Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Camacho invites Fitial to Guam for Obama's visit

Camacho invites Fitial to Guam for Obama's visit

Thursday, February 11, 2010
By Haidee V. Eugenio

Guam Gov. Felix P. Camacho has invited CNMI Gov. Benigno R. Fitial to Guam for President Barack Obama's visit on his way to Indonesia and Australia in March.

“I will be sending a letter to the White House informing them that I have invited Governor Fitial to Guam for the president's visit,” Camacho told Saipan Tribune in an interview on Tuesday.

He said Obama and the whole first family will be in Guam on March 19.

Fitial, in a separate interview yesterday, said he has accepted Camacho's invitation to go to Guam for the presidential visit.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, in a Feb. 1 transcript of statements during a news briefing, said Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Sasha and Malia “will visit Guam, where he will speak with U.S. service members on the island.”

The presidential visit comes at a time when the military buildup in Guam is looming, although Camacho earlier wrote to U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to delay the buildup until after 2014 “to protect the integrity of the III Marine Expeditionary Force and ensure that impacts are minimized to our island infrastructure and socioeconomic services.”

Fitial had said he “recognizes the immense potential opportunities of a presidential visit to the Marianas.”

The CNMI Senate had already adopted a resolution formally inviting Obama to visit the CNMI when he and his family stop on Guam on their way to Indonesia and Australia next month.

Senators said it will be a “great honor” and an “extraordinary privilege” to have Obama pay an official visit to the CNMI while he is in the region.

They said a presidential visit will bring to the fore issues critical to the CNMI, including the recent federalization of its immigration, the military buildup in Guam that will also impact the CNMI, and the creation of the Marianas Trench National Monument and the authorization for a visitor center in the region. Senate Resolution 17-03 was introduced by Sen. Pete P. Reyes (R-Saipan).

Rep. Diego T. Benavente (R-Saipan) also introduced House Resolution 17-5, officially inviting Obama to visit the CNMI, but the House has yet to act on the resolution.

If and when Obama visits the CNMI, he will be the first sitting U.S. president to ever set foot in the CNMI.

The highest ranking U.S. official to set foot in the CNMI’s capital of Saipan is former President George H.W. Bush, when he was still vice president to former President Ronald Reagan. Bush flew to Saipan on his way to a six-day visit to China in October 1985.

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