Governor returns from Northern Islands

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“THE whole purpose of the trip is to market the Marianas, and we had this great opportunity and great privilege to have Robert Arrington and his family to come to the islands and promote the Marianas in a very different and unique way,” Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said during a press briefing on KKMP radio on Tuesday morning.

He returned to Saipan on Friday.

“I’ve never seen anyone that really respects the environment, and wants to promote the Marianas as a whole, so it was a great privilege and honor to be with him,” the governor said.

He added that the trip to the Northern Islands included visiting Maug, near the northernmost point of the Commonwealth.

“It’s a great honor for me to actually see…Maug…. You’ll be seeing a lot of videos moving forward, and I believe that it’s going to get the attention that we’ve been wanting. We’ve been talking about ecotourism up north. Now that we have this opportunity, we have been working with the mayor [of the Northern Islands],” the governor said, adding that they have big plans for the Northern Islands.

Torres said Arrington will be in the CNMI for a month and his “Deer Meat for Dinner” team will also visit Saipan, Tinian and Rota.

Asked about the timing of the trip, given the current state of emergency, the governor said: “I didn’t leave the CNMI…when there’s a spike [of Covid-19 cases]... My duty…is to make sure that public health is taken care [of]. We got that covered.”

He said tourism is “our number one industry, and we have this opportunity, a blessing. When everywhere else in the world is closed, we have someone who flew here from Florida — across the world, basically — with his family, to promote the CNMI. Our goal is, while everyone else in the world… is not moving, so to speak, we’re here doing this promotion.”

Torres is hoping that “when things move forward, that there’s more interest around the world to look at the Marianas as a whole and start bringing in more tourists outside [of] our normal markets…. I was happy when I left because I knew that our people here on the ground were doing a fantastic job and they continue to do a fantastic job.”

The governor said the CNMI is among the safest places in the U.S.

“Do we believe in the success of [our Covid-19] task force? The answer is yes. Do we believe in the hospital  [and] Dr. [John] Tudela? Do we see success? The answer is yes…. Do I believe in our cabinet that has worked throughout the whole pandemic? The answer is yes. So, [with] me leaving, and [the] lt. governor here…we had good people on the ground.”

Asked about the legality of releasing deer on Pagan, the governor said:

“Let’s not try to twist this around. We met with Secretary of [the Department of Lands and Natural Resources Anthony] Benavente. And I brought up the idea. We talked to the mayor [of the Northern Islands], and the mayor gave us the permission to release deer up north…. We got that permit.

“The release of the deer…was [upon] my request…because [it was] part of this promotion [of the Northern Islands].”

Variety learned on Monday that CNMI Public Law 17-23, Section 5 states, “Purposeful release of captive deer, especially domesticated progeny, into the wild is prohibited.”

Regarding the fire set by Arrington on  Pagan to repel bugs, Torres said the mayor of the Northern Islands allowed Arrington to burn a certain area for their campsite as long as the fire was contained.

“The fire was contained, and it was literally a brush fire. I think the tallest brush there was four or five inches, so it’s not a wildfire that burned trees. In fact, I don’t think there was one tree burned. Before we left, there’s already new grass growing,” the governor said.

He reiterated the importance of promoting the Northern Islands.

“Even for our people here [on Saipan], it’s really a dream to go up north…. Us marketing the Northern Marianas can give us not just the high-end tourists, but also [allow] our own locals to go up north. The more accessible transportation is… the more [that] our people can go out there and enjoy,” Torres said.

He added, “This whole marketing of the Northern Islands is [also to] make sure that we protect our environment at any cost, and I say that — and I’ll keep repeating again — I am here to protect our environment, [and], at the same time, create opportunities for ecotourism and its high-end market…. People that have been up there would want to protect those islands.”

Torres said he has been hearing some of the complaints, including “concerns from people who have never been up there, and I’ve said this in the beginning: go up to the Northern Islands so you know what you have [and] so you know what you are protecting.”

He said in the next couple of years, “we will definitely have a new vision for  high-end [tourism]. I believe that this is the right timing for us to start promoting the north…. It’s our last frontier…. For this whole effort…we’re not going to have a flock of high-end tourists tomorrow or even next year. We’re definitely planting that seed so that [the CNMI] will be known as a place that high-end fishermen, high-end hunters, [and] those into outdoor sports  would want to visit.”

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