CNMI Businessman Blames Lack Of Planning For Guest Worker Problems

Reyes says government should have acted years ago; supports extension of CW program

By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, June 14, 2016) – A former House member says the island’s CW problem is due to the CNMI government’s lack of planning.

Joseph Reyes, a businessman who is also vice chairman of the Commonwealth Casino Commission, said the CNMI government should have chartered a course several years back to address labor and other pressing issues.

“So many things are involved in this problem,” he told Variety. “First of all, we are all people, and we have a heart and we have compassion. I hope I am wrong but this problem in many ways was because of the lack of planning from the government side. We should have charted our course not just on Saipan but including Tinian and Rota and the Northern Islands.”

He said the mayors and the delegations should hold a leadership summit “to discuss concerns and issues including the sort of development they want — the goal should be comfortable living for everybody.”

He added, “This tug of war between the three main islands must stop. It is creating an imbalance and this has been happening for many years already. Can it be remedied? Yes, if we put our heads together. We just have to look at both sides, look at the benefits and the collateral damage.”

At the same time, Reyes expressed support for extending the CW program or granting improved immigration status to long-time guest workers.

“We keep talking about taking care of each other, but what are we doing about the situation of our guest workers?”

Reyes said it seems nobody cares about the effect on the local economy if guest workers leave the CNMI.

“The CW cap is hurting people. It’s breaking up families. And how much damage will it create to the economy? All of these people have loans in the banks, they are renting apartments, have bought cars, are customers of restaurants and stores and other establishments, and they are performing jobs needed by the economy. Has anyone thought of that? The government is still in deep financial crisis. We’re trying to move forward. We are already moving toward economic recovery, one step at a time, but with this issue, chances are, right now, we’re taking five steps backwards. It will definitely create a setback for us.”

He is hoping that the federal government will realize that “we’re all people here so please don’t ruin people’s lives — that’s not what democracy is all about. And what will happen to the kids of the workers who are sent back home? We are not helping those kids. We are hurting them.”

Reyes said he, too, wants to see more locals fill private sector jobs, but added that the CNMI doesn’t have enough resident workers.

“I hope the administration will do something to calm the public and the affected families. This issue of CW is creating panic and fear among the affected individuals.”

Today, Tuesday, Gov. Ralph Torres will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. to update the public about the recent 902 discussions with the White House.

Senate Vice President Arnold Palacios, a member of the CNMI 902 team, said the next 902 discussions will take place in August.

Marianas Variety
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