24 Jan 2019

CNMI decries ban on Filipino workers

8:29 am on 24 January 2019

A recent ban on Filipino workers will have a negative effect on the Northern Marianas' (CNMI) economy, government and business leaders say.

Imperial Pacific International - CNMI

Imperial Pacific International - CNMI Photo: Mark Rabago

The US has declared the Philippines ineligible for certain worker visas due to overstaying and human trafficking concerns.

Many Filipino construction workers in the CNMI arrive under the H-2B visa programme.

Governor Ralph Torres said the decision would hit the US territory hard because of its islands' limited labour pool and remote location.

The Philippines is the closest country to the CNMI and had been the US territory's primary source of labour for decades, he said.

Governor Ralph Torres assists with the clean-up effort after Typhoon Mangkhut

Governor Ralph Torres assists with the clean-up effort after Typhoon Mangkhut Photo: Office of the CNMI Governor

Mr Torres has asked CNMI delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan to use his position in the US House of Representatives majority to safeguard the CNMI economy and businesses.

Lieutenant Governor Arnold Palacios said the ban was ill timed considering the CNMI was in full rebuilding mode following the destruction of Super Typhoon Yutu in October and Typhoon Mangkhut in September.

He would work with leaders to solve the labour shortage in both the CNMI and Guam, he said.

Meanwhile on the CNMI island of Saipan, the president of the Chamber of Commerce, Velma Palacios, seconded Mr Palacios' observation, saying the ban would severely affect the island's recovery and reconstruction.

Even before Yutu and Mangkhut made landfall, the CNMI was already suffering from a dearth of construction workers because of giant, ongoing construction projects for companies including Imperial Pacific International, Honest Profit, and American Sinopan LLC.

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