GOVERNOR Ralph DLG Torres on Monday signed into law a bill that will transform the Commonwealth Development Authority into the Commonwealth Economic Development Authority.
House Bill 22-21, authored by Rep. Angel Demapan, is now Public Law 22-1.
Torres recognized the 22nd Legislature, his council of economic advisers, the Commonwealth Development Authority, Department of Commerce, and various stakeholders for their contributions to the drafting of the bill.
Demapan, for his part, said: “The Commonwealth economy requires a renewed focus on economic development and diversification to provide jobs and economic opportunity to a community that has been devastated [by] natural disasters, a global crisis, and the lingering impacts of the [widespread] collapse of the manufacturing sector that has resulted in volatilities inherent within an undiversified economy.”
With this new law in place, he said CEDA will be empowered with the flexibility to become proactive in the pursuit of industries and investments that will strengthen the CNMI economy.
“I am certainly looking forward to CEDA’s efforts to bring in new and viable economic investments to the CNMI, generate new and much needed revenues, and create new jobs for our people, many of whom have been displaced by the adverse impacts of the global pandemic,” he said.
The lawmaker thanked the governor, Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, the 22nd Legislature, the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers, the CEDA board, management and staff, and the Saipan Chamber of Commerce for their support of the CEDA bill as it was moving through the legislative process.
He also thanked the business community for its "enduring patience during these very challenging times.
“Amid the most difficult sacrifices we all face, our business community remains steadfast in their commitment to be a part of our Commonwealth’s growth, in good times and in hardship. As we navigate through these unprecedented times, we all share one common goal, a fruitful and more prosperous Marianas for everyone who lives, works and visits,” he said.
GCEA chair Jerry Tan, for his part, said, “I’ve lived here for many years and there aren’t many people interested in coming in to invest. The…Commonwealth is not really that big, so we should try to identify what other projects the CNMI should have or needs to have for economic development and also whatever development would be in the best interests of the residents, the people.”
He said the bill is more than just a name change; it identifies that the CNMI needs quality investors to complete quality projects in a timely manner.
"We look forward to working with CEDA,” he said.
GCEA member Matthew Deleon Guerrero, for his part, said, "The first step of a multi-step process is making sure that the agency that is responsible for economic development has the tools it needs to be able to do it well.... This is just one stage of that, and we’re hoping that we can continue this conversation to see how the Commonwealth can really be a partner and a driver of economic development in the future.”
GCEA member Michael Sablan said, “This bill will make a lot of important structural changes to how our government attracts investors. For many decades, government agencies have tended to do their own promotions and marketing for the CNMI…. What this bill would help do is coordinate all of these efforts so that we go out and work together with a unified set of incentives and see what we can do as a collective unit to promote investing in the CNMI.”
CDA Executive Director Manuel A. Sablan said the CNMI now has “all of the tools that we need to make sure that the economy moves forward...manned by professionals.”
House Speaker Edmund S. Villagomez and Senate President Jude U. Hofschneider extended their gratitude to the governor for signing the bill into law.
“I think it’s a good bill,” the speaker said. “Right now, we’re kind of in a downtime and we’re receiving all this help from the federal government. It’s a good time to also take advantage of how we can recover, reconstruct, and move forward with our economy. This is one way to get the economy stimulating, preparing for when things go back to normal.”
Hofschneider, for his part, said, “The idea of creating…a centralized agency for our economic development moving forward is something we all should be excited about... Now it’s time to put this legislation to work. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”
The bill was unanimously passed by the Senate and House of Representatives, and intends to establish CEDA as the “primary agency tasked with the economic development of the Commonwealth, and to be empowered to undertake this mandate with the flexibility to become proactive in the pursuit of industries and investments that will strengthen the CNMI economy.”
The new agency, once established, will allocate and expend funds for promoting the CNMI as a location for private investment, the expansion and retention of existing businesses, the promotion and marketing of local products, and the undertaking of promotional activities for investments in line with the economic development plan for the Commonwealth.
The legislation states that any use of CEDA funds for the promotional activities for CNMI investments, the expansion, and retention of an existing business, the promotion, and marketing of products of the CNMI will be reported in the annual CEDA Citizen-centric Report.
The report will include the budgeted amount and annual expenditure; purpose and action taken; the results of promoting the CNMI; and any other relevant information pertaining to those activities.
The measure also requires CEDA to act in consultation with the Department of Commerce in the performance of CEDA’s duties.