The full board of trustees of the Marianas Public Land Trust chose Friday a new leader in the person of Martin Ada, who, this early, expressed a “change of heart” in the agency’s handling of longstanding issues with the Department of Public Lands.
Ada was elected to the board chairmanship during a three-hour meeting Friday night. Maria Pangelinan and Melchor Mendiola were also elected vice chair and treasurer respectively.
A former lawmaker, Ada succeeds two-time chair Pedro Deleon Guerrero.
In his first order of business, the newly elected chairman specifically assigned Pangelinan to handle all DPL matters, a decision that was strongly opposed by Deleon Guerrero.
According to him, Pangelinan’s appointment to handle “all and any DPL issues” will take away the matter from the full board.
“We’re moving forward with the issues on DPL. In fact, we did meet with the governor and there was a request that we wait until the completion of DPL’s 2013 audit report. [So] I don’t believe we should continue to prolong the issue on DPL because it’s way overdue. I for one, I’d like to see we continue to move forward in resolving the issue with DPL,” said Deleon Guerrero.
It will be recalled that the MPLT board has had a consensus since last year to take DPL to court for failing to remit lease monies to MPLT. This “consensus” was reached after DPL reportedly failed to cooperate in providing MPLT with financial records and remittances.
Deleon Guerrero said that, based on MPLT’s initial information, DPL failed to remit to MPLT some $8.5 million in revenue from public land leases.
But according to Ada, Pangelinan’s appointment is not meant to take away the matter from the full board since Pangelinan is tasked to report all and any DPL matters back to the board. Citing Pangelinan’s good relationship with the current DPL leadership and the Inos administration, Ada is confident that the parties will reach an amicable solution on the unremitted funds. Ada further pointed out that Pangelinan will serve as the “point of contact” on DPL issues.
Deleon Guerrero reminded Ada that he was among the trustees who previously pushed for a lawsuit against DPL. “In fact, you moved that ‘we take them to court,’” said the former chairman.
Ada, however, stood firm in the “new direction” he wants MPLT to take at this time, specifically on DPL matters.
“If we do take them to court, would that force DPL to remit us the money?” asked Ada.
Deleon Guerrero remained adamant on the issue. “Even before I got in, even before we all got in here, we have these issues with DPL and MPLT has been so patient. The way, Mr. Chairman, you want to have it handled now will only stall these issues,” argued Deleon Guerrero, adding that “making such an appointment is contrary to the fiduciary duty of a trustee.”
Pangelinan’s appointment to handle all DPL issues was later adopted by a 4-1 vote. Others who voted in favor of Pangelinan’s appointment are Melchor Mendiola, Pete Cruz, Pangelinan, and Ada.