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By Lindablue F. Romero

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (September 9, 1998 - Saipan Tribune)---The Commonwealth Ports Authority is set to carry out the expansion of West Tinian Airport in preparation for the arrival of more tourists on the island, according to Carlos H. Salas, Executive Director of CPA.

The interim expansion will include the passenger and baggage areas as well as the hold room area, according to Salas.

However, the financially troubled ports authority cannot carry out the full expansion of the West Tinian Airport runway yet, pending the completion of a feasibility study on the gaming industry and the airport.

Expansion of the airport runway from 6,500 feet to 8,500 feet to accommodate bigger aircraft will cost about $20.2 million, while the terminal building and jetway will cost $24 million.

This data developed as Salas urged Tinian local officials to help Mobil Oil Company in setting up a fuel facility on the island. Mobil has expressed willingness to establish the needed facility on Tinian, but the firm wants an assurance that the planned Taipei-Tinian service of Continental Micronesia will not be cut short --to enable Mobil to recoup its investment.

Continental Micronesia has expressed willingness to provide a direct flight between Taipei and Tinian if a fuel facility is built on the island.

At least four foreign firms have expressed willingness to assist in expanding the airport on a turnkey basis, but the ports authority has yet to issue a request for proposals on the planned development.

At the same time, the ports authority wants to make sure that its finances would be enough to pay for the airport expansion.

Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino has blamed the failure of the NMI government to carry out improvement of the Tinian West Airport as one of the reasons why it has incurred huge operating losses.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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