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Last updateTue, 18 Jun 2019 12am







    Monday, June 17, 2019-9:29:39P.M.






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Ex-Saipan mayor supports Babauta-Sablan

FORMER Mayor Jose “Pitu” Sablan on Wednesday announced his support for the Babauta-Sablan independent gubernatorial team.

Sablan, who was mayor from Jan. 1998 to Jan. 2002, said he was proud to endorse the independent candidacy of former Gov. Juan Nekai Babauta and his running-mate, former Education Commissioner Rita Aldan Sablan.

Former Saipan Mayor Jose “Pitu” Sablan shakes hands with independent gubernatorial candidate Juan N. Babauta. Photo by Emmanuel T. Erediano

“I’ve known John for many years, and I’m a witness to his many contributions to the lives of the people of the CNMI,” Pitu said in an interview.

The former mayor, who is now 70 years old, said he still has vivid recollections of Babauta’s accomplishments even before he, Babauta, entered politics.

He said Babauta was “instrumental in laying the groundwork for the commonwealth’s healthcare system.”

Babauta was appointed by then-Gov. Carlos S. Camacho as executive director of the Commonwealth Health Planning Development Agency which created the administrative program for CNMI healthcare.

“John had just come out of college at the time when he became one of those involved in the planning for the administration of the hospital, the biggest among the U.S. territories at the time, with 74 beds,” Pitu said.

The hospital at the time consisted of some of the buildings that are now  part of Northern Marianas College in As Terlaje.

Babauta was a CNMI senator when the Commonwealth Health Center on Navy Hill was built.

In the Senate, Babauta chaired the  Health and Education Committee  and continued to advocate for higher healthcare standards for the CNMI, the former mayor said.

He said he will also never forget that it was Babauta who helped provide the CNMI people with affordable telephone service on Saipan, Tinian and Rota.

When PTI took over Verizon, then-Governor Babauta asked that inter-island calls be considered local calls instead of long distance calls, Pitu said.

“I knew how determined he was to make it happen so people on Saipan making calls to Tinian and Rota and vice versa wouldn’t have to pay more. As a result of that negotiation with  PTI owners the CNMI got it,” the former mayor said.

He said the young people of today and their parents should never forget the 64 Chamorro and Carolinian men who served the U.S. as Marine Scouts during World War II

He said “through the hard work of John Babauta when he was the CNMI’s Washington representative, these 64 men were sworn-in and, at the same time, honorably discharged as members of the U.S. Marine Corps.”

Being inducted into and honorably discharged meant a lot to these men and their families, Pitu said. “They were owed recognition for their service, and for the risks and sacrifices they made in scouring for hundreds of Japanese soldiers hiding in the jungles on the islands.”

The honorable discharge also made them eligible for Veterans Affairs benefits, Pitu said.

“I was the mayor when John, as the Washington rep, made all that happen. He was also instrumental in searching for these individuals. Some of them are still alive to this day.”

Pitu also remember the first group of CNMI students who were nominated to U.S. service academies.

Before, Pitu said, it was very hard for any student from the islands to enter a service academy. But when Babauta was Washington representative, he nominated local youths who wanted to enter a service academy.

Pitu said Babauta’s signing of the Land Compensation Act in 2002 allowed some landowners to regain their land or receive compensation for the property taken by the government.

“That was another big contribution that he made,” Pitu said. “He satisfied a lot of people who had been waiting to get their land back or to get compensated. The land-compensation law solved a lot of land problems here.”

Babauta was governor from Jan. 2002 to Jan. 2006.