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By Aldwin R. Fajardo

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (February 18, 2000 – Saipan Tribune)---The U.S. House of Representatives Resources Committee is asking the CNMI Legislature to identify possible industries which the local government intends to pursue when the garment manufacturing sector suffers a projected sharp decline in four years.

Committee Chair Don Young wrote the CNMI Legislature leadership asking for detailed information regarding the Commonwealth's plans after the anticipated pullout of Saipan apparel makers beginning in 2004.

Mr. Young also said the testimony of the delegation from the Northern Marianas, during his committee's oversight hearing on the extension of federal immigration and minimum wage laws to the islands, was of significant help.

The CNMI delegation, which flew to Washington D.C. last September 16 for the oversight hearing, testified at that time that the Saipan apparel manufacturing sector is expected to suffer a sharp decline in 2004.

Mr. Young wants to know who made the economic projection detailing the apparel making sector's impending pullout and how much the CNMI government is likely to lose from it.

The legislator also has requested a copy of the list of names of persons who assisted the CNMI government in preparing and delivering the testimony before his committee.

For reasons Mr. Young did not explain in his February 3, 2000 letter to the Commonwealth Legislature, he, in addition, has asked that the local government identify the company affiliation of the people who helped in the drafting of the delegation's testimony.

"What are your plans for the repatriation of tens of thousands of workers in the CNMI currently supporting the garment industry?" the U.S. congressman asked local legislators.

The garment manufacturing industry itself employs over 15,000 nonresident workers although economic studies showed that about 21,600 jobs in other sectors, nearly one-half of all employment in the Commonwealth, are dependent on the apparel making industry.

When international trade quotas are finally lifted economists believe that the apparel industry on Saipan will relocate to Latin America and Asian countries. They say this will take place in six to seven years.

This may be translated into the CNMI losing an average of 3,090 jobs per year, including 2,030 in the half-a-billion-dollar garment industry.

Mr. Young would like to know how much money will be spent by the CNMI government -- and how much has been set aside -- for the repatriation of nonresident workers due to the anticipated pullout of the garment industry.

Existing CNMI labor policies obligate employers to shoulder the repatriation of their foreign workers.

As a safety net, however, laws require companies to enroll their nonresident staff in a repatriation bond with private bonding companies, which handles the employees’ air transportation if their employers declare bankruptcy.

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

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