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By Lindablue F. Romero

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (December 16, 1998 - Saipan Tribune)---The U.S. Naval Forces recently sought the assistance of the Marianas Visitors Authority in ensuring the success of the planned visits of hundreds of servicemen to Saipan beginning January 1999.

Lt. Nicholas A. Balice, Public Affairs Officer, met with MVA Managing Director Perry John Tenorio and Deputy Managing Director Vicky Benavente to seek more information on various hotels, golf courses, tourist sites and other facilities available for the scheduled three to four-day rest and recreation of the servicemen.

Balice's visit came after Rear Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert of the U.S. Pacific Command informed Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio that the Northern Marianas had been chosen by his office because the commonwealth is an ideal site for the servicemen to relax and unwind.

Greenert also met earlier with Commonwealth Ports Authority Executive Director Carlos H. Salas and Antonio B. Cabrera, General Manager of Saipan Harbor, to discuss sewer and water connections when the vessels arrive.

Starting next year, Navy vessels will call on the port of Saipan, which is expected to give the sagging tourism industry a much-needed shot-in-the-arm. Greenert has informed the CNMI government that two vessels will call on the port every other month.

Earlier, the commanding officer of the USS Juneau, a major component of the U.S. amphibious assault force, recommended a number of services which the CNMI could offer to ensure the success of future visits of Navy vessels.

These include the provision of a potable water connection straight to the port, improvement of telecommunications facilities, installation of land line phones to ships pierside and a cable television connection to the port.

Due to the downturn in tourist arrivals, many businesses on the island have closed down since Asia's financial crisis began in July 1997. Although a number of visitors still come to the island, they have drastically cut down on their spending, which has resulted in a decline in revenue at shops geared for the tourist trade.

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

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