Govt withdraws support for Mini Games hosting

Posted on Mar 18 2019

The Oleai Sports Complex fence was left in shambles after Super Typhoon Yutu hit Saipan last year, while the Francisco “Tan Ko” Palacios Ballfield also sustained massive damage from the Category 5 storm. (Roselyn B. Monroyo)

The CNMI government has withdrawn its commitment to support Saipan’s hosting of the 2021 Pacific Mini Games.

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, in a letter sent to Northern Marianas Sports Association president Michael A. White last week, regretfully informed NMSA that the withdrawal is largely in part of the destruction brought by Yutu. Saipan Tribune tried to get comments from White, but he has yet to respond as of press time.

The CNMI is in recovery mode with Yutu wreaking havoc not only to houses, but also to business and other commercial establishments, gravely affecting the Commonwealth’s revenues.

“As you know, Super Typhoon Yutu caused major damage to homes, businesses, and our islands’ recreational facilities, while displacing many of our residents. Damage assessments indicate that the recovery period will continue for the next three years at least. However, with the low supply of construction workers to rebuild our homes and facilities, the recovery may take even longer,” Torres said in his letter to White.

“After conducting a preliminary assessment of our islands’ recreational and athletic facilities, as well as having conversations with you, the NMSA, and community sports leaders, we do not reasonably believe that we can host the 2021 Pacific Mini Games to the standards mandated by the Pacific Games Council.”

The Category 5 storm ripped apart the island’s major sports facilities. The Oleai Sports Complex, the proposed main hub of the Games, needs major repairs to its facilities, including the Francisco “Tan Ko” M. Palacios Baseball Field, Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium, Miguel “Tan Ge” Basa Pangelinan Softball Field, and the fence around the track and field oval and the complex itself.

Business activities on the islands also stood to almost a standstill, as hotels received cancellations from tourists in the CNMI’s main markets in China and South Korea. Inbound flights were temporarily halted, too with the Air Traffic Control Tower and other facilities at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport also suffered extensive damage.

Acting Department of Finance secretary David DLG Atalig provided proof of the slow economic activity when he informed Torres that there would be a 4.7-percent projected shortfall in revenues.

When the CNMI, through NMSA, submitted a bid to host the 2021 Mini Games, its proposal included the estimated costs ($1,160,000) of holding the event on Saipan and the government may be asked to fork out $250,000, while the rest will come from participation fees from the 22 nations and private sector sponsorships.

Meanwhile, Torres said the decision to withdraw the government support for the hosting of Mini Game was disappointing since the CNMI will lose the opportunity of being the only second Micronesian nation to host the Mini Games (after Palau in 2005).

The governor acknowledged that the Games does not only promote the spirit of athletic competition but also brings together the people from different islands in the Pacific.

“To [also] promote a healthy lifestyle through the celebration of sports and the human spirit. I wholeheartedly support the [PGC’s] goals and believe that this event is a great way of fostering our youth to be more active and engaged in athletics. Sports, and in particular athletics, provide opportunities for competitors and spectators alike. It unifies different cultures and backgrounds around a shared sense of human achievement, and it motivates people to better themselves physically, mentally, and spiritually,” he said.

Torres added that Yutu was really an unfortunate timing for the CNMI, but he assured that his administration remains committed to NMSA’s future plans.

“While the impact that sports and athletics have on a community and a region is profound, the unfortunate timing of Super Typhoon Yutu has shifted our community’s focus to recovery and rebuilding. It is our hope that the CNMI can host the Games in the future, when we can have stronger infrastructure, upgraded athletic facilities, and better accommodations for our athletes and their families. I look forward to working with you and our community sports partners on the future plans of CNMI sports and athletic promotion,” Torres said.

The CNMI government support is required in moving forward with the hosting of the Pacific Mini Games. With this latest development, it’s now up to NMSA to inform the Pacific Games Council of Saipan’s official withdrawal from the hosting of the quadrennial event.

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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