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By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Feb. 10) – Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Governor Benigno R. Fitial, who is trying to persuade the world’s largest shoe manufacturer to put up a factory on Saipan, met this week with a woman known for owning 3,000 pairs of shoes.

Fitial had lunch with Imelda R. Marcos, the widow of former Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos, at the Makati Shangri-la Hotel in Metro Manila on Monday.

Fitial earlier said he has asked the Hong Kong-based Yue Yuen, also known as YY, to consider opening a factory on Saipan.

YY is the world’s leading supplier of branded wholesale athletic and casual footwear with 330 factories in China, Vietnam and Indonesia.

American Chamber of Commerce 2000 data show that YY produced 130 million pairs of shoes or 17 percent of the global footwear market for brand names like Adidas, Nike and Reebok.

The new administration has told YY about the duty-free privilege of goods manufactured in the CNMI for the U.S. market.

As first lady of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986, Mrs. Marcos amassed thousands of pairs of shoes made by Givenchy, Chanel, Christian Dior and Ferragamo, while the conditions of ordinary Filipinos worsened under her husband’s regime.

In 2001, Mrs. Marcos opened a shoe museum in Marikina City, the footwear capital of the Philippines.

The governor’s press secretary, Charles Reyes Jr., said he was not privy to the governor’s discussion with Mrs. Marcos nor did he know that they were going to meet in Manila.

Februrary 10, 2006

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