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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

CNMI Governor Extends Emergency Declarations Again
Utilities corporation, hospital facing financial crises

By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Dec. 20, 2012) – Northern Marianas Governor Benigno R. Fitial on Tuesday signed two executive orders extending, once again, emergency declarations for the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. (CUC) and the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. (CHC).

Fitial first placed CUC under a state of emergency in August 2008. The governor lifted it in March last year only to bring it back on May 18.

CHC was placed under a state of emergency on Sept. 25, 2008, but only for its in-house pharmacy due to the lack of pharmacists. In July 2011 Fitial declared that the entire hospital was under a state of emergency.

In his Executive Order 2013-17 dated Dec. 18, Fitial re-stated the earlier justifications for his previous emergency declarations, including the one for CUC that allowed him to sign the controversial no-bid $190 million power purchase agreement with Saipan Development LLC on Aug. 3.

In his latest E.O., he said there exists a financial crisis at CUC and a technical worker crisis as well. He also noted the lack of a board of directors, whose members are gubernatorial appointees.

Through the renewal of the disaster emergency declaration, the governor said "I intend to enable CUC to continue to provide necessary services to the people of the commonwealth. This declaration is necessary to protect the health and safety of our children, our senior citizens, businesses, and all other CNMI residents and visitors."

Again, Fitial invoked his authority to suspend all statutory or regulatory provisions as required and the reprogramming of funds necessary to meet this "emergency."

In the CHC emergency declaration, Fitial cited the hospital’s deteriorating financial condition and the citations from the federal agencies that may end its eligibility for federal Medicare and Medicaid funding.

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