2019: A year of resiliency

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THE CNMI was in “recovery mode” in 2019 following the two typhoons that devastated the three main islands, but it was also the year when the Commonwealth showed grit and resilience.

And for this the Torres-Palacios administration is grateful and appreciative to government employees and other members of the community.

“As we close this year and welcome a new one, we want to thank all our government employees for your hard work and service this year. While 2019 was a challenging one for all of us in the midst of our recovery, we appreciate your sacrifices, strength and resiliency,” the administration said in a statement.

“As we begin a new year, let us renew our bonds with one another and remind ourselves that we are one family working together to build [a] more prosperous Marianas,” it added.

In a separate interview, Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao said after Typhoon Mangkhut and Super Typhoon Yutu hit Rota, Tinian and Saipan in Sept.-Oct. 2018, “we have done what we could as we worked with our federal partners in the recovery efforts.”

He noted that the Northern Marianas Housing Corp. alone was awarded $243 million in disaster recovery grants to assist the CNMI.

“We were patient, as we got a lot of our infrastructure back on track, get our airport going, and soon when the disaster recovery money gets here, it will circulate in the economy, he added.

The speaker said the CNMI was also “blessed” by Skymark Airline’s decision to make Saipan its first international destination and provide a flight service that will help revive the Japanese tourist market.

However, Attao said there is still a lot of concerns that need to be addressed — the shortage in workforce, for example.

“We should be cognizant that some of our mishaps are caused by external factors. This shortage in workforce, especially for construction, was caused by decisions made outside the Commonwealth. And that was an unfortunate situation for us,” he added.

He hopes that the federal government would acknowledge that the people of these islands aspire to be more self-sufficient.

“We want our students to go to college and then return to their home,” he added.

For his part, House Floor Leader John Paul Sablan noted that this year, the Legislature and the administration enacted the budget law “way ahead of schedule,” even as the CNMI government and its federal partners continue with the recovery efforts.

Sablan said the Commonwealth is grateful to the U.S. government for the grants and disaster assistance it is providing to the islands.

“There is also a glimmer of hope for the tourism industry, thanks to Skymark’s Narita-Saipan flight service,” he added.

One of the main challenges now is the lack of workforce, Sablan.

“So we are thankful to U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan for the legislation that will bring in 3,000 more construction workers for the next three years,” the House floor leader said.

“Right now there are houses and other infrastructure projects that are still waiting to be built. Some people are still living in tents because of the lack of construction workers.” 

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