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In last 10 years 15,338 people left, 53,883 remain

By Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Aug. 26, 2011) - The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) population shrunk by 22.2 percent or by 15,338 in a 10-year period, the U.S. Census Bureau reported yesterday.

From 69,221 in 2000, the Commonwealth's population decreased to 53,883 on April 1, 2010, resulting from a host of factors that include a series of economic setbacks, the demise of the garment industry, and the unremitting drop in tourist arrivals.

Some 89 percent of the CNMI's total population of 53,883 is on Saipan with 48,220, followed by Tinian with 3,136, then Rota with 2,527.

The Census Bureau conducts a census every 10 years, as mandated by the U.S. Constitution. The CNMI has participated in the U.S. Census since 1950.

Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan (Ind-MP) said a decrease in population could mean a decline in federal formula grant, which is based on population.

"A 22-percent drop is a big drop," he told Saipan Tribune.

The CNMI receives a little over US$160 million in federal grants annually, a "good portion of which," said Sablan, is formula grant.

Rep. Joseph Palacios (R-Saipan), in an interview, said the 2010 Census data justifies his initiative to reduce the number of lawmakers-at least the Saipan lawmakers in the House of Representatives. His proposal is to reduce the Saipan members of the House from 18 to nine.

As of yesterday, he said he may amend his proposal to reduce the number to only 12 or 14.

U.S. Census Bureau director Robert Groves provided the CNMI population counts to Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, the administration said yesterday.

"I am very much pleased to receive the CNMI's Census population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau director. As I understand it, the more detailed results including the islands' demographic profile won't be ready for release until next year," Fitial said in a statement.

Next year's report will include the basic demographic, social, economic and housing characteristics for the CNMI.

Census data are used to distribute more than US$400 billion in federal funds to local, state, and tribal governments each year, and to help government and community leaders make decisions about what services to provide.

Douglas Brennan, president of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, said yesterday they have yet to review the newly released Census data.

Saipan's population dipped by 22.7 percent or by 14,172-from 62,392 in 2000 to 48,220 in 2010.

Tinian's population also went down by 11.4 percent or 404-from 3,540 in 2000 to 3,136 last year.

Rota saw the biggest drop in terms of percentage. Its population went from 3,283 in 2000 to 2,527 in 2010, representing a 23-percent decline or an equivalent of 756 individuals.

Of Saipan's five election districts or precincts, Precinct 3 is the most populated with 15,624. This precinct covers San Antonio, Koblerville, As Lito, Chalan Piao, Dandan, parts of San Vicente, among other villages.

Precinct 1 is not far behind, with a population of 15,160. Its villages include Garapan, San Jose, Puerto Rico and portions of Capital Hill.

Precinct 5 came in third with a population of 7,207, covering Kagman and portions of San Vicente, among other villages.

Precinct 2 ranked fourth with 6,382 individuals in Chalan Kanoa and Susupe.

Precinct 4 has the smallest population with only 3,847, covering Tanapag, San Roque, As Teo and Marpi, among other areas.

The 2010 Census sought to establish an updated count of everyone living in the United States and its territories, including the CNMI, Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

While the CNMI reported a 22.2-percent drop in population, its neighbor Guam posted a population increase.

Guam's population grew by 2.9 percent in a 10-year period, or from 154,805 in 2000 to 159,358 in 2010.

The U.S. Virgin Islands saw a 2-percent decrease in population, or from 108,612 in 2010 to 106,405 in 2010.

The United States population rose by 9.7 percent-from 281,421,906 in the 2000 Census to 308,745,538 as of April 1, 2010.

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