When you get stuck along Beach Road, better take the Middle Road. This is a website for those who choose to tread Saipan's off the beaten path. * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * + * +

Jun 25, 2008

Litigate to negotiate?

The Saipan Tribune reports that Governor Fitial is preparing to sue the U.S. to invalidate the new federalization law. In his statement, the Governor says that he does "not question the authority of the Congress to apply to the Commonwealth the existing federal immigration laws that apply to every other part of the United States except American Samoa."

But wait a minute, if the feds did apply those laws to the CNMI, with no transitions, exceptions or special provisions, wouldn't almost all of the guest workers have to leave immediately? Wouldn't there be no hope of special visa waivers for tourists? Is the Governor really suggesting that it would be OK for the feds to apply standard immigration law to the CNMI immediately and with no exceptions, but that phasing out the guest worker program more slowly, offering a special visa waiver program, etc., is "an intrusion into our governance of local affairs to which no other community of United States citizens has ever been subjected"? Does this make sense?

Is this a good use of CNMI taxpayer funds? Is this merely a strategy of, as the Governor once put it, "litigate to negotiate"? But for that strategy to work, wouldn't the CNMI have to have some negotiating power?

Remember when the CNMI sued the U.S. over submerged lands and lost? The CNMI was left with no control over its offshore resources, unlike the other territories. The Senate then offered the CNMI control over its offshore waters up to three miles, which is what the other territories have. Pete A supported it but the Governor rejected it, on the theory that he would "negotiate" for more. As a result, the legislation died and the CNMI remains, years later, as the only territory with no control over its offshore resources. Is that how this "litigate to negotiate" strategy works? Are we missing something?

Jun 24, 2008

Should the CNMI change its status?

Congressman Stanley Torres has re-introduced legislation to study alternatives for the CNMI's status and relationship with the U.S. Although we don't want to pre-empt the work of the commission that would be created to study this issue under the legislation, we can at least get the discussion going. Should the CNMI change its status? If so, what should it change its status to?

One option would be independence in "free association" with the U.S. This is the status that applies to the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau. Although the freely associated states enjoy more automony than the CNMI, their autonomy is compromised by their heavy dependence on U.S. aid. And although they receive very high levels of aid per capita, they probably receive significantly less than what they would have received had they chosen to become territories. The FSM and the Marshalls have not been able to use their aid to get themselves on a path to sustainable economic development. If Palau has done better, it is perhaps because of its small and more concentrated population, better location (closer to Asia) and natural beauty that is amazing even by Pacific Island standards.

Also, other than the right to use FDM and training facilities on Tinian and the Northern Islands (all of which the U.S. military could probably live without), what would motivate Uncle Sam to cough up a huge economic aid package under a Compact of Free Association with the Republic of the Northern Mariana Islands?

Independence without free association with the U.S. is another option. Places like Kiribati demonstrate how difficult it is for small Pacific island nations to support themselves without a major benefactor.

How about reunification with Guam? Could that lead to eventual statehood? The population of Wyoming, the state that currently has the fewest people, is just over 500,000, and Alaska, North Dakota and Vermont each has less than 665,000 people.

How about the status quo? Is that so bad?

The U.S. Constitution probably doesn't allow any options other than those listed above, at least in terms of affiliation with the U.S. (If we missed one, please point it out.)

Is this bill motivated by bad feelings over the recent federalization debate? Is this a discussion that is nonetheless worth having?

Jun 20, 2008

On Air Tragedy

An alleged Filipino resident of Saipan, in his mid-50's passed away on board Continental last Wednesday. He was alone. No chaperones. According to passengers, the poor man underwent a heart bypass in Manila and was returning back to Saipan on a wheel chair. The man had a heart attack while on air.

Kudos to the Filipino nurses on board that tried to revive the man. There was no doctor on board at that time. The plane had to land on Guam airport to bring the man to hospital but he didn't make it. The passengers said the nurses and stewards tried to locate his bag on the plane but failed. They were hoping to find medications in his handcarry.

A tragedy is a tragedy. Just wondering if the poor man had a clearance to travel...

