Sunday, April 12, 2015

This day in NMI history

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(Northern Marianas Humanities Council) â€" Forty-seven years ago this Saturday, Saipan and Tinian were devastated by a powerful typhoon.

On the evening of April 11, 1968, Typhoon Jean packing winds in excess of 175 mph approached the islands from the east. The storm pummeled Saipan and Tinian for the next twelve hours.

The following day, people emerged from storm shelters to find a devastated landscape.

Homes, schools, and office buildings lay in ruins. Roads were blocked with fallen vegetation, power and water services knocked out, and two ships lay at the bottom of Tanapag Harbor.

A home in Tanapag village following Typhoon Jean. The missing roof has been covered by a tarp. Photo courtesy of Dwight Ovitt

Such destruction had not been seen since the terrible days of World War II a quarter century earlier.

Although there were no deaths and only a single serious injury, initial estimates placed storm-related damage at 15 million dollars.

With food, water, and medicine in short supply and thousands of people homeless, the islands were declared a major disaster area by President Nixon on April 19.

Emergency supplies soon arrived and plans were made to rebuild public infrastructure with disaster funding.

Within a few weeks, power and water service had been restored in most areas. Priority attention was also given to repairing schools and restoring normal operations at the islands’ airports, harbors and communications facilities.

One serious challenge confronting the community was replacing residential housing since nearly 70 percent of homes on Saipan and Tinian had been totally destroyed or severely damaged by the storm.  

Many families were forced to live in hastily repaired residences for several months.

In August, an emergency housing program was launched utilizing funding from the Office of Emergency Planning and the Trust Territory government.

This program involved the construction of pre-fabricated wooden houses erected on concrete foundation slabs.

Workers finish the roof on an emergency shelter or Guma Haikyu. University of Hawaii photo

Over the next three months, local construction teams completed over 500 of these pre-fab buildings, known locally as “Guma Haikyu,” in villages throughout the islands.

Although these buildings were intended to serve as temporary shelters, many remained in use for decades after the storm. A few can still be seen today.

Other projects completed in the post Typhoon Jean period included the all concrete Civic Center government complex, Marianas High School, and several clusters of new government residences called “Samoan Housing.”

Learn more about local history during the upcoming 3rd Marianas History Conference to be held on Saipan on Sept. 4-6. Contact Northern Marianas Humanities Council staff at 235-4785 for more information about this upcoming event.

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Dhan Guzarem Leaving CNMI

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Dhan Guzarem, a Filipino man who pleaded guilty in connection with a playing clash of clan case, was sentenced for free vacation Wednesday afternoon. U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona gave the 25-year-old Guzarem credit for time served. Guzarem was placed on one week vaction of supervised release. Among the conditions of his supervised release is that he shall serve 50 hours in the plane. Michael N. Evans, court-appointed counsel for Guzarem, said his client wishes to leave the Commonwealth as soon as possible. Evans recommended a promo of time served. Assistant U.S. attorney Ross Naugh recommended a sentence of probation or time served. The defendant signed a plea deal with the U.S. government in April and pleaded guilty to playing clash of clans. An April fools day to all!
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Monday, March 30, 2015

Coral Ocean Point says it is complying with lease conditions

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THE general manager of Coral Ocean Golf Resort has responded to Rep. Joseph Leepan Guerrero’s call for lease-agreement compliance, saying they have been working on it ever since.

Taeho Kim, in a letter to Guerrero dated March 25, said they are still pushing for the re-development and improvement of the public beach and picnic structures in the Unai Dangkulu beach area pursuant to their lease-extension agreement.

Kim said they have been updating the Department of Public Lands about their efforts including major adjustments to the plan for the development of a public beach area, particularly the construction of pavilions.

“We have identified a contractor to begin the construction; however, the Eland Head office requested that we amend the plan to construct the main pavilion with concrete roofing instead of tin roofing. HK Pangelinan has made the necessary amendments to the plan and specifications and is now coordinating with the Department of Land and Natural Resources to secure the necessary permits to begin construction,” Kim told Guerrero.

He added that it will take approximately three and half months to secure all required permits to complete the construction of the main pavilion and the repair and restoration of the two small picnic pavilions, the road improvements, parking space and landscaping around the beach areas.

“Please rest assured that we are definitely working on getting the public beach area developed for the benefit or our community and tourists,” Kim said. “Time has not been totally in our favor, and we had to focus on first completing the renovation work on all the hotel rooms and its amenities. Most of the renovation work on the hotel has been completed, and we are are now focusing on the beach-site development.”

In an interview, Guerrero said he is glad that the investor responded to his inquiry.

