CNMI Officials: Loss Of Foreign Workers Will Hurt Economy

1,300 impacted by CW cap will lead to sudden reduction in labor pool 

By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, June 23, 2016) – The sudden reduction in the island’s labor pool due to the CW cap will hurt the local economy, according to the Commerce secretary and lawmakers interviewed by Variety.

Commerce Secretary Mark O. Rabauliman, House Commerce and Tourism Committee Chairman Joseph Leepan Guerrero, Senate President Frank M. Borja and Sen. Jude U. Hofschneider said they expect to see a reduction in the government’s revenue collections in the next couple of months as a result of the loss of about 1,300 workers with CW-1 permits.

Rabauliman said the operation of affected companies will be disrupted and the quality of service, especially in restaurants, will be adversely affected.

Guerrero cited the announcement of SN-Five Shipping’s closure on July 2 as an example of how the CW cap is hurting the economy. He said SN-Five is the only company that ships commodities to Tinian on a daily basis.

Once it stops operating for a couple of months starting July 2, Guerrero said the remaining businesses on Tinian will be gravely affected. Store shelves will be depleted and businesses may have to downsize resulting in further job losses, he added.

SN-Five vice president Michael H. San Nicolas said they have been serving Tinian for 26 years now, and that six of their employees affected by the CW cap have been with them for 15 to 26 years. “Our boat crew, diesel engine mechanics and the accountant will have to leave the island come July 2. Some of them have been with us since we started the business, and they all hold very critical positions,” he added.

San Nicolas said they shipped commodities to Tinian six days a week when Tinian Dynasty Hotel Casino was still open. Now they’re down to four shipments a week, but because of the CW cap, he said it will be a struggle to continue operating.

“I and my siblings have talked about it and we decided to continue because Tinian relies mostly on shipped goods,” San Nicolas said.

Guerrero said his family’s business, one of the island’s oldest and pioneering companies, was also affected by the CW “fiasco.” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ announcement that it will reject CW renewal applications due to the cap was “shocking,” he added.

He said there should be separate permits for constructions workers so that medium-size and small businesses can continue to renew their CWs.

With the cap in place, many businesses are being affected “and it is going to hurt the economy of the entire CNMI,” he added.

Borja said the economy will take a hit and it will soon be reflected in the government’s reduced tax collections.

“Our only hope now is the lifting of the CW cap,” he said.

Hofschneider said the workforce uncertainty is creating instability in the business community and the local economy. The suspension of SN-Five Shipping alone, he added, is bad for Tinian which is still reeling from the closure of Tinian Dynasty.

“We’re hoping that the impact is not going to be tremendous,” he said.

Marianas Variety
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