07 Dec 2017
- By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa – [email protected] – Variety News Staff
GOVERNOR Ralph D.L.G. Torres is asking the CNMI community to sign and support the petition of the Northern Marianas Business Alliance Corp. in its “ongoing efforts to save the… economy,” the administration announced on Wednesday.
The petition, which started on Dec. 1, 2017, seeks the community’s support for the NMBAC request to the U.S. Congress to address the islands’ workforce issues.
NMBAC officers will join the governor, members of his administration, and Rep. Angel A. Demapan in Washington, DC to meet with key federal officials over the next several days.
“I am asking our entire community to sign on to this petition to save our economy, not just for the short term, but the long term as well,” the governor said in a statement. “Signing this petition represents our community’s collective commitment to ensuring that our livelihoods will not be threatened by federal legislation that needs fixing. We need to have Congress hear our united voices.”
Torres likewise commended the CNMI House of Representatives for adopting House Joint Resolution 20-7 which supports the NMBAC’s efforts.
“I want to personally thank our legislators in the House for their support, and I look forward to the Senate acting on the joint resolution soon. It shows that our entire government leadership is in support of this because it’s the right thing to do for the viability of our economy and for every single person who calls these islands home.”
He said the ultimate goal is to get U.S. legislation to address the CNMI’s long-term economic needs.
“There is too much at stake, and if we don’t come together now as a community, we risk losing the jobs we have created, the opportunities that have arisen, and any sort of economic growth in the long term. I understand there are concerns in our community about this, but I want to present some facts that justify why we are working towards a solution through Congress.
“Access to skilled foreign workers is not in conflict with our shared goal, which is to develop our local workforce and reduce unemployment among U.S. citizens in the CNMI. It also does not take jobs away from our local residents and U.S. citizens. According to the CNMI Department of Commerce, there are only 1,800 unemployed U.S. citizens in our community, and with the increased opportunities in our economy even that number will steadily decrease.
“But even if we put every single U.S. citizen and local resident in the islands in a job, which includes our students and our elderly, we still will not meet the needs of our economy to develop sustainably so that we can address our longstanding debts and obligations and provide more funding to key areas like public safety, education, and healthcare.
“I can present more facts like the Government Accountability Office concluding that the loss of our CW program would result in a 62 percent drop in our economy, how our economy increased 28.6 percent in 2016 because small and large businesses had the resources to develop local capacity with the existence of a foreign labor force, or how we now have more US eligible workers in our workforce than at any time in our modern economy.”
Torres said it is “important now more than ever to remind ourselves where we were just a few years ago.”
He added, “If we think back, the CNMI was seriously hurting and in the midst of a deep and persistent economic depression. Our tourism industry was struggling with low numbers of arrivals. Government revenue was at record lows. High gas prices. Rolling blackouts. And both large and small businesses were struggling.”
He said “what matters most to me is how we had to focus our efforts to help the parents who sat there late into the night shaking their heads, stressed out over how to pay their bills and put enough food on the table to feed the family. Because back then we had no economy. No one deserves to go through that ever again.”
That’s what we’re fighting for, the governor added. “To me, the path ahead for our economy will always have its greatest measure in the homes and around the dinner tables of all the families living in our community. This is why we need to make our case to Congress to save our economy and ensure that everyone from our local residents, to our long-term foreign legacy workers, and to everyone who calls these islands home is protected.”
He said “this is one of the most important things we will ever do as a community, and the NMBAC and your government leadership needs your support.”
The petition can be found at https://www.gopetition.com/petitions/save-the-cnmi-economy.html
Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/100681-governor-save-our-economy