By Moneth Deposa
Saturday, September 12, 2009
The Guam Visitors Bureau has backed the position of its counterpart in the CNMI by adopting a resolution that supports a delay in the implementation of federalization by another year, or until Oct. 1, 2010.
GVB board chair David B. Tydingco, along with 12 other board members, is convinced the Department of Homeland Security is not ready to implement the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 on Nov. 28 this year.
That law, Public Law 110-229, extends the application of the Immigration and Nationality Act to the CNMI. Its intent is to establish six ports of entry in the Commonwealth to enable the Secretary of Homeland Security to administer and enforce the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program, and to allow for the application of U.S. immigration laws in the CNMI.
It is also intended to establish requirements for nonimmigrant visitors wanting to go to Guam or the CNMI under the visa waiver program.
“The delay in implementation of P.L. 110-229 will allow time for the DHS to implement additional security measures such as electronic travel authorization, biometric entry-exit requirements, and other border patrol security infrastructure in the CNMI to address security concerns as well as cooperate with China in reducing the rate of nonimmigrant visa refusals,” the GVB resolution stated.
P.L. 110-229 excluded two important tourism markets-China and Russia-from the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program.
Recently, the CNMI Marianas Visitors Authority adopted a resolution urging Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo and CNMI Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan to introduce legislation that would indefinitely delay the federalization law.
It cited, among other things, the impact to the CNMI of losing both Chinese and Russian markets.
MVA earlier disclosed that Russian and Chinese visitors accounted for 20 percent of the total number of tourists who visited the islands in FY 2008.
The agency estimated that it stands to lose $66.7 million in direct impact and $218.3 million in indirect impact in a 12-month period if it loses these markets.
The DHS had rejected the proposal to include Russia and China in the visa waiver program due to security and political concerns.
Press secretary Charles Reyes Jr. welcomed yesterday the support shown by the Guam bureau.
“We welcome this development and we're very appreciative of their support to the CNMI tourism and economy,” he told Saipan Tribune.
Reyes said the resolution only shows that there is a “consensus” in the idea of delaying federalization.
“This is another indication of the consensus in this region. .We're all asking to delay the implementation,” he said, expressing hope that there will be positive action in Congress since majority in the affected areas have spoken their piece.
In the CNMI, the Fitial administration, Legislature, business groups, and community members have expressed their support to delay anew the law's implementation.
“It's not in our control [the decision to delay].but it's the right thing to do and we're going to fight for what is right whether it is feasible or not,” Reyes said, adding that everybody acknowledges that DHS is not ready at this time.
“We're united on this issue and there is no logical choice but to delay it.” he added.