Despite efforts of some watersports companies to go around the rule to board tourists going to Managaha Island at the Smiling Cover Marina, the Division of Fish and Wildlife, which is implementing the new rule, assured that the new system has been smooth sailing.
DFW director Manny M. Pangelinan said he is aware that other boat operators are circumventing the new rule by boarding their passengers at the Garapan Fishing Base but assured that things are going smoothly at the Smiling Cover Marina, a week after the implementation of the new system.
“To me, on this site, with the people that are using this dock, things are going smooth[ly],” Pangelinan said. “I know that there are other people who do not want to participate [in] the program, and they seek other avenues to get…the best of the government, such as working with another government agency.”
A boat operator docking at the Smiling Cove Marina also said his operations are “okay and smooth.”
Boat operators in the CNMI have been divided on where to load their passengers who are going to Managaha, given the closure of the Outer Cove Marina at the end of September and requiring them to load their passengers at the Smiling Cove Marina, this time with a $3 fee per passenger. Some watersport operators have balked at this fee and have opted to load their passengers at the Garapan Fishing Base or other commercial ports, where they only pay the Commonwealth Ports Authority only $1 per customer.
“The boss used to dock at the Outer Cove but they closed it so we are docking here, us and the diving (tour option), because there is no charge here,” said one boatman who refused to be identified, while waiting for his passengers to arrive at the Garapan Fishing Base.
The $3 per passenger loading fee was set to maintain the transient dock within the Smiling Cove Marina, which is now being used to load and unload passengers, in lieu of the Outer Cove Marina, which the Department of Lands and Natural Resources has declared unsafe for public use.
Pangelinan said the insistence of some watersport companies to not use the Smiling Cove Marina only means that those who used to use the Outer Cove do not want to participate in developing or improving the facility that serves them.
“Those people who have been using this dock for five years has abandoned us because they do not like to be charged,” he said. “This facility is not used by recreational boaters, but only solely for those transporting people to Managaha, and those who are doing parasailing, banana boat, marine water sports. Those people, if they claim that they want to help, where are they?”
Pangelinan also explained that the tent that DFW put up after the first day of implementing the $3 passenger loading fee is the first to be put up for passengers since 2015, and that the tourists are walking on the gangway, and are not being herded like cattle.
“[An individual] said that the [tourists] are being treated like cattle. This gate [on the transient dock] is the gate that [passengers] have to walk through. This gate is secure. This is a gangway. This gangway is no different since 2015 and now.”
Pangelinan also said that he spoke with CPA board member Pete S. Reyes regarding the standardization of fees, and that he is hoping that the CPA board will discuss his concern.