By Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Nov. 20) - Rota government officials and residents, in a public hearing, said they will not oppose Pacific Telecom Inc.’s $60 million purchase of Verizon, but called for better cellular phone service on the island and the abolition of the 15 cents per minute charge for inter-island phone calls, Variety learned.

A similar public hearing was scheduled last night on Tinian.

On Saipan, the public hearing will be held tonight at the multi-purpose center in Susupe, starting at 6:30 p.m.

The hearings are part of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Commission’s review of PTI and Verizon’s joint application.

J. Michael Fitzgerald, vice chairman of CTC, said the commission received only three testimonies on Rota last Monday.

He said Rota Mayor Benjamin Manglona, Senate President Paul A. Manglona, R-Rota, and Senate Vice President Diego M. Songao, Covenant-Rota, were all for the Verizon purchase — provided that PTI will improve cellular phone services on Rota and address their concerns on the inter-island toll charges.

"These were the only major concerns raised on Rota. We would also like to inform the public that the commission extended the comment period up to Nov. 30," Fitzgerald told Variety.

He said comments can be posted on CTC’s Web site, phoned in or sent through formal letters.

"We also encourage Saipan residents to attend the public hearing Thursday night," he added.

Visiting top officials of Verizon and PTI — including Verizon International’s John Dodson and Jose Ricardo Delgado, chief financial officer of Citadel, which owns PTI — met with Verizon employees on Tuesday night.

Antony Mosley, general manager of Verizon, confirmed the meeting, but said it is only a regular internal meeting.

The Federal Communications Commission recently approved PTI’s purchase of Verizon.

But PTI and Verizon still need the approval of CTC, whose members are appointees of Gov. Juan N. Babauta, who continues to oppose the purchase.

During the meeting, one of the employees asked Delgado on what he thinks about CTC’s review. Delgado replied that he believes in the integrity and fairness of the commission members, Variety was told.

November 20, 2003

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