Santos opposes proposal, says it’s lopsided
Tinian and Aguiguan Mayor Edwin P. Aldan has proposed a swap deal with Rota Mayor Efraim M. Atalig, in which Tinian will get the entire guest house building on Navy Hill, while Rota will have the whole guest house facility in As Lito. But Sen. Teresita A. Santos (Ind-Rota) strongly opposes the proposal, which she describes as a “lopsided exchange.”
In a letter Monday to Atalig, Aldan said the plan will enable both Tinian and Rota to operate their medical referral facilities more effectively and efficiently.
Aldan said that having one whole property for each municipality will improve operational efficiency and reduce costs for each municipality when all the patients are located in the same area.
Atalig asked Santos on Monday for a meeting with the Rota Legislative Delegation so they could discuss Aldan’s proposed exchange.
At present, Tinian and Rota share a building on Navy Hill for their respective guest houses that serve as temporary housing for their medically referred patients on Saipan.
Tinian and Rota also have their second respective guest houses at the former Valley Inn in As Lito due to the increasing number of inter-island referrals to Saipan.
Aldan said with the number of medical referral patients increasing on Tinian, which he is sure is similarly happening on Rota, he is seeking ways to continue to ensure that Tinian residents are provided a safe and sanitary living situation.
Aldan said since the implementation of the displaced patient program and the acquisition of the Tinian Guest House at the Marianas Medical Referral Center in As Lito, the leadership over the years has continued to make small renovations to improve the facilities whenever funding permits.
However, he said, they are not able to make the types of major renovations to their facilities that they would like because they wouldn’t want to disrupt the patients’ living situation on the other half of both areas on Navy Hill and at MMRC in As Lito.
Aldan said since he got into office in 2019, he has had numerous requests from both patients and the staff regarding much-needed repairs and improvements to both Navy Hill and As Lito facilities and the overall infrastructure.
He said with input from his projects’ team and their in-house engineer, they find it to be less complicated if they were to exchange their guest houses on Navy Hill and As Lito with Rota’s guest houses at the two locations.
With this arrangement, Aldan said, both islands’ staff drivers won’t have to be driving to two different directions to pick up and drop off patients.
He said with the gas prices rising unpredictably, they are seeking ways to lessen their routes and be more cost-efficient.
Moreover, this will allow each municipality to make infrastructure improvements without having to deal with the complexity of cost sharing, Aldan added.
He said this way, if Rota has funds and is ready to improve its guest houses, Rota won’t have to wait for Tinian to find funds to be able to improve their side of the guest houses.
Aldan said a contract for construction/renovation won’t be complete without both municipality business units being verified. With separate facilities, he said, they could renovate and improve their infrastructure on their own terms when they are ready with funding available.
In a letter to Atalig and Aldan Monday, Santos said the guest house on Navy Hill is only about a minute away from the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., where all their patients receive medical care.
“When seconds count, having your patients located on Navy Hill will be the difference between life and death,” said Santos, who co-chairs the Rota Legislative Delegation.
The senator said people’s lives should not be compromised because of belief that their municipality will improve operational efficiency and reduce costs.
She assured Aldan that Rota is also seeking ways to ensure their medical referral patients are provided with a safe and sanitary living situation.
Santos suggested that open and regular coordination between the two municipalities to plan and execute simultaneous renovations of one site first will be in the best interest of all their patients, instead of placing only one island’s patients in closer proximity to CHCC and ultimately will be transported faster to receive immediate medical attention.
Santos said all their patients that are referred to Saipan for medical treatment are equally important, and providing nearby housing to their patients who may require critical urgent care should be made available to all their patients.
Thus, she said, the current arrangements are advantageous to both islands despite what is detailed in Aldan’s letter.
The senator said she had discussed the proposal with their patients and people on Rota who have reaffirmed that this proposed exchange will not be in their best interests now and in the future.
Santos said the First Senatorial District, or Rota, has Capital Improvement Projects funds readily available to renovate and improve the Rota Guest House, and that they just need to coordinate and collaborate to complete this project in a timely manner.
She also questioned whether the municipalities have the legal authority to execute such a transaction.
Santos said she understands that the Northern Marianas Housing Corp. owns the MMRC in As Lito and that she has yet to see a grant of public domain for the Navy Hill property.
The senator recommends continued dialogue to further their collaborated efforts to renovate and improve their shared housing facility.