Garapan Thursday Market vendors circulated a formal petition against the land fee that the Department of Public Lands wants to charge them, saying it will be the “most expensive” on Saipan, considering the land acreage and number of hours public land is used.
The land fee is equal to 1 percent of each vendor’s gross sales.
The petition, addressed to DPL Secretary Pete A. Tenorio, seeks DPL’s help in saving what they described as a popular business activity among tourists and residents.
DPL earlier said it could either waive or reduce the land fee if the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs requests and justifies the need to do so.
The petitioning vendors said many of them have been participating at the Thursday market from the original site at Paseo de Marianas. The Thursday market was moved to the Garapan Fishing Base when the sewer system at Coral Street underwent repairs.
The vendors said they used to pay only $40 every Thursday for participating at the street market. Last year, they started paying $50. They said they have been paying fees regardless of the state of the economy.
“Our group is not asking any incentives or waiver of taxes. We are all here both during the good and bad times,” they said.
They added that they were shocked to learn last year of a 1 percent land fee that they’re being asked to pay.
But DPL said the fee had already been reduced from 3 percent to 1 percent.
Still, the vendors said the land fee is too much.
“If you will add our monthly fee, which is roughly over $200 and compared to the land acreage that we are using and the 64 hours we are occupying, it will be the most expensive rental here on Saipan,” they said, adding that they have also been paying business gross receipts tax “so we are not getting any freebies.”
They said they want to be treated “fairly” and “equitably” like the vendors at the Sabalu Market, Tuesday Market, participation at the Christmas in the Marianas, and Taste of the Marianas.
“We would welcome you comparing our fees with these other activities and we are soliciting your fairness in treating us similarly,” they said.
The Garapan Street Market every Thursday night offers tourists and residents a variety of dishes, fresh fruits and vegetables, arts and crafts, as well as live entertainment.
Earlier, vendors said the land fee is an added cost considering that sales have not been as good as they used to and is being assessed without proper consultation.
The land fee is 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.