‘Rota housing/utilities up 11%, food 8%’
Manglona: CPA fails to remedy repetitive violations of lease terms
Based on the latest Department of Commerce numbers, last year’s cost for housing/utilities on Rota increased by 11%, while medical and foods costs on the island rose by 11.3% and 8%, respectively, compared to the previous year, according to Sen. Paul A. Manglona (Ind-Rota).
The senator, who chairs the Senate Public Utilities, Transportation and Communications Committee, said the numbers provided last March 28 by Commerce/Central Statistics Division show that inflation caused retail prices to increases for all CNMI residents between April 2021 and April 2022, but the same report, which includes the Rota Consumer Price Index tabulations, shows that the increase was more significant on Rota.
Manglona expressed concern over the exorbitant costs that Rota residents must pay in a letter last Wednesday to Commonwealth Ports Authority executive director Christopher S. Tenorio and CPA staff attorney Joseph M. Hallahan.
He said CPA’s activities, decisions, and oversight over the years have contributed largely to the reality that Rota residents must pay exorbitant costs for essential basic commodities compared to other CNMI residents. Such commodities include construction materials, farming equipment, household appliances, personal healthcare necessities, and everyday grocery needs.
Inflation aside, there remains a tremendous disparity between Rota and the rest of the CNMI when it comes to consumer prices and routine household costs, he said.
Manglona attributes this disparity to the exorbitant cost of shipping and offloading goods at the seaport/terminal/facilities owned by CPA at Rota’s West Harbor.
He said that, according to Rota importers, such costs include the $7,000 or so that need to be paid to ship a 20-foot cargo container approximately 56 miles from Guam’s Apra Harbor to Rota’s West Harbor, and have it offloaded by the Rota Terminal and Transfer Co. Inc.
Since 1986, CPA has granted RTT the exclusive authority to occupy West Harbor terminal/facilities to conduct stevedoring activities there. Manglona said that RTT has been permitted to operate for decades, under CPA oversight, with nonexistent and/or insufficient cargo/freight scales or accurately calibrated, certified weight-measuring devices.
Regardless of blame or fault, Manglona said this scenario has adversely and unfairly impacted Rota consumers over many years and even more so in recent years.
Manglona said it appears dubious whether CPA personnel have adequately monitored the contractual provisions imposed and binding upon RTT, or adequately assessed on a regular/annual basis whether RTT has been in full compliance with its lease terms.
Equally disconcerting, he said, has been CPA’s apparent unwillingness or inability to conduct thorough and routine compliance inspections of RTT’s records, activities, and facilities.
Manglona said CPA failed to initiate prompt measures to enforce and remedy RTT’s wide-ranging and often repetitive violations of many of those lease terms.
Tenorio said yesterday that they are still reviewing the senator’s letter.