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By Benhur C. Saladores

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (October 28, 1999 – Saipan Tribune)---The government will continue to press Washington to reimburse expenditures amounting to millions of dollars resulting from hosting Freely Associated States citizens in the CNMI, according to Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio.

(Note: the Feely Associated States include the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau.)

"They have made a commitment that territories and states will get Compact-Impact money if hosting these people is really costing us. This issue should be taken into consideration seriously and help (should be given to) the territories," he told reporters.

Tenorio was reacting to a statement made by Office of Insular Affairs Director Ferdinand Aranza to local media during his visit last week that the federal government has yet to set aside funds to pay the CNMI.

The OIA chief, however, said Washington "ought to think seriously" about the reimbursement to the Commonwealth, as Guam expects to soon receive a partial payment for expenses pertaining to assisting FAS nationals residing on the island.

According to the Governor, the government will submit records on how much has spent so far in providing such critical services as housing, education and medical benefits to thousands of FAS citizens living here.

"It's costing us a lot of money," he said. So far, an estimated $28 million of local funds have been spent by the government over the past two years alone in accommodating nearly 5,000 FAS citizens.

But a single penny from the federal government has yet to reach CNMI's pocket despite the federal government’s promise to defray the costs under the Compact of Free Association forged between Washington and the FSM, the Marshalls and Palau.

The agreement has allowed their citizens to enter freely onto any U.S. soil. But the accord, due to expire in 2001 for the FSM and the Marshalls, has come under close scrutiny from wealthier Pacific islands like Guam, Hawai‘i and the CNMI after the federal government reneged on its commitment.

Tenorio was uncertain whether his government should participate in the re-negotiations, which will begin next month between former OIA Director Allen P. Stayman and the Micronesian leaders. Guam is expected to be an observer during the process.

"I don't know whether they are going to include the CNMI as part of the U.S. negotiating panel. I will leave it up to them what they want to do," he said.

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

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