Link: Pacific Islands Report
Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

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

Tinian Mayor Says Island Poised For Economic Growth
Dela Cruz calls for direct flights from Asia

By Alexie Villegas Zotomayor

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Jan. 21, 2013) – The island of Tinian is at the cusp of major economic changes if only its transportation needs were to be addressed.

Tinian Mayor Ramon M. Dela Cruz confirmed to Variety that another investor visited Tinian last week who may resolve the transportation challenge between the islands of Tinian and Saipan.

However, this proposal is predicated on the CNMI government’s making a serious effort at making the direct flights from Asia to Tinian a reality.

"This company is interested to bring in transportation of visitors from Saipan to Tinian," said Dela Cruz declining to name investor other than it is connected with the HW Golden Island Holdings Limited.

The mayor said, "They keep asking me whether we could give an assurance that a direct flight from Asia would happen.

Dela Cruz said he told the visiting investors that as soon as a request has been made by the parties for a direct flight coursed through the federal agencies Transportation Security Administration and the Customs and Border Protection, he said the mayor’s office "will support that 100 percent."

"We need the airline company to take that first step and things will start rolling," he said.

Asked what he needs from the CNMI government, the mayor said, "I am going to basically ask the governor to see whether it could push the CPA board of directors to find ways to make the direct flights from Asia to Tinian possible."

He told Variety Saturday that the biggest issue facing them is the "integrity of the departure terminal on Tinian" given its design flaws that ports authority is trying to correct.

The ports authority has been negotiating in court with the designer Leo Daly to address these flaws in the terminal’s design.

The mayor said that he would ask the governor if this could be expedited.

Gov. Benigno R. Fitial was on Tinian last Saturday to attend the inauguration of the 14th Tinian Municipal Council members.

Asked by Variety on what he could promise the constituents of the island of Tinian as far as resolving the transportation issue, he said, "my support."

"One of the basic requirements of a direct flight is ground handling," said the governor adding that he told the mayor to make the request along with the municipal council and that he would concur.

The request he was alluding to is for POI to handle the ground handling services at the Tinian airport terminal.

As to the airport on Tinian receiving direct flights, the governor said, "The airport is suitable. All they need to do is expand the existing facility to accommodate the ground handling support and operations."

He added, "The next challenge would be to secure the approval from FAA."

During his impromptu speech last Saturday during the inauguration of the municipal board members, the governor made his promise to cooperate with the Tinian leadership as the island is poised to make an economic recovery.

As he congratulated the new members of the Tinian Municipal Council, the governor said, "I want to offer my assistance, not only to them but to all Tinian leadership. I want to be part of this economic recovery movement on Tinian so together we can realize our mission to revive the Tinian economy."

He also expressed his support for the largest private employer on Tinian. "We will continue to support Tinian Dynasty as the anchor investor on this island."

He also said that they will "continue also to look for other tourist-related opportunities that will bring about the revenues that Tinian needs to continue sustain the livelihood of the people here on Tinian."

In reiterating his willingness to cooperate with the Tinian leaders, the governor said, "I pledge my unconditional support to make the Tinian economy "better and better and better."

Prior to the governor’s impromptu talk, the mayor, in his welcoming remarks at the inauguration ceremony held at the Natibu Park, asked the cooperation of the Tinian leaders as they work toward reviving the economy.

Addressing the crowd, he said, "Join me and the rest of the Tinian elected leadership in working together to revitalize our economy and improve essential public services for our people."

He said that he understood that the islands are faced with dwindling local revenues but he remains optimistic about their future.

This optimism, he said, is anchored on three things that is "abundantly clear: Our desire and commitment to work together; our desire to put Tinian on the road to economic recovery; and our desire and commitment to improve the lives of our people on Tinian and in the CNMI."

For the mayor, "Tinian has become a very exciting investment opportunity. This is evident from the number of investors that continue to come our way."

He, however, said that they must work hard and cooperate to address the challenges that have delayed or hindered their investors’ ability to do business on Tinian.

In facing the critical issues on island, the mayor said they need to create more casino revenues.

He said, "We do that by taking care of the Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino that has brought us this far."

He said they will need to bring in new casino-hotel operations and other tourist amenities like golf courses to create a true international tourist and gaming destination.

For the mayor, it may seem like a tall order on today’s global economy; however, he believes that their "combined desire, commitments and efforts will overcome the challenges."

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