House committee recommends passage of bill abolishing DPL

The House Committee on Natural Resources has pushed out a bill to abolish the Department of Public Lands and establish a Marianas Lands Corp. that would be governed by a board of trustees empowered with managing and controlling the public lands in the Northern Marianas.

The committee, chaired by Rep. Edwin Aldan (Ind-Tinian), recommended the passage of House Bill 19-82, with amendments, in a standing committee report on Aug. 12.

The amendment deletes an earlier provision that essentially gave the governor the power to appoint the five-member board with advice and consent of the Senate.

The original provision allowed for one member to be from Rota, another from Tinian, and three from Saipan.

The bill now provides a board made up of one resident from the First Senatorial District, or Rota, appointed by the Rota mayor, one resident, from the Second Senatorial District, or Tinian, appointed by the Tinian mayor, one member from the Third Senatorial District, or Saipan and the Northern Islands, appointed by the Saipan mayor, and another member from the Third Senatorial District appointed by the Northern Islands mayor, and “one resident of the Commonwealth at large” to be selected by the governor with advice and consent of the Senate.

In their report, the committee cites the law, or Public Law 15-2, that abolished the Marianas Public Lands Authority to create the Department of Public Lands, transferring the power to manage and administer CNMI public land to the Executive Branch.

The committee noted that the public law established an advisory board comprised of five members from each senatorial district and the CNMI at large by the mayors and governor.

However, the committee believes DPL has been operating and making independent decisions on matters that are directly related to public land management without the presence, input, and advice of the public land advisory board.

“[DPL] has failed to practice ‘due diligence and strict standard of fiduciary care’ in carrying out the mandates of P.L. 15-2,” the committee states, citing the public law.

“Since it was established” the advisory board “has not been organized,” the committee went on to state. “Absence the participation of the Public Lands Advisory Board, the Department of Public Lands has failed to comply with the mandate of Section 2 of P.L. No. 15-2, which requires and holds the secretary to ‘strict standard of fiduciary care.’”

Citing these alleged “inconsistencies” in the implementation and enforcement of the public law and the interest of protecting public lands, which belong to people of Northern Marianas Descent, the committee said they agree with the bill, which was authored by Rep. Felicidad Ogumoro (R-Saipan).

The report also summarizes public hearings held on the bill on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.

It found overall consensus of testimony on Rota to be in support of the bill, overall consensus from testimony on Saipan as “overwhelmingly against,” and stated that a the third hearing on Tinian gathered a majority of individuals in support of the bill.

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Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at dennis_chan@saipantribune.com.

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  • captain

    Isn’t this going back to where it originally was and opening this up for the same incompetence and misspending and non accountability of funds that was the reason the original board was abolished? Or am I mistaken?
    If so, it would seem to me that this is a perfect example of doing the same failed thing over again with the hopes for different results.
    If these people are supposed to be “appointed” then at least put some kind of education and job related experience required instead of only a political and family affiliations.

    • Ioanes

      It would be repeat of history!

  • Ioanes

    Edwin Aldan and cabal must review pertinent constitutional provision that established the agency the intent being to keep it free of filthy hands from politicians!

  • CNMIJusticeFighter

    First blame your GOP then blame your Covenant parties the smartest politicians, now someone want control of all the money no surprise what a bunch of crooks.

  • goat island

    Congressman Aldan the solution to DPL is to stricken the qualification of applicants who are leasing public lands for business. Background check should include, current financial statement from a company and individuals who are involve for a clearer picture on its financial background and good repute. We have given away much of our public lands to worthless company in return creates financial scheming to cheat credible investors. For example, MRDC, NGP, and Pulan Resort. While at that, amend and reduce the legislative approval for public land. Too many times the head of DPL abuse its power and approve land lease less than what is required for legislative approval. Identify all future public land in the CNMI for business use and synchronize all permits required for approval from all government agencies. This Mr. Congressman will solve public lands concern. In fact weren’t you involve back then dissolving DPL board of directors Ai adai! Hayi talo ti’yan mi’yu!

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