A proper seaport would be the permanent solution to Rota's periodic shortage of basic goods and other commodities, a problem that has crippled living conditions of residents and normal operations of businesses on the island, according to Mayor Melchor A. Mendiola.
In a phone interview yesterday, Mendiola emphasized that the Rota community will continue to remain at risk of running out of supplies until a port capable of handling all kinds of sea vessels that can transport any kind of merchandise becomes operational.
“If we provide the proper port where ships can dock and visit us, then we are addressing the problem,” he said.
Mendiola confirmed statements of several store employees on Rota regarding the island's current shortage on butane gas and other basic goods such as salt, soy sauce, sugar, cooking oil, and frozen imports. He said rough seas hamper the delivery of goods to Rota, resulting in empty shelves in stores.
“We are forced to bring the goods by air, contributing to greater prices. The people are barely making it to purchase the items that they need,” he told Saipan Tribune.
According to Mendiola, they have been informed that the barge that delivers the supply of goods to the southernmost island of the Northern Marianas will arrive but the shipment always gets cancelled.
The last consignment arrived last month.
With stores running out of butane gas stock, residents are cooking outdoors using wood or electric stoves, which he described as “uneconomical” given the steep rates of the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.
“We need to seriously put in place the proper port facility before we can stop this nonsense fear caused by little rough waters, which is the reason why we would not be served,” he said.
Mendiola said Rota currently has one port at the west section of the island, where the rough waters are concentrated due to trade winds and the flow of the current, putting any expansion plans on this harbor out of the equation.
He said his office is waiting for the results of a feasibility study spearheaded by the CNMI Capital Improvement Project Office and is now on its final stage.
“It's just a matter of finalizing the study, we'll see the results, then take it from there,” said Mendiola.
Should the study reveal that the creation of a new port is the way to address the situation on Rota, the mayor said he already has the support of the Rota delegation and the governor.
Mendiola pointed out that the seaport remains a priority for his administration due to the island's pressing need, expressing concerns about the well-being of community members, particularly of the future generations.
“We don't want them to experience the same problem in the future, that's why we're trying to answer them now. We cannot continue to experience this,” he added.
The “solution” is not only limited to the expansion of the seaport infrastructure on Rota, according to Mendiola. Even air transportation can still be expanded as the available cargo services are still at a very small scale, he explained.
“The only door to a better economy is a port of entry. If we enable a normal operation through air and sea, then there will be better opportunities for Rota because investors would start coming in,” he said.