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By Agnes Donato

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Nov. 2) - Tasi Tours will have concession rights to Managaha Island in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands for 10 more years.

[PIR editor’s note: The small island of Managaha is located just off the northwest coast of Saipan. It is designated as a marine conservation area by the Division of Fish and Wildlife.]

The Department of Public Lands last week renewed the Managaha concession, which will be effective for 10 years beginning September 1, 2006.

Department of Public Lands Secretary John S. Del Rosario Jr. said yesterday that Tasi Tours already paid its concession fees for the first five years, totaling US$1.5 million.

Del Rosario said the concession renewal was a big step toward reviving investor confidence in the Commonwealth.

"The road to economic recovery has begun despite losses in revenue streams in recent years. Foremost is the renewal of concession rights of Managaha Island with Tasi Tours," he said in a joint statement with Tasi Tours.

He added that the concession renewal was in line with the administration's goal to forge lasting partnership with investors that have stayed in both good and bad times.

"Tasi Tours is a classic example of a partner with strong commitment to strengthening our ailing tourism industry. While most other travel agencies have packed-up and left, Tasi Tours built permanent facilities in the Chalan Laulau area for its administrative and other facilities. It is also committed to defraying the assessment and subsequent emplacement of boulders or other appropriate materials to mitigate erosion on the eastern side of the island," the secretary said.

Tasi Tours president Seiji Sato thanked the administration for its business friendly attitude. According to Sato, Tasi Tours is committed to helping revive the tourism industry despite the current difficult times.

"We are here for the long term and look forward to working with key players here to making the Northern Mariana Islands a premier destination," Sato said. He added that recovery would take time but "we will get there hopefully soon."

For his part, acting Governor Timothy P. Villagomez touted Tasi Tours' improvement projects at Managaha.

"Tasi Tours has begun work upgrade on such facilities as the reverse osmosis, water treatment plant and other facilities that would lend to making a visitor's day on Managaha a pleasant and memorable one," Villagomez said.

"This and other prospective investments now in the wings should accelerate economic recovery of the Northern Mariana Islands," he added.

Managaha Island sits at the entrance of Tanapag Harbor frequented by tourists from Japan, South Korea, China and other places. A world-renowned snorkeling site, Managaha is visited by over 60 percent of all tourists who come to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands annually.

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