A solution for the lack of burial sites on Saipan in finally on the horizon as former House speaker Oscar Babauta said the Marpi cemetery would finally be opening at the end of August or early September.
Babauta, who is spearheading the opening of the public cemetery, said that there isn’t “any timetable set yet,” but acknowledged that he is working with a committee to address the opening and technical details of the northern cemetery.
“It was turned over to the government in 2012 since then it was put into law for the general public’s usage. I am correctly working and coordinating on the opening of the public, which would probably happen at the end of August or early September, but there isn’t attentive dates,” Babauta said.
“I am now working on small technical issues in regards to the public cemetery. Some include the power system that would upgrade the well and the services through an irrigation system. I am also awaiting on the Department of Public Works for the design of a generator house and security fencing of the facilities that are there,” he added.
The security fence would protect the pump house and a deep well located at the cemetery. Babauta said that the reasons for these is that the administration required the cemetery to be “well-kept and secured.”
“We’re currently working on all technical issues and despite not having a specific time date, we don’t know when the technical issues would be resolved,” he said.
Marianne Concepcion-Teregeyo, special adviser to the Department of Land and Natural Resources secretary/grants program, said that DLNR, Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.’s Division of Public Health’s Bureau of Environmental Health, and other government agencies are working on the matter. However, Babauta is leading the project.
“We’re happy to finally move forward with the project,” Teregeyo said.
The Marpi public cemetery is supposed to be a non-denominational public cemetery and has 2,500 double-stack occupancy crypts for a total of 5,000 burials. The cemetery is said to have the potential to provide over 50,000 crypts for 33 years.
The $2.9-million Marpi public cemetery was made possible by funding from the U.S. Department of the Interior through a capital improvement project grant in early 2011.
DLNR, through Public Law 11-117, has a freehold interest in public land situated in the Marpi area. There are three lots adjacent to the Veteran’s Cemetery and surround the Veteran’s Cemetery itself that is eyed for the project.
DLNR is tasked with the maintenance of the cemetery, while DPH is tasked with the burial applications and collection fees.
A 15-year-old law—Public Law 11-117—designates DPH as the main administrator and is tasked to manage the public cemetery. PL 11-117 puts the responsibility of application requirements, approval, issuance, and fee for burial permits. Fees cannot exceed $50, and may be waived for indigent families and for unclaimed bodies.
DPH can also include conditions on burial permits that are necessary to protect the health of the public. Fees will be charged as well for exhumation.