Local residents, Refaluwasch oppose bill to rezone Chalan Kanoa beach front

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LOCAL residents of Laly 4 in Chalan Kanoa and Refaluwasch community members on Saipan said they oppose House Local Bill 21-42, which proposes to rezone, from village residential to tourist resort, a stretch of beach front and residential areas from Sugar Dock to Chalan Kanoa Beach Hotel.

They said they will circulate a petition this week against the local bill authored by Rep. Janet U. Maratita.

The local bill is now being reviewed by the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation Committee on Judiciary and Government Operations, which has started to conduct public hearings on the proposed legislation.  

The delegation chairman, House Floor Leader John Paul Sablan, said the zoning office will conduct its own public hearing to give more members of the local community the opportunity to share their thoughts about the proposal.

During  the initial public hearing on Sunday at Laly 4, dozens of residents showed up to express their opposition to the bill.

H.L.B. 21-42 aims “to reduce the impediments” for tourist establishments to exist legally in Chalan Kanoa by allowing  tourist-friendly businesses to exist in the designated areas approved for their operation by rezoning the area adjacent to and westward from Beach Road, then south of Sugar Dock from the intersection of Beach Road and Knight Street to the intersection of Beach Road and Alupyang Place. This area will be rezoned from village commercial and village residential to tourist resort.

Lino Olopai, a resident in the area and a member of the chiefly clan of the Refaluwasch community, said: “I am trying to keep my cool, but this is an old issue that has been irritating me ever since.” He had already opposed the proposal the first time it was brought up about two to three years ago, he added.

Now here it comes again, he said.


 Laly 4 resident and Refaluwasch chiefly clan member Lino Olopai, right, speaks as former Rep. Juan I. Tenorio listens during a press conference on Monday. Photo by Emmanuel T. Erediano

His biggest concern, Olopai said, is that the Legislature “seems to have a habit of just shoving things down our throat, and I am getting tired of that.”

The entire area covered by the proposal, he said, is “sacred” not only to those who live there, but to the entire Refaluwasch community on island.

He said he was outraged to learn that there are residential and beach front areas in San Antonio going to Pacific Islands Club that have been designated as tourist resort zones without the local community knowing about it.

“There were several incidents like this that irritated me to the max, but I am trying to keep my cool. I don’t feel that I am given the opportunity to work with my own government to create something that benefits everyone in the community,” he said.

The Laly 4 area is very important to them, Olopai reiterated. It is one of the centers of local traditions with high historical and cultural values to the local community, he added.

He said there used to be an Utt or a canoe house in the area where men gathered and shared knowledge and stories long before the Spaniards arrived on Saipan.

This area in Laly 4, he said, was where elders conducted meetings, ceremonies and educational sessions for children. These traditions have been maintained through the years, Olopai said.

“We practice dancing, we practice music. Our elders who were still alive shared stories in this area,” Olopai said.  Even during the Spanish time, the local community in Laly 4 remained a center of traditional events, he added.

“Whenever we celebrated the San Isidro fiesta, our families from Tanapag would walk all the way to here to bring food, and help gather firewood and perform other tasks in preparation for the festival.  [It is the] same when our families from Tanapag celebrate San Remedio there, we also walked all the way to Tanapag and helped out,” he said.

Former Rep. Juan I. Tenorio of Tanapag said for the Refaluwasch community members, the ocean is their main source of livelihood. Their lives, he said, are deeply connected to the ocean.

“That is how important these [beach] areas are to us,” he said, adding that the “the entire community in Laly 4 and their Refaluwasch brothers and sisters on island oppose H.L.B. 21-42.”


November 2020 pssnewsletter

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