Lawmakers hoping for a more permanent facility

Posted on May 18 2020

Lawmakers check out Friday the Alternative Care Site being built at the Kanoa Resort in Susupe. (IVA MAURIN)

Lawmakers expressed hope Friday for a more permanent facility in the CNMI during a tour of the Alternative Care Site that is in the middle of being built at the Kanoa Resort in Susupe.

The site—intended to treat persons under investigation for COVID-19 and houses, among others, a pharmacy, staff room, and a zone for patients with active cases—is expected to be completed this Friday, May 22.

While impressed with the site, House Health Committee chair Rep. Jose Itibus (R-Saipan) hopes that the community actually never gets to use the facility.

The site is being built to handle any possible spike in the number of coronavirus cases in the CNMI, as means not to overwhelm the lone hospital on Saipan, the Commonwealth Health Center. The CNMI currently has seven active cases, with 21 cases overall, which is relatively low compared with the rest of the world.
“I’m hoping that in the end, we’re not going to use these facilities. I’m not excited because we have this facility. I’ll be more excited if we don’t use these facilities,” Itibus said.

While recognizing that there is an agreement between the federal government, the CNMI government, and the hotel owners on the use of the facility as an Alternative Care Site, Itibus said it would be a great idea if the facility could be converted later into a government clinic facility.

Echoing this concern is Rep. Ralph Yumul (R-Saipan), who, while impressed by the size of the facility, also hopes for a more permanent similar facility in the CNMI.

“I brought up the concern of an actual permanent site rather than spending all this amount of money, just for [a] temporary [site]. We don’t know how long [the pandemic] is going to last so my concern is, basically, the future, beyond July, December, [or] whatever that date is,” Yumul said.

At the tour, lawmakers were able to raise questions with COVID-19 Task Force chair Warren Villagomez, governor’s authorized representative Patrick Guerrero, Helios Energy Group president Jesse V. Sablan, GUMA Architects LLC’s Samuel McPhetres, and TanHoldings vice president Alex Sablan.

Rep. Tina Sablan (Ind-Saipan) said that the tour was informative and that she appreciated the opportunity to tour the facility, and to ask questions.

For Senate vice president Jude Hofschneider (R-Tinian), the facility is a “display of cooperation at the ultimate level.”

“Based on what we hear from the engineers, and the chairman of the Task Force, the governor’s authorized representative, and of course, the property operator, it appears that the CNMI is way ahead in terms of planning on how to combat the [COVID-19] in the event that we have a spread, although we have minimal amount based on what is expected,” Hofschneider said.

“[This speaks of] the level of response and the decisions that were made by the administration, the task force, and all the other agencies that came into play,” he added.

A month ago, the Federal Emergency Management Agency projected that the peak of COVID-19 cases in the CNMI will be in late-May to mid-June.

Iva Maurin | Correspondent
Iva Maurin is a communications specialist with environment and community outreach experience in the Philippines and in California. She has a background in graphic arts and is the Saipan Tribune’s community and environment reporter. Contact her at
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