Lawmakers urge governor to postpone Saipan Marathon

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THE Marianas Visitors Authority board of directors has decided to push through with the 2020 Saipan Marathon on March 14, but some lawmakers are concerned about the “serious threat to the health and safety” of the community.

In a joint letter on Tuesday, Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao and Vice Speaker Lorenzo I. Deleon Guerrero asked Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to postpone the annual Saipan Marathon and the Tagaman 2020 Triathlon, which are scheduled for March 14 and March 21, respectively.

Both events drew over 1,000 participants from different countries last year.

Reps. Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero and Roman Benavente said they agree with the speaker and the vice speaker, adding that public health should be the government’s paramount consideration.

In their joint letter, Attao and Deleon Guerrero said there have been no coronavirus cases reported in the CNMI due to flight cancelations and seaport restrictions, as well as the governor’s emergency declaration.

Japan’s Noriyasu Oda crosses the finish line in the 2018 Saipan Marathon at Micro Beach.  Photo by Emmanuel T. Erediano

“We understand,” they added, “that there will be serious economic impacts as a result of postponements, but the consequences of the coronavirus spreading through the Commonwealth will be even more catastrophic and the welfare of the CNMI must always come first.”

According to Rep. Leepan Guerrero, “We wouldn’t know if one of these participants has Covid-19.”

In a separate interview, MVA Managing Director Priscilla Iakopo said the public health concern is exactly why MVA is partnering with the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. and the Commonwealth Ports Authority in ensuring a thorough health screening of every participant in the events.

She said MVA is expecting over 1,000 participants again this year. Like last year, many of them will come from Japan. “That fact tells us something — that these marathon runners remain confident about going to CNMI, which remains coronavirus-free.”

Iakopo said with the cancelations of flights from China and South Korea, which have the biggest number of Covid-19 cases, the CNMI can still rely on the Japanese market. The Saipan Marathon, she added, is one the events that help MVA enhance its tourism promotion in Japan.

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