Executive Director - Pacific Basin Development Council.

Guam Senator Will Castro, also a member of the steering committee in Guam, said the two-day discussion and collaboration was extremely productive and was not only intended to address the topics on the table but also to find creative and unique solutions.

“We were engaged in discussions about existing challenges so we did not only look for challenges and opportunities, but also we looked for creative ways to solve problems that have never been explored before.

“For example, in the context of food security, we want to make sure that we have a stable and consistent supply of food between the two jurisdictions, that our produce will be competitive in the global market. This is just the beginning of a more collaborative effort and discussion between the two islands. In the next few months, we will have another conference, which will be held in Guam and we will present these recommendations to the two Governors,” Castro said.

Ms. Larissa Larson, Secretary, Department of Finance; Ms. Virginia Villagomez, Special Assistant for Management and Budget; and Mr. Jay Rojas, Administrator, Guam Economic Development Authority.

Chuck Ada, the Guam Ports Manager said one of the challenges that their group, Ports and Commerce, discussed is the issue of air service in the islands. He said the two islands need to collaborate to find ways to bring more air service to the region.

He said he recommended that this kind of collaboration be done on a quarterly basis to force all working group members to come up with expedited solutions.

Among the recommendations for Labor and Education is to start discussion about jobs, careers and skills at an early age.

Mr. Jose Santos, Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority; Mr. Anthony Camacho, Technical Services Division, Department of Public Works; Mr. Kodep Ogumoro-Uludong, Director, Office of Planning and Development; Mr. Adrian Reyes, Engineer, Commonwealth Utilities Corporation; Ms. Daisy Demapan, Public Information Specialist, CNMI Office of the Governor; and Mr. Eric Palacios, Special Assistant for Infrastructure and the Environment.

Mrs. Vicky Benavente, Secretary, CNMI Department of Labor; Dr. Carmen Fernandez, President, Northern Marianas College; Ms. Agnes McPhetres, President and Mr. David Attao, of the Northern Marianas Trades Institute; Mr. Glenn Muna, Acting Commissioner, CNMI Public School System; and Dr. Sam Mabini, Director, Guam Department of Labor. Photos by Daisy Demapan, Office of the Governor

Dave Attao the presentor of the group said instilling in students, at an early age, the importance of having skills, jobs and careers will help promote self-sufficiency and workforce values in the island.

He said schools should collaborate with NMTI on construction, trade and hospitality courses so that students can start taking these courses at an early age.

Chief of Staff John Gonzales said the forum can help lower the cost of airfare and shipment of goods between two islands. He said by showing strong leadership, both Guam and the CNMI can leverage concerns and issues to their full advantage by having a unified position.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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