‘We are going to work our heart out to make a dream of building a new terminal on Saipan a reality’
Kimberlyn King-Hinds was re-elected chair of the Commonwealth Ports Authority board during an election of officers at the As Paris Restaurant on Rota Friday morning.
Roman T. Tudela Sr. was elected vice chair and former Saipan senator Thomas P. Villagomez was chosen secretary.
The board’s committees assignments remain on status quo, except for the financial affairs committee, which will be now be chaired by Ramon Tebuteb.
Barrie C. Toves chairs the airport facilities committee, Pete P. Reyes chairs the seaport facilities committee, and Joseph Diaz chairs the personnel affairs committee.
The biggest and most critical issue the new board faces is the planned construction of a new terminal to replace the aging and antiquated terminal of the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport.
King-Hinds said yesterday that the Saipan airport is perhaps one of the most, if not the most, critical economic infrastructure in the CNMI. With the CNMI having a tourism driven economy, that means the airport is the first and last impression of the Commonwealth.
King-Hinds said the terminal is clearly deteriorating.
The chair noted that many industry partners have expressed the need for CPA to get with the times and meet the industry demand of providing an environment that’s conducive to a good traveling experience. Yet CPA doesn’t have the money and neither does the CNMI government.
“But saying we don’t have the money to fix the problem is not an option,” King-Hinds said. “We believe the time [to build a new terminal] has come. We are daring to dream. And we are going to work our heart out to make that dream a reality.”
King-Hinds said she also wants to see the completion of the Tinian international airport. CPA is eyeing the money from the divert airfield project to federalize the terminal, build a hangar, and a fuel storage facility.
“It’s a little tricky right now because we don’t have the hotel rooms and so we are so cautious on spending those funds,” she said.
King-Hinds said she knows there are people who believe in the idea of “build it and they will come”—a popular line from the movie Field of Dreams. “I personally don’t and I believe that we have to be a little pragmatic,” she said.
She said they are going to build the airport’s capacity to welcome international flights, but the question is to what scale.
As for Rota, King-Hinds said there some renewed interest in investments on Rota and that CPA will work aggressively to heed the call of the Rota family. All the priorities are about infrastructure improvements and, with CPA’s limited resources, that’s going to be a challenge.
“But we are up for it and we are going to roll up our sleeves and work our heart out to make it happen,” King-Hinds said.
In December 2018, King-Hinds was elected CPA board chair, replacing longtime chair Jose R. Lifoifoi. King-Hinds is the first woman to chair the CPA board.