Sunday, September 06, 2009

MVA: Delay federalization

Monday, 07 September 2009 00:00 By Gemma Q. Casas - Variety News Staff

THE board of directors of the Marianas Visitors Authority has adopted a resolution urging Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo and CNMI Congressman Gregorio C. Sablan to introduce legislation delaying indefinitely the law mandating the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to run the local immigration system, or until Russia and China are included in the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program.

The board said the ease of travel that Russian and Chinese tourists currently enjoy when visiting the territories should be continued even if the immigration system of the CNMI is federalized starting Nov. 28.

According to MVA, Russia and Chinese markets accounted for nearly 20 percent of the total tourists who visited the islands during fiscal year 2008.

“Based on this estimate and given a time frame of 12 months before the security measures are in place, the CNMI stands to lose $66,795,809 in direct impact and $218,371,673 in indirect impact. For islands that are dependent on a single industry — tourism — it is not difficult to imagine what this economic loss will have on the businesses and the people of the CNMI,” the MVA resolution reads.

“Considering the significant economic benefit of visitors from [China] and Russia, any interruption in their access to the NMI would have a detrimental and long-standing effect on the economy and the livelihood of the people,” the resolution further stated.

MVA Chairman Jerry Tan, Vice Chairwoman Marian Aldan-Pierce, treasurer Yoichi Matsumura, secretary Kazusuke Fukuju and members Emma Villagomez, Edward Maratita, Byung Kyu Park and Wayne Pangelinan signed the resolution which was then transmitted to Sablan, Bordallo and other U.S. lawmakers, including House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Nick Rahall, D-WV.

MVA said studies indicate that the CNMI should develop other niche markets because sophisticated and seasoned travelers from Japan are more than likely to travel outside of an organized tour and head to similar Asian tropical destinations that are priced cheaper and offer better sceneries than the islands.

DHS rejected the proposal to include Russia and China in the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program citing security and political concerns as main reasons.

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