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By Agnes Donato

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, May 19) – Plans are now underway for the construction of a new Japanese temple on family land in Marpi that was donated by Gov. Benigno R. Fitial.

The governor informed Marianas Visitors Authority members yesterday that he had donated 20,000 square meters of his family's land near Banzai Cliff in Marpi for a new Japanese temple.

The Banzai Cliff area, where hundreds of Japanese soldiers and civilians jumped to their death at the end of World War II, is now the location of many war memorials and a temple.

"The plans have already been drawn. The money is being raised through private donors in Japan. This will be a beautiful, sacred spot for our Japanese visitors to remember loved ones who died here during World War II," Fitial said in the MVA membership meeting at the Hyatt Regency Saipan.

"I am very happy about this project and I look forward to this important demonstration of respect of peace that we will show to our Japanese visitors," he added.

The governor had announced his land donation in his first State of the Commonwealth Address last month. He had said that he wanted a memorial built on his family land to commemorate the 2005 visit of Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko to Saipan."I have offered my own family land in Marpi to build a memorial in honor of Emperor Akihito's recent visit to the Commonwealth," Fitial had said.

Japan's imperial couple made a historic visit to Saipan on June 28 and 29, 2005, to mourn the World War II dead.

The governor had also bared plans to build a temple and another Japanese memorial in the CNMI in honor of WWII casualties.

In related news, the governor urged local tourism industry players to help the government execute its "strategic five-year tourism plan."

The plan aims to enhance the CNMI as a tourist destination and to increase CNMI tourist arrivals to one million a year.

"Our administration intends to execute this plan in I close cooperation with our private sector. This is a shining example of the kind of public-private partnership I envisioned when I first took office. We need your partnership to execute this plan to bring results for the people of the Commonwealth," he said.

May 19, 2006

Saipan Tribune

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