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Rota Republican candidates talk about election issues

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ON Monday, Rota Republican senatorial hopeful Dennis Mendiola and House candidate Barrie Toves were on KKMP radio to discuss why they are seeking elective office.

Mendiola serves as the commissioner for the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services, and was the first resident deputy commissioner for DFEMS on Rota.

Toves is a member of the Commonwealth Ports Authority board, and has served in a number of capacities under different departments and agencies, including the Department of Lands and Natural Resources, the Northern Marianas Housing Corporation, the Division of Youth Services, and the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs.

"We understand that tourism is our primary revenue-generating mechanism now, and we need to diversify, but not to neglect [the tourism industry],” Toves said.

“We need to improve and enhance the tourism industry," he said, adding that this is one of his driving forces for running for office.

"We also have an abundance of natural resources on the island that we have not capitalized [on]."

Citing his experience at DLNR, Toves said export data showed that there is a great demand on Guam for cash crops, citrus fruits, and whatnot.

"We need to develop the agriculture industry," he said.

Rota Republicans Dennis Mendiola, left, and Barrie Toves. Contributed photo

For his part, Mendiola said a pertinent issue that Rota faces is the politicization of medical referrals for patients.

He said medical referrals must be overseen by Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. professionals.

"I think that the services will be a lot smoother because it's being handled by professionals," he added.

"There's no one magic solution to making the services 100% operable, but I think part of our plan is, if elected, my partner and I want to come together and work with the delegation and come to terms with what we need to do for our people."

Mendiola said the medical referral issue has been a part of the platform for many Rota candidates for years, yet it is still a cause for concern.

"I think that's part of the cry here on Rota specifically…I think we need to look at this and start scrutinizing the program a little bit more," he said, adding that there is a need to provide adequate healthcare services on Rota.

Another issue that Rota faces, Mendiola said, is that its municipal government needs innovation.

"Our government is kind of inflated. We've got repetitive services that are being rendered. I think what we need to do is…look at scrutinizing this and start coming down to needs versus wants, especially now that our economy is hurting," he said.

Toves said another top priority is the healthcare system. “We do understand that revenue is down and it's going to be difficult finding sources for us to continue the medical referral system…but that doesn't mean that that's going to fall onto the back burner. That's always going to be the top priority."

As for boosting the economy through the tourism industry, Toves said  CPA has been looking into ways to encourage more private/public partnerships.

He said  there are investors interested in the CNMI, including Rota, but local ports must be enhanced first in order to meet development needs.

He said infrastructure development and ecotourism need to go hand-in-hand.

"We also want to promote our culture," he added.

Another major issue on Rota is that it is so dependent on federal handouts, Toves said.

Rota needs to look into what it has to offer to generate revenue on a local level and assist its people, he added.

"Enough is enough," he said, adding that compromise and collaboration across party lines are needed to help the people.

Mendiola added, "We keep saying 'enough is enough' because we keep embarrassing ourselves on Rota with all of these negative ridicules about who's not doing what, but the truth of the matter is that everybody needs to come together now."

Toves and Mendiola said that if elected, they look forward to working with the central and municipal governments to help the people of Rota.

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