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By Edith G. Alejandro

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, May 21) - In another effort to boost tourism in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, Gov. Juan N. Babauta has approved the measure that would allow visitors to extend their stay in the Commonwealth for up to 90 days.

Babauta said he is confident that the measure, now Public Law 14-6, would increase the number of tourists in the CNMI.

Also, the governor said the measure would produce economic benefits.

"The administration is especially supportive of this legislation due to the fact that it will allow Japanese citizens the possibility of staying in the CNMI for a period of 90 days, a courtesy that the Japanese government has extended to the CNMI for many years and a courtesy that is finally being reciprocated," the governor explained.

Babauta said the government is aware of the concerns that have been raised by some individuals and agencies about the possibility that some people might take advantage of the ability to receive extended initial permits to unlawfully seek employment or to commit illegal activities.

He pointed out, though, that this concern is comprehensively addressed in the bill. "This [measure] allows procedural and administrative safeguards to be established that will ensure that the issuance of extended entry permits will not be abused and utilized for unlawful practices."

The Attorney General's Office will be the agency that would grant the extension of the initial entry permits for 90 days.

The measure does not require the Attorney General's Office to grant a 90-day initial entry permit to all tourists who apply entry into the CNMI. The measure merely permits the AGO the option of extending initial entry permits for a period of 90 days in accordance with the rules and procedures.

The bill, which was authored by Sen. Paul Manglona, stressed that elderly retirees from Japan could be expected to spend the winter season in the CNMI and the current practice of Department of Labor to grant 30-day entry permits to visitors should be amended to extend the duration of stay for the elderly visitors.

May 21, 2004

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