With legislators being asked to craft revenue-generating bills to help the CNMI economy, Rep. Sheila Babauta (Ind-Saipan) is a step ahead with a bill that would introduce the charging of fees for access to a proposed Marpi Public Park.
Co-authored with Rep. Roman Benavente (R-Saipan), H.B. 21-72 unanimously passed the House in October and is now in the Senate under the Natural Resources Committee chaired by Sen. Francisco Manglona Borja (R-Tinian).
Along with the revitalization of the Tanapag Youth Center and the restoration of the Pau Pau Beach, the proposed Marpi Public Park remains as one of Babauta’s focus this new year. The park includes the Grotto, Suicide Cliff, Banzai Cliff Lookout, Bird Island, Kalabera Cave, and the Last Command Post.
“I wanted to move away from the band-aid approach and focus on long-term solutions [and] making a lasting, positive impact,” the legislator said. “I’m aware that long-term solutions take time. We just have to start. I decided to focus my efforts on charging fees for our tourist sites to support environmental protection and conservation while generating revenue and encouraging small business development.”
One massive way to generate revenue today is charging fees for tourist sites, Babauta told Saipan Tribune.
Saipan’s major tourist sites are a large part of Precinct 4, where Babauta is a representative.
As the north side of Saipan is a mix of private and public property, the challenge is to be creative in charging fees. The bill currently allows the Department of Lands and Natural Resources to develop the regulations that would govern the park, which would include the fee structure.
“By charging fees to our tourist sites in the north, we’ll be able to reinvest into our community and enhance the Marpi area, like ensure working restrooms and clean, safe sites for our tourists and our residents to enjoy,” Babauta said.
One of the proposed regulations would be the establishment of educational and community outreach programs, and training and development responsibilities, like tour guide trainings. The bill could also open up potential business and income opportunities from within the community.
“There will be a need for small business contracts, which I hope encourages our residents to start their own businesses,” Babauta added. “Our visitors want to meet our local people, they want to learn about our lives, and what better way to educate our tourists than from our very own people.”