Rota Legislative Delegation chair Rep. Teresita Santos (Ind-Rota) asked Attorney General Joey Patrick San Nicolas on Friday to evaluate a GPPC ship docked at Rota East Harbor and issue a cease and desist order against the company. Santos cited four reasons for her request.
GPPC, for its part, said that as of yesterday, they have yet to receive notification about the letter addressed to the AG.
Santos said she received concerns from Rota residents about the ship docked at Rota East Harbor that unloaded heavy equipment and other items on Thursday.
The lawmaker said she spoke with the Department of Public Lands' Ray Salas, who she said informed her that GPPC's Diego Blanco was given “verbal approval to do a one-time dry run of the ship docking at the Rota East Harbor.”
Santos said she is “gravely concerned about this activity.”
“First of all, does the DPL acting secretary have the power to authorize GPPC to dock its ship at the East Harbor?” Santos asked the AG.
She said in her understanding, former DPL secretary Oscar Babauta issued a letter in response to Sen. Juan Ayuyu’s (Ind-Rota) Senate Bill 17-66 opposing the designation of the Rota East Harbor to the municipality as a result of a Supreme Court ruling.
That ruling, said Santos, states that “all revenues derived from public land leases shall go to DPL for its administrative operation and a certain percentage to MPLT. Further, that any person must first obtain lease agreement, permit, authorization and/or permission from Public Lands prior to entering any public lands. Additionally, the Municipality of Rota does not have the authority to authorize or permit any vessel to enter thru the East Harbor.”
The lawmaker also said GPPC's use of the Rota East Harbor without the Commonwealth Ports Authority's nod “is in direct violation of the CNMI Code which provides that CPA has the authority to enforce full control of all ports of entry in the CNMI.”
Moreover, she said the East Harbor has not been approved for commercial use by the U.S. Coast Guard.
It is not an official CNMI port of entry and there are no safety features or equipment at the East Harbor available in case of accidents, Santos said.
“There is no legal reason for any ship to dock at the East Harbor when the West Harbor is open for business,” she added.
The lawmaker said the third reason for her letter is that after the GPPC ship offloaded its contents, they attempted to load “truckloads of Rota bottled water from the Rota Resort Hotel onto the ship to bring back to Saipan.”
Santos said the CNMI has laws and regulations “regarding when and where ships may dock, when they may offload their containers, and when they must pay taxes and other fees for such activities.”
“Lastly, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Commonwealth Ports Authority, and other relevant government agencies were not notified of the ship's intent to dock at the Rota East Harbor. By docking at the East Harbor, the GPPC ship may be circumventing the payment of taxes, port and other fees payable to the CNMI government and its agencies,” she added.
Because the letter was sent only on Friday, the lawmaker has yet to receive a response from the AG.