Jun 18, 2008

Tidbits: A Healthy Conversation

We ran into a friend who's connected with the Department of Public Health today. Let me share this quick conversation we had:

Friend: We got a memo recently from the administration which gave me a good laugh recently.
SMR: What did the memo say?
Friend: The memo says essentially something like, "Please refrain from taking some stuff from the new wing of the hospital." (Laughs)
SMR: Some stuff?
Friend: Yeah, apparently new chairs and tables and other "stuff" have been missing from the new wing of the hospital.
SMR: Why's that?
Friend: I guess from the memo, it says the employees are taking them, probably to their homes (of course, this was just his opinion). The new wing had swivel chairs, beautiful "stuff." (Laughs again)

Jun 14, 2008

Taking hit from Continental's dropping of Saipan-Manila flights

It's not that we're all going to be stranded on this island -- at least not yet.

But Continental Micronesia's decision to drop its Manila-Saipan flights effective July 16 spells a disaster.

But who can blame Continental with the soaring price of fuel? And low demand because of a drop in the number of nurses from Manila taking the NCLEX here?

Speaking of low demand -- some in the community have this outrageous theory that the reason why only a few now travel off island is the immigration federalization. (When will this ever stop?) They say only a few workers want to exit fearing they will have difficulty coming back.

But seriously, can CNMI patients needing medical attention in Manila endure hours of layover or transit through Guam, Japan or South Korea? (Not to mention the inconvenience on weekend shoppers in Manila)

How many CNMI businessmen will be affected?

How many Filipinos will be affected? This group -- because most of them dont have US visas -- will be forced to go through Japan or Korea and wait for eight more hours to take the connecting flights to Manila.

What will make Continental change its mind?

How about limiting the frequency of the flights instead of dropping the service altogether? A once-a-week direct flight to Manila will be better than not having a direct flight at all.

Here's Continental's press release:

Airline cites skyrocketing fuel costs and lower customer demand as factors

HAGÅTÑA, GUAM, June 13, 2008 – Continental Micronesia announced today that it will discontinue service between Saipan – Manila effective on July 16, 2008. In addition, CMI will suspend flights from its Guam hub to Hong Kong and to Denpasar, Bali effective July 28, 2008 and October 2, 2008, respectively.
The skyrocketing increase in fuel costs has severely impacted the viability of
these markets. Since January 2007, jet fuel costs have spiked dramatically, increasing almost $100 per barrel or more than 140 percent. Each dollar of oil increase has an annual impact to Continental Airlines of $45MM.
“While these are very difficult decisions to make, the record fuel costs, combined with lower customer demand in these markets, lead to the decision to suspend service,” said Continental Micronesia Chief Executive Officer and President, Mark Erwin.
“These schedule changes in Asia Pacific will result in a four percent year-over-year decline in CMI mainline capacity and combined with the April 2008 suspension of Nagoya – Honolulu service will result in 21 percent year-over-year decline in a CMI mainline capacity (available seat miles, or ASMs) in the fourth quarter. These changes are part of the worldwide mainline system capacity reduction previously announced by Continental Airlines last week,” said Erwin.
The Saipan – Manila market is also severely impacted by the loss of Manila
customers traveling to Saipan to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) nursing examinations required for Registered Nurse licenses by U.S. states.
The National Council of State Boards of Nursing initiated NCLEX testing in Manila in August 2007, eliminating the necessity for nursing candidates in the Philippines to travel to the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas (CNMI) to take the examination.
“Despite our best efforts, working with the Marianas Visitors Authority and the government of CNMI, we were unable to generate sufficient customer demand from the Philippines to replace the loss of our customers traveling to Saipan to take the NCLEX examinations. We will continue to offer our valued customers in the CNMI and Philippines daily service with our connecting service via our Guam hub,” said CMI Asia and Micronesia Director of Sales and Marketing David Kendell.
Customers who are currently booked on flights affected by the capacity
reductions will be contacted by CO to arrange alternate flights or, at the election of the customer, a ticket refund.
Continental Micronesia is headquartered in Guam and operates a Pacific hub from the A.B. Won Pat International Airport. A wholly owned subsidiary of Continental Airlines, Continental Micronesia employs 1,500 men and women and offers more than 236 departures each week between 23 cities throughout the Pacific Rim, the Micronesian Islands and Hawaii with a fleet of 13 Next-Generation Boeing 737 and 767 aircraft. In addition, Continental Micronesia and its code share partner Cape Air operate 86 weekly commuter service flights between Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Continental Airlines is the world’s fifth largest airline. Continental, together with Continental Express and Continental Connection, has more than 3,100 daily departures throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia, serving 145 domestic and 138 international destinations. More than 550 additional points are served via SkyTeam alliance airlines. With more than 45,000 employees, Continental has hubs serving New York, Houston, Cleveland and Guam, and together with Continental Express, carries approximately 69 million passengers per year.
Continental consistently earns awards and critical acclaim for both its operation and its corporate culture. For the fifth consecutive year, FORTUNE magazine named Continental the No. 1 World’s Most Admired Airline on its 2008 list of World’s Most Admired Companies. For more company information, visit continental.com.

