Thirteen claimants whose properties were acquired for right-of-ways for primary roads across the CNMI decades ago will be paid pursuant to Public Law 19-87.
Among these claimants, five were fully compensated and eight were partially paid. Claimants partially paid were given 18 percent of the total owed to them, in an effort to maximize the number of claimants to be compensated.
Most claimants have waited over 20 years to receive full or partial payment and interest on their claims are costing taxpayers much more in interest than the principal amounts.
The Department of Public Lands estimates that it would cost $85 million to compensate all existing claims.
P.L. 19-87 appropriated $3 million for the purpose of settling land compensation claims for primary roads; however, this is not sufficient to settle all other pending claims.
Finance Secretary Larissa Larson assures that the funds appropriated by P.L. 19-87 are available for disbursement to claimants and payments will be processed as soon as the Department of Public Lands and Attorney General Edward Manibusan certifies that documents for each claimant are complete and the appropriate payment amounts.
The last time payouts to claimants were made was on Aug. 22, 2013, when a total of $171,931.72 was paid to eight private land owners pursuant to Saipan Local Law 16-1, as amended.
DPL’s Land Claims Division is responsible for managing the land compensation program created by Public Law 13-17 which includes a comprehensive method of processing claims and disbursing monetary compensation to landowners whose lands were taken by the CNMI for public purposes such as right-of-way, ponding basins, wetlands, etc. DPL itself, however, is restricted from paying claims with operational funds because all revenue less operational expenses must be remitted to Marianas Public Land Trust; therefore, funds for monetary compensation must be appropriated by the Legislature.
In the past, letters to execute payments were sent to claimants without having the necessary supporting documents such as appraisal reports—a basis for valuating property and an integral part of the process for land compensation. DPL has adjusted this practice by ensuring all appraisals are obtained and all required documents are submitted. Appraisals can be prepared to get the retroactive value to the date the land was taken.
For example, the value of land parcel taken in 1992 can still be appraised today to get its value in 1992 because appraisers are able to review comparable land sales and values during in or after 1992—these land transactions are filed at the Commonwealth Recorder’s Office.
Through an RFP process, DPL awarded LBT the contract to provide land appraisal services for 32 properties on Saipan and Rota that were acquired by the CNMI government for primary roads. DPL is preparing a second RFP to appraise an additional 32 properties on Saipan. DPL will use the valuations derived from the appraisals to determine the land compensation amounts which will serve as the basis for requesting additional appropriations from the legislature.
“It remains the priority of the administration to continue to settle all pending claimants requesting for monetary compensation,” Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said.
For more information about DPL, visit www.dpl.gov.mp or its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/DPLCNMI. (PR)