IT&E chief operating officer John Compton said their company went through the entire process and submitted all clearances to agencies involved before putting up a cell site at Suicide Cliff in Marpi. Called cell site on wheels or COW, the tower will be mobile within the area.
The COW, which has its own generator and secured by steel cables, can be seen just at the parking lot near the railing of the historical site where hundreds of Japanese soldiers and civilians jumped to their death during World War II.
Several tour agents and tourists called the attention of the Marianas Visitors Authority, complaining that the cell tower is not suitable to the place, which has historical significance to the Japanese and locals.
IT&E executive director of customer operations Robert C. Harrell said they have complied with all the requirements before the project started. “It is my understanding that we obtained all the necessary permits before commencing this project.”
“We were required to get the clearances, leases, and lands through all the required government agencies. The occupancy permit are from the Department of Public Lands and the Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality. Once we had approval, we set up site inspections,” added Harrell.
Compton also said the same regarding the cell site. “I can now confirm that we obtained all the required permits before we began construction on this site. This site (tower) is mobile. It is called COW for short.
“As we said in our recent press release on this subject, we believe that this site will serve the interests of our customers, visitors to our island and public safety interests in general,” added Compton.
Department of Community and Cultural Affairs Secretary Robert Hunter, when asked for comment, said their agency had no role in giving out permits for the cell tower. “As far as I know, we (DCCA and the Historic Preservation Office) played no role in the decision to permit a cell tower at the Suicide Cliff site.”
“The HPO does not have authority over use of property, even historic sites, where temporary non-permanent use of a site is concerned,” added Hunter.
MVA managing director Chris Concepcion told Saipan Tribune the tourists and tour agents visiting the Suicide Cliff were the ones who complained about the cell tower located at the Suicide Cliff parking lot.
“The complaints were basically that the structure does not conform with the historical aspect and tranquil beauty of the area. There is no electricity in the Marpi area primarily because it’s a historical and sacred site. Thousands of lives were lost here during WW II, ” Concepcion said.
“I’ve been told that the newly built cellular tower is on a trailer and is mobile, it can be moved. As such, they would, I believe, only have to secure permission from DPL. It appears to serve also as an advertisement board,” he added.
Concepcion, however, said the tower is wired and bolted to four concrete foundations in the ground. “Further, it is surrounded by a makeshift black fencing material and yellow caution tape which decreases the aesthetic appeal of the location. There is also a gas-powered generator attached to this tower which emits noise and air pollution.”
He added that he knows the cell phone service in the Marpi area needs to be improved, but asked IT&E to put the tower in a secluded area. “We understand the need to provide cell phone service in Marpi is important for safety reasons but we are hopeful they can consider locating their antenna away from public view.”