Jun 13, 2008

Why does the Chamber oppose Tina Sablan's Resident Foreign National Act?

The Saipan Chamber of Commerce has come out against House Bill 16-86, the Resident Foreign National Act of 2008, introduced by Representatives Edward Salas, Victor Hocog, Heinz Hofschneider and Tina Sablan. Sablan described what the Act would do in Thursday's Saipan Tribune:

"If HB 16-86 is signed into law, qualified foreign nationals would be able to apply for an entry permit that would allow them the ability to be employed at will in the Commonwealth for the duration of their permits. This means that they would be responsible for negotiating the terms of their own employment contracts, including medical coverage, and for paying their own permit fees. They would also be able to operate businesses, and to accept, leave, and transfer jobs without having to obtain the approval of the Department of Labor. Foreign nationals who can show that they have maintained legal status in the Commonwealth for at least five consecutive years prior to the date of application; have a clean criminal record; have never been public charges of the Commonwealth; have sufficient potential for employment; and are not otherwise deportable, would be eligible to apply for resident foreign national entry permits."

Tina Sablan's full column in the Tribune can be found here. In her column, she effectively refutes the arguments that the Act would be moot because of federalization, that it would displace locals and other U.S. citizens, or that it would burden employers. In fact, she makes a strong case for why the bill would benefit the local economy.

Now, we can see why some people might have sensible reasons for supporting this and some would have sensible reasons for opposing it. But why would the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, which is supposed to be looking out for the interests of local businesses and the economy, oppose this bill? Don't they have an interest in stabilizing the work force by allowing a pool of qualified workers to stay here as long as possible? Could it be that Chamber leaders don't like the idea that these workers would have the right to transfer to different jobs, which would create a little more balance in the highly unequal power relationship that employers have traditionally enjoyed with their employees in the CNMI? Don't they realize that with the passage of the federalization bill, the special, artificial power advantages that CNMI employers have benefited from are on their way out anyway? Could it be that they oppose this bill because they haven't yet grasped the implications of the federalization bill? Just asking....

Jun 11, 2008

Poll: Tax Me, Tax Me Not, Tax Me!

Tax me. Tax me not. Tax me.

I guess the Tinian mayor was plucking petals to decide whether his opinion would go for taxing guest workers' remittances to their home countries. According to Marianas Variety report that this suggestion was in lieu of an alternative means to save local and guest workers to be retrenched from companies.

So cast your votes now on our newest poll ------------->

The Reveler

Jun 10, 2008

Welcome Rally for Feds?

It's in the news today that a group of non-resident workers will hold a "Welcome Rally" for the visiting federal officers.


Read further here...
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Jun 5, 2008

PSS Politics or What?

In the Marianas Variety today, the report announced that Education Commissioner David M. Borja finally gave in and declared retirement from post due to ultimatum from the Board of Education.

Present...Lucy Blanco-Maratita now chairs the Board
Past....Roman C. Benavente chaired last school year
Present/Past...Herman T. Guerrero, still a board member, now BOE Vice-Chair
Present...Mary Lou Ada now a member of the board with Galvin Deleon Guerrero

Past...two of the board members then wanted former associate commissioner Rita Sablan to be the Commissioner and not Borja, however, Benavente and three other board members (Marja Lee Taitano and Dino Jones) voted "yes" for Borja.

