Thursday was Day 1 of the Mariana Islands Legislature Association’s Second General Assembly.  Guam and CNMI senators gathered under one roof today to discuss important issues in the region, such as renewing efforts to open our skies to foreign airlines. 

Lowering airfare costs were also a major point of discussion, as Speaker Therese Terlaje said, "We’re hoping that will increase competition and decrease prices for passengers."

Donald Manglona, vicw president of the CNMI Senate shared, "In addition to that, it can also provide the residents of Guam and the CNMI more options to getting to places and traveling out further beyond the Marianas."

Today, Guam and CNMI senators renewing talks to improve travel in the islands. Saipan Chamber of Commerce director Alex Sablan shared ideas such as the open skies agreement and the cabotage relief, saying, "I think at the end of the day, there needs to be the effort to push the envelope with this subject matter, and fresher conversations within the white house, amongst the administration, and again I think this is a non-partisan issue. This is something that will help all of our people."

Currently, the cabotage law prevents a foreign carrier from transporting passengers or cargo from one U.S. port to another.  United Airlines is the only domestic carrier that provides routes between Guam and the CNMI.  And a flight ticket between Guam and Saipan can cost $500.

Terlaje added, "We need these travels to be accessible, more affordable, and to encourage more people to visit the region, go between all of the islands and really to increase commerce."

Guam delegate James Moylan and CNMI delegate Gregorio Sablan introduced legislation last month in congress to provide a special cabotage exemption in hopes to lower airfare.  But airport officials anticipate a fight from lobbyists, like big name airlines. 

Senator Jesse Lujan is looking to add more pressure with a unified resolution calling for a temporary cabotage exemption for the region, noting, "To go to DOT using the same argument as Puerto Rico to be granted both cargo and passenger exemption for 24 months for Guam and the CNMI and hopefully the body will come up with that resolution."

On top of the transportation issue, the two legislatures also discussed labor, food security and regional security. 

Tomorrow’s discussions are to be on border security and healthcare.