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Monday, April 21, 2014

DPL says it could waive, reduce land fee
For Thursday Market vendors

The Department of Public Lands said yesterday it could either waive or reduce its “land fee” for Garapan Street Market vendors—if the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs requests and justifies the need to do so.

Vendors at the Garapan Fishing Base every Thursday night are protesting the land fee, which they said is an added cost considering that sales have not been as good as they used to and is being assessed without proper consultation.

The fee is equal to 1 percent of each vendor’s gross sales.

“We informed DCCA last year that the land fee can be waived or reduced by DPL, but DCCA has not requested a waiver or reduction,” DPL Real Estate Division director Rachel Roque told Saipan Tribune yesterday.

Roque said DPL previously reduced the land fee from 3 percent to 1 percent after then DCCA secretary Melvin Faisao asked for it.

The land fee, she said, has always been in the temporary authorization that DPL granted DCCA. When the task of overseeing the Garapan Street Market was transferred last year to one of DCCA’s divisions—the Commonwealth Council for Arts and Culture—executive director Angel Hocog tried to implement the land fee to comply with the temporary authorization from DPL.

CCAC executive director Angel Hocog, for his part, said yesterday “it’s good to know” that DPL can waive the fee.

“We want to help the vendors. But they also have to consider that this land fee is one way of helping our economy too,” Hocog said.

Hocog said he still has to bring the matter up to DCCA Secretary Laura Ogumoro before deciding whether to request a waiver or reduction of the fee. He said DCCA or CCAC does not want to violate the terms of DPL’s temporary authorization to use the Garapan Fishing Base for the every-Thursday-market.

Jack Hudak, president of Thai House Restaurant, one of the pioneer vendors at the Garapan Street Market, said yesterday he would be communicating with CCAC’s Hocog to request DPL for the land fee’s waiver.

“I am speaking for myself but I’m sure other vendors would agree with me that the land fee should be waived. Everybody would be happy. I believe there’s only lack of communication on this,” Hudak said.

Juan “Pan” T. Guerrero, general manager of Herman’s Modern Bakery that is also a vendor at the Garapan Street Market, said DPL’s statement is “good news.”

The Thursday market vendors are questioning the implementation and reason behind the 1 percent land fee, which is on top of the weekly fee and the business gross revenue tax they pay.

Hudak, who opened the first Thai restaurant in the CNMI in 1993, earlier said he would not pay the fee until CCAC and DPL meet with the vendors to explain the matter. With yesterday’s development, Hudak said there is still a need for vendors to organize to collectively ask DCCA to request DPL for a land fee waiver. He can be reached at 235-8424.

There are currently 49 vendors at the Garapan Street Market, and another 20 are on a standby list, Hocog said. He had earlier said if the current vendors do not comply with the 1 percent land fee requirement, then CCAC won’t have a choice but to let them go.

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