During the election according to Saipan Tribune, Maratita expressed disappointment with the process. She and Guerrero voted for Sablan. Borja became the Commissioner. Rita Sablan filed law suit against PSS. Procedures were questioned so as Borja's education background. The law suit remains in the court.

Now, Benavente is out, Maratita is the BOE chair while Guerrero is the vice-chair. Borja suddenly was given the option to retire or else would be fired from post. Marianas Variety said the reason why the Board wanted Borja out was due to loss of confidence in him to run the PSS.

Principals wept. Farewell ceremonies were given to Borja.

Now, my question is, does this mean Sablan will be back to fill the post?

Jun 4, 2008

Poll: It's Kilili...

The Saipan Middle Road poll ended with 187 votes making Gregorio "Kilili" Sablan win by 54 percent. Current Washington Rep. Pete A. Tenorio garnered 28 percent of the votes. Others took less than that. Both had a close fight in this poll's early run.

Since Kilili won our poll, here's his prize--a post of his public letter stating his reasons for running as a delegate up there:

Greetings friends and family,

I am certain that you have either read in the papers or heard from our friends and family that I am seeking election to the office of Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives.

I will formally launch my campaign for the position when I file my nominating petition. I will then also make public my position papers - my platform - and my reasons for running for the office.

For now, let me just say that I choose this effort because I feel that there is a great and urgent need to get our Commonwealth back onto the path that we as a people chose over 30 years ago when we approved the Covenant in a plebiscite by over 78 percent.

The Covenant sets forth our vision, hopes and aspirations as a people, and as a Commonwealth. It contains the promises made by the Federal government for our people - and by our people for ourselves: the promise of economic self sufficiency, the promise of self government and the promise of a Commonwealth people living with prospects.

I do not see these promises being fulfilled here and now. Do you?

We have missed important opportunities to promote and advance the promises envisioned in the Covenant. We and the federal government are at a crossroad.

We can correct these missteps or we can continue to flounder. I feel that this is the place and this is the time to redouble our efforts and to correct our course, to achieve what was promised to us in the Covenant. It won’t be easy and it requires close cooperation but I truly feel that the place is here, and the time is now, and for that reason I offer to dedicate myself to this effort.

Together, we can work to achieving our hopes, visions and aspirations for a Commonwealth that is second to none. I hope you will join me in our effort to attain the lofty goals of self-governance, of self sufficiency, and of a people living the American dream.

My name is Gregorio Camacho Sablan (Kilili) and I am running for the office of Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Very truly yours,


Jun 3, 2008

Does Taotao Tano office controversy reflect a Fitial-Villagomez split?

We've all read about the controversy over allowing Taotao Tano to use a government building for free office space. Taotao Tano was reported in the press to have been authorized to use the building by Lieutenant Governor Tim Villagomez, who was acting governor at the time. We soon heard from Charles Reyes, the Governor's spokesman, that it was improper to allow Taotao Tano to use the government building for free. Reyes, you will recall from emails that were leaked to the press, had a bit of an argument with Taotao Tano President Greg Cruz over the fact that Cruz was not given a job by the CNMI government. Cruz then called for Fitial's impeachment. This episode has already been discussed on the blogs, but here's a larger question: Do these events reflect a split between the Governor and the Lieutanant Governor? Was the Lieutenant Governor really behind the original decision to grant Taotao Tano the free use of government property for office space, or was his role not properly characterized in the original press reports?

Even if Villagomez's role was simply to forward Taotao Tano's request to the appropriate authorities, what does it say about Villagomez that he would even give the time of day to someone who was calling for his boss to be impeached? And if Villagomez had a larger role, what would that suggest? And would the Lieutenant Governor have become Governor had the impeachment effort succeeded? (OK, maybe that's getting too far into conspiracy theory crazy-ville.)

And another question: What happened to the chairs that went missing from the office after Taotao Tano moved in? Here's one theory: They were burned for fuel during one of CUC's many outages.

Translate: saipanmiddleroad.blogspot.com


About this site

This site is the Saipan Middle Roaders' blog--the wannabes, the frustrated ones, and the repressed ones...

There are several thoughts that have been written on paper, online or on the walls of every NMI building's bathrooms.

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