$1.5M for Soudelor victims ‘possible’ from MPLT interest


The Marianas Public Lands Trust is moving closer toward helping Typhoon Soudelor victims reconstruct their homes, as an amount of $1.5 million from corpus fund interest is possible.

Last night, the MPLT board discussed ways to meet a request from acting governor Ralph DLG Torres for funds generated from the rental and lease of Northern Marianas public lands to help with rebuilding efforts after Soudelor.

Acting MPLT chair Pedro Deleon Guerrero said they are in process of discussing details with Torres and are “looking at it very seriously.”

The NMI Constitution prevents MPLT from withdrawing any money from the corpus. They can only remit to the government interest from the corpus on an annual basis, Deleon Guerrero said.

“We will try to find ways that it will work as the Constitution allows,” he said. “The governor is asking for something that is important to help our people and I am sure—I cannot speak for any trustee that they also feel the same thing—but we have to be mindful of the fact that we have a constitutional responsibility.”

Saipan Tribune learned that an amount of about $1.5 million has been discussed.

When asked, Deleon Guerrero could not confirm this information but said they would continue to discuss that with the acting governor.

“I don’t know whether it’s $1.5 or $5 million…but if you are talking about interest income that is remitted annually to the general revenue of the Commonwealth, we are averaging about $1.5 million,” he said.

MPLT is mandated by law to remit net investment earnings to the general fund at the end of each fiscal year. However, in recent years trustees held off its annual remittance to recover the $4 million it advanced to the CNMI general fund in 2010.

One possibly strategy, Saipan Tribune learned, is to move back the 2017 date set to resume the remittance of interest into the general fund.

Discussions have centered on moving back this deadline to 2018, thus opening up the interest for this fiscal year, so the government will be granted about $1.5 million to fund programs for home reconstruction, Saipan Tribune learned.

In his October letter to MPLT, Torres said many citizens of Northern Marianas descent are suffering after Typhoon Soudelor.

“Homes have been lost, property destroyed and lives upended,” he said. “Use of public funds generated from the rental and leasing of NMI public lands to help these persons of NMD would obviously be a great benefit…While I am aware that there are limits to the purposes for which the funds held by the Trust, I would like to open the discussion as to the urgent need for individuals of Northern Marianas descent to rebuild their homes using Trust funds in some fashion,” Torres said in his letter.

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at dennis_chan@saipantribune.com.

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