The Indigenous Affairs Office and the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs will band together to push for the construction of a long-overdue cultural center.
In a press conference Wednesday at the Indigenous Affairs office, IAO resident director Roman Tudela and DCCA Secretary Robert Hunter discussed the amount needed to start construction.
According to Tudela, the CNMI Constitution itself mandates that a cultural center be built, that the 19th Legislature approved a feasibility study for the Northern Marianas Cultural Center and appropriated $75,000 for that.
“…I’ve approached the House [of Representatives] and proposed that the $75,000 from the feasibility study be appropriated to the Indigenous Affairs Office,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the budget for the feasibility study went through but the appropriation for the cultural center was not passed. The money was put aside and now, here we are in the 20th Legislature,” he said.
Without the funds needed, Tudela said his office can’t move forward with the creation of the center. “Hopefully the appropriation is granted to us so we can start moving forward at least with the planning stages,” he said.
Hunter said the cultural center is not only long overdue, but is critical in terms of salvaging the tourism industry because it would set the CNMI apart as a unique destination
“It it only makes sense since tourism is our industry… There are plenty of other places with beautiful beaches and great weather but if we really want to bring our visitors more than once, we need to highlight what is unique about this place and what is unique about this place is our Chamorro and Carolinian cultures,” he said.
Hunter used the Polynesian cultural center in Hawaii for example. According to Hunter, it not only garners loads of tourists, but it is also one of the state’s highest paid attractions.
“Hawaii, for example, there are all kinds of things to do in Hawaii…but their No. 1 most visited paid attraction is the Polynesian cultural center,” he said.
Although there is still no source of funding to start the construction of the cultural center, Tudela said he has already taken a few of the necessary steps to speed up the process in case the funding is made available soon.
“I’ve approached DPL about finding land…I’ve gotten proposals from people,” he said.