DESPITE THOUSANDS COLLECTED FROM TOURISTS
For several years now, the Commonwealth Ports Authority has been collecting $1 from each Tasi Tours’ customers who go to Managaha Island, with the money intended to be used to maintain the seaplane ramp and dock in Lower Base.
Yet that has never happened.
CPA has not been doing any repairs on the seaplane ramp at all, with the area pockmarked with potholes and mud, and an eyesore for tourists wanting to see the pristine jewel that is Managaha.
That prompted CPA board member Barrie Toves to admit at the CPA committee on Seaport Facilities’ meeting last Friday that CPA “dropped the ball.”
Saying that CPA has collected at least $293,099 from Tasi Tours’ customers over the years, committee chair Pete Reyes urged the CPA management to fix the seaplane ramp and the road leading to it quickly.
CPA executive director Christopher S. Tenorio confirmed that funding is available—the collected fee is enough to repair the road in the area—to which Reyes said, “Let’s do this.”
Tasi Tours recently asked CPA to waive the $1 facility fee at the seaplane ramp until such time that repairs have been done to the facility.
Tasi Tours complained that it is also unfair to their customers that they are only visitors to Managaha who have to pay such a fee, while other customers who are ferried to Managaha from Outer Cove Marina are not required to pay a similar fee.
In a letter addressed to the CPA board, Tasi Tours president Masato Tezuka said, “We are struggling to the best we could to revive the Japanese market to Saipan and, as much as possible, we want to provide our customers the best service they deserve.”
According to Tasi Tours, the pier is covered with muddy water during heavy rains. On sunny days, the mud becomes dust and it swirls in the wind, covering their guests with silt and choking them.
“Frankly, we are embarrassed that tourists have to be taken to this unpleasant place to board a boat in order to visit the beautiful Managaha Islands,” Tezuka said.
Tasi Tours’ customers who go to Managaha board a boat at the Pacific Subsea dock in Lower Base. The dock is on the north side of the seaplane ramp.
Tasi Tours said the ramp had fallen into disrepair by 2008, and this prompted CPA that year to collect a $1 fee per passenger to fund the renovation of the ramp and the dock.
Tasi Tours paid the fee for five years (from October 2017 to February 2012), but CPA never performed the necessary renovation work.
As the condition of the ramp had become a hazard to buses and customers, Tasi Tours took it upon itself to repair the road by filling the potholes and paving some areas.
Because of this work, Tasi Tours asked CPA to waive the fee. CPA agreed and the waiver lasted from February 2012 to February 2013. The waiver was then extended to June 2014.
CPA resumed collecting the fee after that.
Yet despite the fact that Tasi Tours has paid the fee for the past six years, CPA still has not repaired the ramp and the dock.
Tasi Tours told the CPA board that it is unfair to require their customers to pay a fee for a facility that is in such a state of disrepair.
“If that promise had been kept, after collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars, the seaplane ramp would be in a beautiful condition than it is today,” Tezuka said in his letter.
During Friday’s committee meeting, Toves gave a historical overview of the issue, having been part of the board in 2008 when this issue first came up.
He said that when Tasi Tours first asked for the fee waiver, they approved the first request, then granted an extension request. “In 2014, we reverted back to assessing the fee until the present,” he said.
In that five-year period, CPA has not made any progress to fix the road.
“Now they are coming back again, asking us for a waiver,” Toves said, adding that CPA should make a plan, execute it, and fix the road.
“I understand where they [Tasi Tours] are coming from. They have tourists coming in; the facility is the first impression. And we want to help boost up tourism activities,” he said.
Toves said it is incumbent upon CPA to look into this further because it is something that needs to be addressed, that CPA is collecting the money for this purpose, so it is incumbent upon CPA to use the money to fix the road.
“…We dropped the ball. We have to be mature enough to accept the fact that we did,” he said.
CPA board vice chair Roman Tudela said that even if CPA is not collecting any money, if the road is CPA’s responsibility, then CPA should fix the road.
“If we have the money and it is our responsibility, it is incumbent upon CPA to fix it,” Tudela pointed out.
Reyes said this is something that they need to do quickly.
“I don’t think a waiver would be necessary. We can go ahead and act on fixing the road,” Reyes said. “That being our property, let’s fix it.”
Reyes told Tenorio to get CPA engineers to determine how much the repair will cost and, as soon as possible, issue a request for proposals, and get the repair done.
Tenorio was directed to provide the information before the next CPA board committee meeting.
Reyes also instructed Tenorio to communicate with Tasi Tours and inform them that they are going to “take the bull by the horn” and that they are going to fix the road.