By Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, July 29) - Due to the unexpected volume of work involved, the government has not completed the head count of all garment factory workers on Saipan a week after the original target completion date of July 21, Variety learned.

In an interview yesterday, acting Attorney General Clyde Lemons Jr. said the government wanted to be accurate in its head count, thus more time was needed.

"But we expect it to be completed this week," he said.

Acting Gov. Diego T. Benavente, in a separate interview, confirmed that the process was taking longer than expected because of the magnitude of the project.

"Some things came up and that held things up. But it will be done soon," said Benavente.

In the meantime, the government is still not issuing entry permits to new garment factory workers.

Only a few of the 29 garment factories’ workers on Saipan remain to be counted, Variety was told.

A meeting is set tomorrow morning between representatives of the garment industry and officials from the Office of the Governor, the Department of Labor and the Attorney General’s Office to discuss the progress of the head count.

The head count aims to determine whether the total number of alien garment factory workers in the CNMI does not exceed the 15,727 cap set by Public Law 11-76.

Lemons declined to comment whether the counted number of workers has already exceeded this cap.

He said the AGO will issue an official statement once the head count results are ready.

Richard A. Pierce, executive director of the Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association, said the government has started to distribute head count results to individual garment factories.

"There’s only a few big factories that have not yet been counted. We’re also looking forward to the Wednesday meeting to know the general results," said Pierce.

He said some initial reports showed that the figures were higher than the actual number of workers.

"So they had to check all the figures. Because in some instances, some workers left their job but didn’t exit the CNMI so you have different figures from the labor department, and the immigration (division), for example," he said.

Pierce earlier said the government was to be blamed for not completing a head count of garment factory workers years before.

July 30, 2003

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