Members of the Historic Preservation Office review board have expressed opposition to a planned transfer of some historic latte stones on Rota to a new site, as requested by the island’s mayor, Melchor Mendiola.
Saipan Tribune learned that Mendiola had asked for the relocation of eight latte stone to a new site as a means to boost tourism on the island.
The proposal was initially opposed by the HPO review board during its meeting last week.
On July 18, Department of Community and Cultural Affairs resident director for Rota Henry Atalig notified the HPO about the mayor’s intention to transfer the artifacts.
Acting HPO director Mertie Kani told the board that Mendiola wants to transfer four stone pillars and four capstones of disturbed Taga stone to the Rota Latte Stone Quarry in As Nieves. She sought the board’s approval on the matter.
HPO board member Dr. Elizabeth Rechebei said the mayor’s wish is a “serious issue” that needs a comprehensive review by the board. She agreed with her colleagues that once a change is implemented at a historic site, this impacts the “integrity and character” of the site.
The board did not decide on the issue on Friday, pending full review of all information on the matter.
Kani disclosed that the Rota Latte Stone Quarry at As Nieves was registered on Dec. 23, 1974, with the CNMI and U.S. National Register of Historic Places, authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1996 as part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect historic and archeological resources.
According to HPO review board chair Tom Glenn Quitugua, there are rules and regulations pertaining to the removal of artifacts from sites.
It was also at the same meeting last week when Quitugua expressed concern about a wildlife conservation area being designated on Rota, after finding out that the site encloses historical sites that need to be accounted for and preserved by the Historic Preservation Office.