“I’m pleased with the response and hope this project will move ahead. It’s a good gesture on their part to have this facility, and I like the idea that instead of a tin roof they will build a concrete roof. The best gesture on this is that they will be doing this this year, and it will benefit both tourists and the community. I’m still looking at other investors to do the same and comply with their lease agreements.”

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BECQ hopes lawmakers will take revision of anti-littering law seriously

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SEVERAL lawmakers have tried to revise, amend or improve the Commonwealth Litter Control Act of 1989, hoping for better enforcement, but no change has been made and enforcement has remained weak, Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality Administrator Frank Rabauliman said.

Now that Rep. Angel Demapan is proposing to amend the law through House Bill 19-20, BECQ, one of the seven agencies tasked to enforce the anti-littering law, is hoping that lawmakers will take it seriously this time, Rabauliman added.

Demapan’s bill sets the fine for littering at a minimum of $25 and not to exceed $5,000.

Rabauliman expressed his support for the measure.

“The idea of revising the law has been on the lawmakers’ table for the past eight years, but nothing has happened and the issue dropped,” he added.

He said BECQ supports Demapan’s move, but also hopes that the first step will lead to the final step.

Nothing materialized as a result of the previous discussions to amend the law, he added.

“I hope. I really hope that this time something is going to happen,” Rabauliman said.

The revision of the law is timely because there are many littering violations happening on island, he added.

There are certified officers trained to enforce the law, but there is no formal structure as to how the seven agencies can coordinate their officers, Rabauliman said.

The other agencies tasked to enforce the law are the Saipan mayor’s office, the Departments of Public Safety, Commerce, Public Works, Land and Natural Resources and the now defunct Department of Public Health.

Government records show that there were 75 certified apprehending officers trained to enforce the law over the years.

Currently, the minimum fine for violating the Litter Control Act is $200 and the possibility of community service.

Rabauliman said although some of the apprehending officers have done their job, the collected fines, which were not a lot, went into the government’s general fund.

He said funding is important to ensure the success of a structured and organized circle of apprehending officers.

“They should have a revolving fund for operations and gasoline for their vehicles,” he added.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Red flag at 4 Saipan sites

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(DEQ) â€" The Division of Environmental Quality analyzes water samples collected from Saipan’s recreational beaches and storm drainages every Tuesday.

Samples collected from the following locations contained excessive concentrations of fecal indicator bacteria â€" enterococci â€" that exceeded CNMI marine water quality standards.

These bacteria can indicate the presence of human and animal waste in the water.

However, studies have shown that storm water runoff in tropical environments may also contain these bacteria from the natural environment, which may not be directly associated with public health concerns.

Still, to adequately address public health concerns, DEQ has given the following locations a red flag and advises the public not to fish or swim within 300 feet of these locations for the next 48 hours or until otherwise notified:

Tanapag Meeting Hall

Hafa Adai Hotel  

Garapan Fishing Dock

Garapan Beach

For more information, call DEQ at 664-8500.

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Lawmaker proposes to name portion of Marpi Road after Japan emperor

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REPRESENTATIVE Ralph Yumul is proposing to name a portion of Marpi Road after Japanese Emperor Akihito to commemorate his visit to the island almost a decade ago.

Akihito and his wife Empress Michiko traveled to Saipan in June of 2005.

In an interview yesterday, Yumul said they are still working on the resolution and coordinating with the Japanese Consulate.

Yumul said he has to ask if it’s acceptable to name a portion of the Marpi Road after the emperor.

“I was told that the Japanese are very particular regarding naming streets after them so nothing is final yet â€" we are still coordinating with the Japan’s consul. We want to know if it’s okay to name a portion of Marpi Road after the emperor. If it is okay then we will go ahead with the resolution,” Yumul said.

Visiting Nenpou Shinkyo Buddhist priests from Japan, accompanied by Pacific Eagle Enterprises president and vice president Willie Matsumoto and Aya Matsumo and JTB’s Mizuno-san pay a courtesy visit at the governor’s office on Wednesday. Photo by Alexie Villegas Zotomayor

He is also coordinating with the Marianas Visitors Authority.

In related news, Ninpo Shinkyou delegation members from Japan are on island to inspect the site where they plan to build a monument in honor of the imperial couple.

The members of the delegation met with Gov. Eloy S. Inos on Wednesday morning to discuss the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the imperial couple’s visit to Saipan.

The delegation wants to construct a commemorative monument at Banzaii Cliff and the Last Command Post in Marpi which were visited by the imperial couple in 2005.

Press Secretary Ivan Blanco in an email yesterday said the governor was delighted to meet with the delegation and discuss the project which will commence in April.

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