Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang is backing Sen. Sixto Igisomar’s (R-Saipan) bill, which aims to bring agencies together to set off the process of resettling Pagan.
In a letter to Apatang, Igisomar stated that he agrees with the intent of the bill and the benefits of designating public lands and reserving such for purposes of carrying out free trade zones.
Senate Bill 19-29, seeks to amend Public Law 18-16 on free trade zones so that the departments of Public Works, Public Lands, and Lands and Natural Resources, the Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality, and the Commonwealth Ports Authority can collaborate and cooperate with the Northern Islands mayor in identifying free trade zones on Pagan.
“FTZs are meant to promote, encourage, and further existing or new infrastructure development and economic activities in areas that do not immediately impact surrounding land uses, offer tax abatement, and reduction of lease rentals as incentives to enterprises for developing in such areas,” Apatang said.
“Designating and reserving an area of land for a FTZ is one of many steps in the process of actually making it work,” he added.
Although S.B. 19-29 provides a six-month timeline after it becomes law to identify FTZs, compliance with this mandate accomplishes a “step in the process.” Apatang believes the accomplishment must be “preceded by more important steps.”
However, Apatang conceded to the fact that resettling the Northern Islands will require “tremendous logistical preparations, the execution of which will equally require tremendous financing.”
“It is to be expected that any plan that is or to be developed for the resettlement of the northern islands will be monumental tasks. This task, we believe, will be accomplishable with adequate financing, whatever that price comes out to. But to make the entire process realistic and functional for both the short and long term, proper planning must be at the very front of the process,” he said.
Apatang also recommended that development should make sure that planning of the past that became disadvantageous to both the government and private land owners years later are “not repeated in the planning of the northern islands.”
“A comprehensive land use study will be the most valuable guide and working tool for planning development in the northern islands,” he said.
“This first step should save the government and any interested, potential developer the trouble of conducting piecemeal study and planning on islands with very limited developable land area…the Northern Islands will be easily ‘marketable,’ especially to developers and investors who must work with schedules and financial resources that produce results at the least cost possible,” he added.