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Saturday, April 19, 2014

‘Despite many challenges, Rota still pushes through’
Rota mayor: Despite hardships, community still pushes through

Rota Mayor Melchor Mendiola speaks with the Saipan Tribune about what’s been happening on the southernmost island of the Commonwealth. (Thomas A. Manglona II) With 2013 coming to a close, Rota Mayor Melchor Mendiola casts an optimistic eye ahead, saying that “despite many hardships, the Rota community still pushes through.”

Mendiola said the most challenging obstacle the southern island has faced is stabilizing its economy.

“There are so many projects that the community wants to accomplish [but] unfortunately we are limited with our funding,” he said.

Despite this, Mendiola said they still continue to push through, citing a series of projects and talks involving education, tourism, and commerce that are beginning to bear fruit.

A good example is the road construction in the northern part of the island that leads to the Bird Sanctuary—a prime tourist destination. Although the paved cement road will not reach the actual site due to a funding shortfall, it will cover most of the road leading to it. Mendiola considers this a major accomplishment by his office.

The Office of the Mayor also recently opened its Aquaponic Education and Training Center, which aims to educate the Rota community on alternative ways to grow and harvest crops. The center was made possible by a $260,000 grant from the Department of the Interior. Mendiola said he wants to bring the aquaponics center into people’s backyards as a way to raise revenue. See story on Page 8

“This will really help our people in so many ways,” he added.

A feasibility study for the Rota east harbor has also been concluded. He said the study has determined that the harbor is feasible as an alternate point of entry for ships to offload their cargo. Cargo ships going to Rota currently use the west harbor, which often has rough waters, delaying the delivery of commodities.

Mendiola shared that the administration is now looking into developing the port and has yet to determine when the project will start. He said his office will work closely with the Commonwealth Ports Authority, which is conducting its own feasibility study on the harbor.

“We will see what is going to happen because right now one of the requirements is the size of the vessels,” he said.

A ferry service from Rota to Guam and back is also in the planning process with his administration and government officials in Guam. Mendiola said the service will “allow an alternative and probably more reliable mode of transportation.”

Education is also something that the Rota government is prioritizing, according to Mendiola.

Although education is not something directly under the mayor’s administration, it is something that they “support and provide for.” He shared that several of his staff continue to assist local schools because of the lack of personnel at both private and public educational facilities. He was also able to convince a Japanese investor to contribute $10,000 worth of scholarship every year for honor students who graduate.

“We have worked together several times and are looking forward to more opportunities to get our youth educated,” he said.

One thing the Rota Mayor’s Office is currently working on is the development of a trade school so that “we can start utilizing our local resources and manpower.” He noted that the Northern Marianas College has been working with his administration to set up the trade school.

“We want our people to be certified and qualified to work on certain positions, not only for us here in Rota but also all over the world,” he said.

Tourism and island beautification is also something the Rota government has checked off on its agenda. Several public pavilions recently received a facelift.

“We have painted and restored almost all of the pavilions around the island that service the locals and tourists alike.”

The island’s prime destinations for community events, the Rota Round House and Chamorro Village recently got new permanent stages where student activities, ceremonies, and fiestas will be held.

Mendiola admits that the island needs more sites for tourists to visit, which will result in longer stays.

“We need to give our tourists a greater reason to stay longer. We must expand our tourist destinations and eco-tourism so that they can enjoy more activities,” he added.

One project that is in the works is the “360-degree panoramic view” of the island. Mendiola said a land survey has already been conducted and this new project will be built on the islands highest point, Mt. Sabana.

With the year coming to a close, Mendiola has only one message: “In this time of the year there is only one message. It is about the coming of Jesus. It is about love. We must build up our senses in opening ourselves to one another and understand one another and be a greater, more peaceful community.”

Mendiola asked of the Rota community for their understanding regarding the economic situation the island is facing. He remains optimistic about the year 2014 and prays for more economic activity.

“I hope that we will pass this [the economic crisis] so that we can have better air to breath in. It is important for us to help each other. It takes the entire community.”

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