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By Benhur C. Saladores

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (Sept. 3, 1999 – Saipan Tribune)---A ranking member of the U.S. House Resources Committee ended a low-key visit to the Northern Marianas yesterday in what appeared to be part of the elaborate preparation for the forthcoming Washington, D.C. oversight hearing on the islands’ conditions.

Rep. Bob Schaffer (R-Colorado) was the latest in a string of visitors from Congress who toured the island in recent weeks following the visit of Manase Mansur, chief aide to Resources Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska).Schaffer, who arrived with a religious leader from the mainland, left yesterday morning after meeting with federal and local officials, garment workers and other business leaders.

He also toured several garment factories to see for himself the working conditions there, according to officials.

Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio disclosed to reporters that his discussion with the visiting legislator focused on labor issues, including allegations of abuse and nonpayment of wages of alien workers in the CNMI.

"He was here just to see for himself what is going on here in the CNMI," he said.

"We did not actually discuss some of the issues, but he is concerned about the employees as well as the employers. They want to make sure that everybody has been protected.

"Even the employers should be protected, too," added Tenorio.

Schaffer's visit came just a few days after Mansur, who is Young's adviser on insular and international affairs, made a five-day tour of the island to brief CNMI officials on the Sept. 16 scheduled hearing in Washington D.C.

The House Resources Committee, which deals with island issues, has called the oversight hearing to update the panel on the labor and immigration reforms being undertaken by the Commonwealth government as well as the federal assistance to enforcement of U.S. laws here.


By Benhur C. Saladores

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (Sept. 3, 1999 – Saipan Tribune)---Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio, accompanied by three other administration officials, will leave on September 9 for Washington D.C. to attend the upcoming oversight hearings called by the U.S. House Resources Committee and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Labor and Immigration Sec. Mark Zachares, Mike Sablan, special advisor for finance and budget, and Julia Sandvold, legal counsel for Lt. Gov. Jesus R. Sablan, will join the delegation that will also include members of the Legislature and representatives from the business sector.

This will be Tenorio's second trip to the U.S. capital in a month, following his visit there in early August to appear before the Senate hearing which was called off at the last minute by Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska).

That hearing has been reset for September 14, two days ahead of the House oversight session that Resources Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) scheduled for September 16.

Both panels, which have jurisdiction over the Northern Marianas and other U.S. insular areas, are expected to tackle labor and immigration problems in the CNMI as well as the status of federal assistance to the island government.

According to Tenorio, he will try to hold talks with U.S. lawmakers and key congressional staff as part of efforts to drum up support for the Commonwealth's continued administration of its labor and immigration.

"Whenever we travel to Washington, we always make an attempt to meet with some members and staff of the Congress," he said.

Last month, the Governor met with several officials and legislators in Washington during his 10-day visit there, during which he originally intended to testify before the Senate committee.

Murkowski had announced postponement of the hearing when Tenorio was already on his way to D.C.

The rescheduling was prompted by requests from the local business sector to hold it near the date of the House hearing so that travel costs would be less costly for CNMI leaders and officials.

On Monday, the local chief executive met with Juan N. Babauta, CNMI's resident representative to Washington, and lawmakers to plan strategy and fine-tune a "unified position" paper to be presented before the back-to-back hearings.

Aside from the administration officials, others expected to join the delegation are Senate President Paul A. Manglona, House Speaker Diego T. Benavente, Senate Vice President Thomas P. Villagomez, Senate Floor Leader Pete P. Reyes and House Majority Floor Leader Ana S. Teregeyo.

Lynn Knight and David Wiseman from the Saipan Chamber of Commerce and HANMI (Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands) President Ron Sablan are the representatives from the private sector.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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