By Lori Lyn Lirio
SAYING it is long overdue, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands Department of Community and Cultural Affairs Secretary Robert Hunter expressed support to the establishment of a cultural center.
Indigenous Affairs Office Resident Executive Roman Tudela Jr. has taken initiative on ‘resurrecting’ the plan to put up a cultural center by asking CNMI House Speaker Rafael Demapan to introduce a bill reappropriating US$75,000 for the feasibility study of the indigenous cultural center and making the IAO chief official the expenditure authority of the fund.
According to Hunter, a cultural center plays a critical role as it will highlight the unique Chamorro and Carolinian cultures.
“It only makes sense since tourism is our industry. There are plenty of other places with beautiful beaches and great weather but if we really want to bring our visitors more than once, we need to highlight what is unique about this place and what is unique about this place is our Chamorro and Carolinian cultures,” he said.
Hunter used Hawaii as an example.
“You have to drive a couple of hours to get to the Polynesian cultural center and it cost US$85 or US$95 to enter but it is the most visited paid attraction.”
During the 19th Legislature, a bill was introduced for the establishment of Northern Marianas Cultural Center, according to IAO program manager Cris Ogo. He said the bill was never approved and the intention of building the cultural center died.
In the same 19th Legislature, another bill was introduced which appropriated US$75,000 for the feasibility study of Northern Marianas Cultural Center – was passed.
“It was passed before the actual cultural center is built. That money is available for that purpose,” Tudela said in an earlier interview.
He said the money is available for the feasibility study of the cultural center that was not approved.
Citing the Article III, Section 23(b) of the CNMI Constitution, Tudela said he is mandated, to plan for the establishment of indigenous cultural center and indigenous hall of fame. He said even if the bill for Northern Marianas Cultural Center was scrapped, Tudela said his mandate remained the same.
“The IAO, Carolinian Affairs Office and the DCCA will work collaboratively to establish the cultural center,” Tudela said.