CNMI, US Hold First Day Of 902 Consultations

Discussions included expiration of the CNMI-only transition worker program, military activities

By Dennis B. Chan 

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, June 8, 2016) – Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and the Department of Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs Esther Kia’aina agreed yesterday to the scope of 902 Consultations between them and their respective federal and local panels, in all-day meetings at the White House yesterday.

They agreed to focus in on the issues of the expiration of the CNMI-only transition worker program in 2019 and U.S. Department of Defense activities in the CNMI, according to a statement from the Interior.

Torres and Kia’aina, the special representatives for the CNMI and President Barack Obama, respectively, also agreed that these consultations would include site visits in the Northern Mariana Islands and subsequent official consultations in August, September, and October, DOI said.

The process will culminate in a Final Report to Obama in December, DOI said.

“With our two principles, Labor Secretary Edith Deleon Guerrero and Public Lands Secretary Marianne Teregeyo, and the rest of our team,” Torres said in a separate statement yesterday, “we were able to present to the federal government a clearer picture of our positions regarding the proposed military projects on our islands, as well as the current issues surrounding the CW program and our workforce.”

“Overall, it was a productive meeting with honest discussions,” he added.

Torres said that on issues regarding the military buildup, they met with Pete Potochney, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Basing, who is also Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment

On issues regarding labor and immigration, they met with Seth Stodder, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Border, Immigration, and Trade Policy, Torres said.

“I am pleased that the CNMI Governor Torres and other members of his team were able to present position papers on issues important to the leaders and people of the Northern Mariana Islands,” Kia’aina said in the DOI statement. “The objective of these 902 Consultations is to provide an avenue for high level discussions on the issues of immigration, labor, and U.S. national security interests between U.S. and CNMI officials.”

“The Covenant Agreement between the CNMI and the United States Government is a significant and unique obligation within the American political landscape requiring open communication and real cooperation,” said Torres in the DOI statement. “I sincerely appreciate President Obama’s agreement to start and the work of his Special Representative Esther Kia’aina in opening these discussions at this important time in the history of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. We look forward to continuing both the dialogue and search for ways to improve our relationship with the United States. “

Torres is also set to meet with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Leon Rodriguez and Sen. Lisa Murkowski this week.

Known as 902 Consultations, the discussions are authorized by Section 902 of the Covenant to establish the CNMI in political union with the United States of America, which provides that the government of the United States and the government of the Northern Mariana Islands will consult regularly on all matters affecting the relationship between them, not less frequently than every 10 years.

The last 902 Consultations occurred in 2007, some nine years ago.

Saipan Tribune
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