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Former lawmaker slams governor for CHCC disconnection

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FORMER Rep. Stanley T. McGinnis Torres on Thursday said it is embarrassing that Gov. Ralph DLG Torres failed to stop the autonomous Commonwealth Utilities Corp. from disconnecting the only hospital on island from the public-utility power grid.

The former lawmaker said  although the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. is  also autonomous, he believes the CNMI government should continue to support it.

He said when he saw the news about CUC disconnecting CHCC, “it made me wonder, ‘Who’s the boss? Is it CUC, or the governor?’”

He said it was “so embarrassing and he felt ashamed” that the governor was not able to protect the hospital, which “belongs to the people.”

“If he cannot run the government, then he should resign,” the lawmaker said, referring to the governor.  “I am very concerned and it made me angry.”

He said the governor should have fired the CUC board members for “endangering the lives” of hospital patients amid a pandemic.

CUC disconnected CHCC from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday after the hospital paid only $50,000 of the $250,000 that CUC demanded. The hospital used its generator that afternoon.

On Wednesday, the governor paid CUC $50,000 in addition to the $150,000 he earlier remitted to the electric and water company.

CUC said the next payment is due next month, adding that it will again disconnect the hospital from the  power grid each day, for six hours, if it fails to make a payment.

Asked for comment, Press Secretary Kevin Bautista issued the following statement:

"Governor Torres and Lt. Governor Palacios kept their commitment to both CUC and CHCC by working with both agencies to keep CHCC operational, while making sure CUC is paid and does not raise rates on ratepayers to cover CHCC's liabilities and arrears.

“Former Rep. Stanley T. Torres and Sen. Paul A. Manglona didn’t recognize that the governor and lt. governor paid $2.5 million two weeks ago and an additional $150,000 [this week] to pay for more than half of what CHCC was supposed to pay CUC. Furthermore, the governor and lt. governor have committed $150,000 a month to continue assisting CHCC with its utility arrears.

“Even while we’re in an economic downturn, Governor Torres and Lt. Governor Palacios have been diligently finding resources to keep CHCC operational during this pandemic response. However, we understand CUC's position and are making sure that any unpaid liabilities by CHCC does not carry over to ratepayers, who need to be protected as well due to the economic impact we are all facing. The governor and lt. governor remain committed to CUC and CHCC, while ensuring public health services and protecting responsible ratepayers.

“The former representative and the current senator from Rota, who both do not have any executive experience, are commenting about an issue they lack full understanding of.”

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