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CDA board nominee appears before Senate panel

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THE Senate Committee on Executive Appointments and Government Investigations held a public hearing on Wednesday for the governor’s nominee to the Commonwealth Development Authority board of directors, Joaquin Q. Dela Cruz.

Of the four witnesses invited by the committee to provide comments, two were present: public information specialist Thomas John DLC Manglona of the governor’s office and CDA Executive Director Manuel Sablan.

Manglona introduced the nominee to the committee on behalf of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, providing a summary of Dela Cruz’s qualifications.

Dela Cruz has over 40 years of professional experience in the government and private sector, and currently serves as marketing and escrow officer at Pacific American Title Insurance & Escrow Company.

He served in a variety of different capacities — including as collector, accounting and loan assistant, loan officer, and loan manager — at CDA before retiring after two decades of service.

 

Joaquin Q. Dela Cruz, standing right, back to the camera, is sworn in before testifying in a public hearing conducted by the Senate. Photo by K-Andrea Evarose S. Limol

“Governor Torres and Lt. Governor Palacios place their full trust and confidence in Mr. Dela Cruz as a part of the Commonwealth Development Authority board. His professional experience during his tenure at CDA, his credentials, and his commitment to serving the Commonwealth in this capacity make him a viable candidate, and we ask for your expeditious approval,” Manglona told the senators.

For his part, Sablan thanked the administration and the committee for considering the nominee for appointment to the board as he expressed his full faith and confidence in the nominee’s competence and leadership.

“Mr. Dela Cruz is not a stranger to the CDA. He played a critical role in CDA’s success during his tenure. He has a strong grasp of CDA’s mission, purpose, and objective. He is very familiar with the laws that created CDA, primarily on the financing and technical assistance side,” said the executive director.

He added, “It is worth noting that Mr. Dela Cruz was one of the pioneers of CDA. He was already on board when CDA was established. Mr. Dela Cruz is educated in business management. He has the knowledge in organizing, analyzing, [and] planning various types of businesses. Fundamentally, CDA is building business entrepreneurship. Hence, Mr. Dela Cruz’s educational background is an advantage.”

Furthermore, the executive director noted that Dela Cruz’s experience in marketing and escrow complements the work that CDA deals with, such as investment, property management, marketing, and real estate.

He also emphasized that the board cannot conduct a board meeting without achieving a quorum of five members, highlighting the need for the expeditious confirmation of Dela Cruz.

Additional oral testimonies in support of the nominee were given by the Northern Marianas Housing Corporation Corporate Director Jesse S. Palacios, and Dela Cruz’s daughter Gerrilyn Dela Cruz.

Written testimonies were also provided by CDA Board of Directors Chair Ignacio Perez, as well as chief of staff to the governor, Angel Demapan.

Chaired by Sen. Francisco Q. Cruz, the committee raised concerns about certain issues that constituents have had or currently have with CDA, and highly recommended that, upon confirmation, the nominee work with the CDA board to address these issues.

“I hope that you will seriously consider, when confirmed, [and] work alongside other board members to ensure that we engage in an internal economic activity that will provide better opportunities for local people, most especially those that are willing to diversify their lifestyle by engaging in farming, fishing, and livestock raising,” Senate President Victor B. Hocog told Dela Cruz.

The committee emphasized the importance of CDA assisting its local clients in advancing their entrepreneurial efforts, suggesting that CDA look into providing training packages to aid beginner entrepreneurs, in hopes of breaking the habitual cycle of local businesses foreclosing.

Joaquin Q. Dela Cruz said that CDA would only be able to achieve such goals with the help of other agencies or organizations, such as NMC-CREES, the Department of Agriculture, and the farmers markets, in order to market quality local produce, improve marketing strategies, and stimulate the local economy.

They also recommended that CDA look into other revenue-generating strategies, especially in light of this global Covid-19 pandemic, seeing that the tourism and gaming industries are suffering, and the novel cannabis industry in the CNMI has yet to find its footing.

Moreover, the committee noted certain changes in federal statutes that may impede the progress of CDA, and ultimately affect its local clients.

The committee chair will present the panel recommendation on the nominee to the full Senate this Friday afternoon in the Senate chamber.

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