24 September 2013

Guam, Northern Marianas governors convene first Summit

Inos, Calvo discuss Marianas issues

Press Release
Office of the Governor
Northern Mariana Islands

 “We’ve reached a point in the growth of our islands where it is extremely important for us to work together with Guam to strengthen the Marianas as a whole,” Gov. Eloy S. Inos said.

I am very much pleased to have hosted Gov. Eddie B. Calvo and his team for this first summit. While there is still much work ahead of us, I am deeply comforted by the collaborative spirit we’ve established and the strong commitment of our governments to make good things happen for our people and our islands.”

According to Calvo, “Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands face similar issues when it comes to our relationships with the federal government, build-up plans, and issues on infrastructure. I am grateful to the administration of the CNMI for hosting this initial summit. While there are so many issues facing the Northern Mariana Islands, there are even more opportunities. The military buildup is important to all of the Marianas, but there’s still so much more to address. If we come together, we can reach our full potential.”

For the first time in recent history, the governors of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam held a summit to exchange ideas and brainstorm solutions together for issues facing the Marianas.

Inos met with Calvo to outline the challenges the CNMI and Guam encounter regarding the military realignment, economic development, economic exchange, and healthcare. The mayors of Tinian and Rota, the president of the Senate, and the speaker of the House also attended the summit.

Military buildup

Inos and Calvo shared their experiences with the military buildup. Guam and the CNMI have been negotiating buildup plans for years, though these negotiations never were coordinated together. The CNMI and Guam face similar challenges with the military buildup. The two governors compared their respective relationship with military buildup officials.

In the CNMI, things are more complicated because the Navy, Marines, and the Air Force each have ongoing environmental impact studies in and around the CNMI evaluating potential locations of military testing and training sites, firing ranges, and alternative airfields. This situation can present challenges in communicating and synchronizing solutions that meet the expectations of all parties.

On Guam, the buildup effort has evolved to one where Governor Calvo has obtained assurances from the Navy, Joint Guam Program Office and the Commander of Joint Region Marianas to help deliver a promised “One Guam” approach. This ensures news and proposals dealing with the military buildup come from one source.

Inos acknowledged the strategies that have been successful for Guam and DoD and hopes to explore similar solutions for the CNMI.

Federal mandates

Calvo and Inos both spoke about the federal mandates that neither Guam nor the CNMI can afford to implement on their own. An example is Obamacare, which will bankrupt Guam and the CNMI without adequate funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Social Services — money every state is entitled to, yet the territories are excluded from receiving. This is similar to the application of EITC on Guam.

Inter-island industries

The Marianas Summit delegation explored the feasibility of importing cattle from the CNMI into Guam. Talks are ongoing between stakeholders of the CNMI and Guam and they were brought up during the summit meeting. CNMI ranchers want to expand business opportunities here on Guam by establishing a cattle industry. The issue, though, stems from a difference in the laws of the CNMI and Guam.

Calvo expressed his desire to see where the changes need to be made, and how we can make this profitable for the peoples of the Marianas.

Other important issues

Discussions on sharing resources of the hospital, residents facing issues with Guam Customs, the feasibility of a ferry service to alleviate costs, and strategies for both territories to expand their tourism markets also took place.

At this initial meeting, Calvo and Inos instructed their respective teams to work to develop policies that will address the issues and concerns that were raised.