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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Inos assures fairness in future land payments
Lawmakers eye sources of payments, press agencies for more info

Gov. Eloy S. Inos assured fairness in future land compensation payments once money becomes available, even as lawmakers eye tapping advance interest income from public land investments or floating a new bond after recent reports shed light on how some landowners got paid $100,000 to over $4 million each during previous administrations while some 300 others have yet to see a penny for giving up their property to the government for public road access, wetlands and ponding basins.

“What we want to do is…there are a lot of claims that are less than $10,000. I will pay those right away, get rid of those, satisfy the folks, give them money, and so forth. Depending on the availability of funds, we could probably do a scale but not just pure percentage because some claims are in the $3 million, $4 million, $10 million, $15 million,” Inos told Saipan Tribune.

The governor said his administration wants fairness in future land compensation payments.

“I don’t know what happened then and I’m not going to dwell into that but certainly something didn’t go right at that time,” said Inos.

The former Marianas Public Lands Authority board got to decide who, how much, and when land compensation payments will be made. MPLA is the predecessor of the Department of Public Lands.

Inos said this time around, DPL will make the certification.

“Their job is not to say, ‘pay this much and pay that much’. That will be our job and our job is to make sure it’s objective, that it’s fair,” the governor said.

The governor himself is among the estimated 300 more landowners waiting for government payment.

Unlike others who gave up thousands of square meters of their private property, Inos only had 31 square meters of affected Kannat Tabla property that was previously owned by a former lawmaker.

Rep. Janet Maratita (Ind-Saipan) suggested yesterday that payment of land claims should be based on a “first come, first serve,” or based on the date of the land taking and government certification. She said those whose lands were taken much earlier should be compensated first, before those whose lands were taken much later.

Rep. Tony Sablan (Ind-Saipan), House Ways and Means chairman, said yesterday he and others at the House “will make sure that before any money is touched to pay any landowner, legislation will set the manner by which money must be disbursed.”

“That bill will specify the manner by which money will be distributed. We don’t want a repeat of the $40 million bond float,” Sablan, referring to a previous administration’s decision to float a $40 million bond supposedly to pay landowners.

Only $28.5 million of that ended up being used for land compensation. The rest of the $40 million went to the construction of an adult prison in Susupe.

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