Marianas Variety

Last updateTue, 15 Oct 2019 12am

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    Monday, October 14, 2019-2:58:41P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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MVA to government: Prioritize tourism

TOURISM is the islands’ only industry and should be prioritized by the CNMI government, Marianas Visitors Authority board member Viola Alepuyo said in a board meeting on Monday.

The government now owes MVA $5.7 million in hotel occupancy tax collections.

“Maybe what we need to do is to impress upon every one up on the hill that we have a one-legged economy,” Alepuyo said. “If we cut that off, then we don’t have to worry about having a budget hearing for the next fiscal year because there won’t be a budget.”

MVA board chairwoman Marian Aldan-Pierce said they will meet with the Department of Finance and lawmakers this week.

She said MVA is already dipping into its reserved funds even as its off-shore accounts or payables continue to increase.

“We need to have an agreement with the central government,” she added. “We need to get paid because there’s no way that we’re going to be able to make it up,” Aldan-Pierce said, referring to the hotel occupancy tax collections that the central government is supposed to remit to MVA.

MVA board member Jerry Tan said they should send a “clear message” to the central government, adding that if MVA fails to pay its vendors on time, the CNMI’s promotion and marketing efforts will be scaled down significantly.

Aldan-Pierce said MVA’s contracts with off-shore vendors are based on availability of funds. “The funds are there. But we did not receive them. I think we are still liable.”

Alepuyo said MVA can’t afford to terminate its contracts with overseas vendors that promote the CNMI. “We need tourists in order to generate income. If we don’t generate income then [the government doesn’t] get paid. So how do we address the problem?”

MVA chief accountant Joanne Paraiso reported that the last remittance from the Department of Finance amounted to $250,000. This was in July, she added.

She said MVA’s budget is now always short by about $300,000 every month even though all their programs have been cut down and management is not going beyond the projected expenses.

This month, she added, they owe over $1 million to MVA’s off-shore vendors and have paid only $250,000 of the amount.