April 9, 2021
The colorful concrete benches and tables along Beach Road were a hit for families that hosted their Easter Sunday celebrations last weekend. I am certain that beach parks and pavilions around the islands were put to good use for family gatherings and Easter Egg hunts.
For many years, the benches and tables along Beach Road fell into despair, many of them unsafe for public use and unsightly. Last Sunday, I saw a family of five, with bags of food in hand, settle into one of the newly repaired and repainted benches and tables. What a sight!
We are quite fortunate to be able to hold activities at this time as we continue to navigate the pandemic. More so, we have clean and safe facilities that are right at our doorstep with beautiful beaches serving as backdrops for Instagrammable photos.
Several months ago, a majority of our community facilities were in poor condition after sustaining damage from back-to-back typhoons or lack of maintenance over the years. It was through the vision of our Co-chairman, Jerry Tan, that the idea for the Public Private Partnership initiative for the CNMI’s sites began. During one of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers’ (GCEA) meetings last summer, we watched a video of dilapidated community parks and pavilions, public restrooms, condemned social halls, unusable baseball and softball fields and basketball courts, and many other facilities that are important to our community. These were the same sites that we presented our visitors as part of our tourism product.
We were able to see the true state of disrepair we were in after suffering the major natural disasters. We acknowledged the problems and decided to take action. For the past eight months, the GCEA, through the PPP campaign, has been engaging organizations, government agencies, private businesses, and other members of the community to come together to transform not just tourist sites but also key facilities in our villages. We know that what is good for tourism must first be good for our people. With our public and private partners’ valuable support – to name a few – the Department of Public Land’s Public Benefit Fund through the Fiesta Resort & Spa, TSL Foundation, Marianas Visitors Authority, Saipan Mayor’s Office, Department of Public Works, Department of Corrections – we set out to aggressively transform our home into a destination we could all be proud of.
The PPP initiative and the work that our partners do are aimed at providing safe and convenient facilities for all to use, protecting and enhancing our islands’ natural beauty, and making the CNMI a world-class destination – not through Intagrammable photos, but real and actual beautiful sites.
To date, 54 partners from the public and private sectors have stepped up and joined the destination transformation campaign and have adopted 48 sites. They signed up for a five-year commitment to help with continuing upkeep, and the CNMI is already reaping the benefits. The council is excited for what the future holds. When it’s safe to open our borders, our visitors will be thrilled, too, as we will offer them a better CNMI experience. In addition to our rich culture, we will have a pristine environment they can enjoy.
I give kudos to the families that spent the holiday weekend enjoying the beach parks and cleaned up after themselves. Community volunteer and environmental champion Max Aguon, who conducts cleanups around the island, would be very proud.
TOGETHER, WE CAN take care of our island paradise.
For more information, visit the GCEA on Facebook and Instagram (@cnmigov.economy) or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By MIKE SABLAN
Mike Sablan is the Vice President of Triple J Enterprises, Inc., a certified public accountant, and chairperson of the Domestic Policy and Recovery Committee of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers. As an advisory council for Gov. Torres and Lt. Gov. Palacios, the GCEA’s mission is to improve the quality of life in the CNMI for all residents.