Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said he is expecting the U.S. government to eliminate the Jones Act, which would lift trade restrictions on foreign ships that are providing aid to the island in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
Rossello said he has spoken to members of Congress who supported an earlier emergency waiver after Hurricane Irma, which was much less devastating than Hurricane Maria.
The Jones Act requires that all goods shipped between U.S. ports be carried by U.S.-owned and operated ships. Lifting the law would enable Puerto Rico to receive aid cheaply and quickly from foreign entities.
"One of the considerations right now is the priority of getting fuel, diesel, gasoline, all across the island," Rossello said in an interview with CNN.
"Right now we have enough fuel. We’re limited by the transportation logistics, but at some point, of course, getting fuel onto the island is going to be critical so that we can have the major functions of telecommunications, hospitals, water, to be running appropriately.”
“We expect them to waive it,” Rossello added.
The demand comes after U.S. President Donald Trump reminded the island of its "massive" US$73 billion debt, which the territory "owed to Wall Street and the banks."
"Sadly," Trump said, it "must be dealt with."
The U.S. government said there was no need to waive the 97-year-old shipping law, claiming it won't help the island’s damaged ports.
U.S. Senator John McCain asked the Department of Homeland Security to grant the emergency waiver. Puerto Ricans have to pay at least twice as much for food, water and other supplies without the waiver.