Guam – Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo Thursday chaired a hearing on a bill she introduced that would make technical corrections to the Guam-CNMI visa waiver program.
[CAPTION: From left to right, Assistant Secretary Tony Babauta of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Mr. Howard Willens on behalf of Governor Fitial of the CNMI, and Mr. Jim Beighley of the Guam Visitors Bureau provide testimony at today’s hearing.]
Bordallo Chairs the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans, and Wildlife.
H.R. 6015 would amend the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008, Public Law 110-229, to require the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to provide for an alternative procedure to permanently include economically-beneficial countries in the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program, China and Russia in particular.
This decision will be left to the discretion of the Secretary of DHS, but is meant to fulfill the Congressional intent of Public Law 110-229 to expand tourism and economic development on Guam and the CNMI.
Bordallo is quoted in a release as saying:
“This bill would require the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to permanently include … countries beneficial to the economies of both Guam and the CNMI. H.R. 6015 is supported by the visitor’s industry in both Guam and the CNMI and by elected officials from both sides of the aisle.”
Another section of H.R. 6015 would also require the Director of the Bureau of Economic Analysis [BEA] of the Department of Commerce to compute the gross domestic product reports for Guam, the CNMI and the other U.S. territories, as well as the Freely Associated States.
This year, the BEA and the Office of Insular Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior assisted the U.S. territories in developing and producing annual (GDP) statistics but H.R. 6015 would direct the BEA to permanently continue its efforts in estimating the GDP for these jurisdictions as part of its existing program and resources.
On that aspect of the measure Bordallo said her bill would: “ensure that Guam and the other territories and Freely Associated States are provided with gross domestic product data annually by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.”
Among those testifying before the committee were Assistant Secretary Tony Babauta of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Mr. Howard Willens on behalf of Governor Benigno Fitial of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Mr. Jim Beighley of the Guam Visitors Bureau. Governor Felix P. Camacho of Guam submitted written testimony, and Mr. Anthony Pellegrino, formerly of the CNMI Board of Education, also submitted live testimony via video conference from Saipan. Congresswoman Bordallo also acknowledged the presence of Mayor Melissa Savares of Dededo and Vice Mayor Robert Hoffman of Sinajana at the hearing. Mayor Savares and Vice Mayor Hoffman serve as the President and Vice President of the Mayor’s Council of Guam and offered their support for H.R. 6015.
The Subcommittee also received testimony on H.R. 4339, a bill introduced by Congressman Gregorio Kilili Sablan of the CNMI that would promote civic engagement in the CNMI through fellowships.