‘Hundreds of bones still stored in warehouse’

IPI wants to finalize with HPO as to where to put the ancestral remains, artifacts

Hundreds of ancestral remains and other artifacts excavated from the site where the Imperial Palace casino/resort in Garapan is being built remains stored in a warehouse in Lower Base and IPI wants to finalize a plan on where to store them permanently.

Eric Poon, Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC’s assistant vice president of construction, told the Commonwealth Casino Commission during CCC’s meeting Wednesday that the remains are in one of their warehouses and it’s been there for quite some time now.

Poon said they have been talking with the Historic Preservation Office in a couple of meetings as to where they should put those remains.

Poon discussed the issue following CCC secretary Ramon Muña Dela Cruz’s inquiry as to where the remains will be finally taken or reburied, saying the indigenous residents of the CNMI are “very superstitious.

He said there is talk and belief among the local population that IPI is going through a lot of challenges in the construction of the casino/resort because the final disposition of the ancestral remains is “unattended or unresolved.”

Dela Cruz urged IPI to resolve that issue as soon as possible.

Poon agreed with Dela Cruz, saying they have high respect for the ancestral remains.

When asked by acting CCC chair Joseph Reyes as to how long it would take for IPI and HPO to decide on where the remains and artifacts should be taken, Poon said they had already had a lot of meetings, public hearings, and there have been recommendations.

It has already come down to making a final decision on where to put them, Poon said, as IPI is already conducting landscaping work at the project site.

He said they sat down with HPO three to four months ago. “We try to revisit what we have before,” he said.

Reyes told Poon to inform CCC as soon as IPI and HPO make a final decision.

CCC executive director Edward Deleon Guerrero said that, based on the sketch or layout of the casino/resort project, there was a section that was proposed for the permanent interment of the remains.

Subsequent to that, Deleon Guerrero said, there were discussions regarding the danger of the remains being washed out to sea due to future typhoons.

Deleon Guerrero said he will invite HPO to the next CCC meeting so it could explain to them what is their current decision on the remains.

He noted that there were over 300 ancestral remains that were also recovered from the same area during an excavation before the IPI project.

Deleon Guerrero said he understands that the government is assessing its current policy in reference to maybe finding a central location to house all ancestral remains and items, rather than in scattered burial sites.

He said it makes sense to find a location dedicated as a sacred ground, where every archeological findings from various locations on Saipan can be centralized in a museum.

He said there should be an actual area where the Marianas Visitors Authority, the CNMI Museum, and the Indigenous Affairs can all work together and declare it a sacred place.

Deleon Guerrero did clarify that this is merely his unofficial view on the matter.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com
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