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Precinct 2 Republican hopefuls share vision for community (2)

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PRECINCT 2 Republican candidates Daniel Aquino and House Floor Leader John Paul Sablan on KKMP radio Thursday also addressed such issues as funding for the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., the Public School System, and diversification of the local economy.

Aquino said that he would need to look into CHCC finances to know where it can receive more funding, such as maximizing grant opportunities, local funding, and collections.

“I’m always for efficiency,” he said.

For his part, Sablan said that CHCC has always been a main issue for the government as a whole.

He said that in the last meeting between CHCC and the Legislature, the billing process was explained.

“We were told in the Legislature that there’s a certain rate in the billing already set in the billing code for payment to CUC, and we need to get back with CHCC, find out what is that collection, and why aren’t they paying CUC for that matter,” he said.

He added, “There’s still a lot of things to address with CHCC. CUC is an independent corporation, but still needs the assistance of our government. We got to work together as a central government to make ends meet. We cannot continue to ignore payments for CUC.”

Furthermore, he said that CUC is also trying to make ends meet, “so I think what needs to be done is we need to come to common grounds [with] CHCC, CUC, the administration, and perhaps [the] Legislature, and see how we can work together to address all of the concerns of all parties.”

As for funding for the Public School System, Aquino said that he would need to really look at the numbers first, mainly the pay structures, noting that teachers need to be paid according to their education.

 

House Floor Leader John Paul Sablan, left, and NMI Museum Director Daniel Aquino, right. Contributed photo

“This is one of the things that is going to be very challenging. There’s going to be so much need and there’s little resources to spread, but I think if we work with every agency, and then we look at the duplication of services within the departments, maybe we can start streamlining rather than having a duplication of services. Those are money that we realized we can spread out to other agencies or departments like the PSS and the hospital,” he said.

Sablan, for his part, said that the House version of the Fiscal Year 2021 budget is now with the Senate.

“I’m sure they’re working hard right now to amend our version. We hope to see -- very, very soon -- a version from the Senate,” he said, as the last day of the current fiscal year is on Sept. 30.

He said that if a budget is not passed and signed by then, the government will be shut down.

“I hope not to see that happen, so I’m sure our counterparts in the Senate are working very, very hard. We look forward [to] a working product for both parties, so that we can have a balanced budget… It’s important that we work with what we get,” he said.

As for diversification of the local economy, Aquino said that given that the Commonwealth currently has no visitors, now is the time to fix the CNMI infrastructure, namely tourist attractions, the roads, and possibly building a central cultural center.

Both Aquino and Sablan agreed that perhaps it would be best to focus on the quality of tourists as opposed to the quantity, citing the tourism industry in the Republic of Palau.

“We have to be open-minded that we cannot continue to be dependent on tourism. We have to be thinking outside the box. I know that tourism has always been our bread and butter. I know that with this pandemic, I don’t foresee the revival of tourism worldwide anytime soon, probably, maybe, in two years. So maybe we should think about agriculture as an industry here in the Commonwealth,” Sablan said.

He said that the Commonwealth has a history of having rich soil for agriculture even before the Japanese occupation.

“If given this opportunity again, this coming election, I will charter much of my energy in trying to figure out how we can have agriculture as an industry here in the Commonwealth,” he said,.

Aquino suggested adding a zip line as an attraction, noting that deregulation may be a solution as well.

“We just have too many regulations, and we need to start deregulating. We got to look at what works in other places. If they’re doing deregulation, we  need to also deregulate,” he said.

 “We need to sell Saipan, and the only way to do that is if we have this place as a favorite destination for tourism.”

As for agriculture, Aquino said that exporting agriculture to military bases may also be a feasible option for the Commonwealth.

The Precinct 2 Republican candidates expressed their gratitude to the community for their support, and urged constituents to exercise their rights to vote.

“I still stand committed to the people and determined to our community. I will continue to put more energy and efforts to better our livelihood here in our precinct. I thank you all and I ask again for your continued support and consideration. If given the chance again this coming November, I will continue the hard work that I’ve always done for our people here in Precinct 2,” Sablan said.

Aquino, for his part, said, “I just want to tell people that I’m a hard worker. People can see the work I’ve done to repair and restore the museum, inside and out. I’m going to carry that same enthusiasm in the precinct. We will look at everything, and we will address them… I respect all candidates that are running. I think that we all have the best interest for our community.”

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