NMI Museum removes vegetation from Japanese bunker

Posted on Jul 03 2020

File photo shows NMI Museum executive director Danny Aquino being interviewed (KRIZEL TUAZON)

The NMI Museum has taken emergency preventive measures to ease the stress on the Japanese bunker’s roof located on its grounds.

NMI Museum executive director Danny Aquino stated that he had asked for help from the Saipan Mayor’s Office for a back hoe, but it was only available last June 24, 2020. To ease the stress on the sole deteriorating column supporting the bunkers roof, Aquino directed the removal of vegetation from the roof of the bunker.

“The Japanese bunker can no longer adequately support the additional stress and weight from the vegetation and soil, most especially after it rains. I don’t want to wait and see something terrible happen that may cause bodily harm or serious injuries occurring if and when the bunker collapses from the weight on the roof,” he said.

Aquino is requesting the Saipan local delegation for $750,000 funding to repair and preserve the Japanese bunker, the Japanese jail, and to close a pavilion for a climate controlled storage facility

He pointed out that the museum, Sugar King Park, and the Japanese jail are tourist attraction sites and the CNMI’s leaders “must determine if they share the same idea, hopes for success and the importance of preserving our history and culture and not use it as a talking point.”

Aquino said that when he first took over the museum, “I was ashamed that tourist, students, and residents had to witness a deplorable museum and historical building (Japanese hospital) and the lack of concern or interest from people with authority to act on realistic funding that was repeatedly requested by my predecessors.”

Public Law 10-5 paved way for the establishment of the NMI Museum and the same public law also designated the museum as the official state repository but fell short of appropriating money for storage facilities. “I have expressed concerns to our leaders with the power to appropriate funding that the museum needs increased funding. The Senate has yet to act on House Bill 21-52 that will provide 20% of the non-alcoholic beverage container tax to support the museum.”

Aquino pointed out that the preservation of these historical buildings does not end with a fresh coat of paint or repair spalling on ceiling or walls, saying it’s an ongoing process since each one of these buildings are over 90 year old. He said the NMI Museum is due for another protective coating of elastomeric. “Proper maintenance plan of any building regardless of age is necessary to avoid costly repairs, further damaging, or other problems evolving from the initial problem,” he added.

At its last session, the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation appropriated $38,000 to the museum, promising to provide the museum with necessary funding that will address the issues that Aquino had identified. Aquino said he was “very happy” that some delegation members reiterated their pledge immediately after the session to give the museum the increased funding it deserves to address repairs and preservation.

Aquino said that he reached out to the CNMI Historic Preservation Office to try and tap some of the $5.1-million grant that was awarded to them, but he was informed that HPO could not assist with any repairs on the NMI Museum’s historical buildings and structures because the $5.1 million was already committed and obligated for other projects.

“Mr. John Reyes and I have been looking for alternatives in form of grants to upgrade and enhance exhibits through digital technology and grants that are directed toward repairs and preservation. The museum is challenged but I am blessed to have flexible and a hardworking team of three individuals (James Macaranas, John David Reyes, Wenny Haruo) that are doing their best to keep our outdoor grounds and entire facilities clean, maintained, and preserved,” Aquino said. (PR)

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