SAIPAN (Office of the Governor) — Following the second round of Section 902 consultations in Honolulu, Gov. Ralph D.L.G. Torres sees a significant strengthening of the unique relationship between the CNMI and the United States.
“There are many opportunities in our relationship with the federal government that both parties can build upon through open and productive dialogue,” Torres said.
This second round of talks, which took place Aug. 10 and 11, followed up on issues brought up during the first round of talks held on June 6 in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. team was again led by Assistant Secretary of Interior for Insular Areas Esther Kia’aina, accompanied by Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Border, Immigration and Trade Policy Seth Stodder and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Basing Peter J. Potochney, who is also performing the duties of the assistant secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment.
Focus on labor, military projects
The meetings centered on the current labor and immigration system and the proposed military projects in the CNMI.
The CNMI reinforced its call for immediate solutions to the humanitarian crisis affecting long-term guest workers, extending the CW transition period, and increasing the numerical caps on CW permits.
Discussions reached an agreement that the CNMI needs the tools and policies to adequately transition its workforce to greater numbers of U.S.-eligible workers.
The consultations also saw a detailed and constructive discussion on the Department of Defense’s proposed uses and plans for military activity on the islands of Tinian and Pagan.
This included an in-depth conversation of the CNMI’s concerns with the proposed military live-fire and bombing activities in the Marianas.
Gov. Torres underscored the complexity and importance of the two issues presented to the federal government, but also acknowledged the positive strides in policy agreements between the two sides.
'Complex and incredibly important'
“The issues we brought to the table are complex and incredibly important to this administration," he said. "The only way that the CNMI and the federal government can achieve our mutual goals is to talk honestly and in as much detail as we can in the spirit of cooperation. While the 902 process is intended to be long-term in nature, I feel we made great strides during this round. I thank our federal partners for their openness and partnership, and I thank the people of the CNMI for your understanding of the importance these talks have for our future.”
The 902 consultations are discussions authorized by Section 902 of the Covenant to Establish the CNMI in Political Union with the United States of America, which provides that the government of the United States and the government of the Northern Mariana Islands will consult regularly on all matters affecting the relationship between them, not less frequently than every 10 years.