House Speaker Blas Jonathan T. Attao (R-Saipan) said it will be up to the Marianas Public Lands Trust on how much it could give to the CNMI government as a line of credit, an amount that they would have to work with.
“The governor’s letter [to MPLT asked for] $15 million but…if MPLT says it cannot be $15 million, then we will work on what MPLT would give us. We can’t determine the number that MPLT would give us,” Attao told Saipan Tribune.
“MPLT will give us the direction on what fits them best because they are an investment entity. At the end of the day, they…need to provide the number that is workable for them. We can’t be the one to dictate and if it is not workable for them, the line of credit is not going to work.”
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres had asked MPLT for a $15-million line of credit that will be made through the CNMI Department of Finance to ensure that there would be funds for the Settlement Fund and the payment of bond obligations.
When Attao and several members of the Legislature met with the MLPT board, they also raised the issue of the remittance of $10.9 million in land lease payments. The CNMI Office of the Attorney General, in a report last year, said that all revenues generated from public land leases must be transferred to MPLT as required by the CNMI Constitution.
Attao said he is hoping that MPLT could finally make a decision since time is of the essence with the current financial state of the CNMI.
The MPLT, headed by former representative Martin B. Ada, is expected to meet again as a full board with trustees Maria Frica T. Pangelinan and Pedro R. Deleon Guerrero.
He also clarified that the line of credit is strictly for the Settlement Fund and the payment of the bond obligations. “It is purely for the obligations of the CNMI government. Nothing for operations, contrary to what anybody has said.”
He assured that the line of credit, if granted by MPLT, would circulate within the CNMI economy. “They [CNMI Executive Branch] were supposed to pay our vendors, but they are pretty much dry. So, by freeing some of the money and funneling it down to these separate accounts, we can pay the vendors.”
“These monies would allow them [vendors] to pay their [gross revenue tax]. These would allow them [vendors] to pay their employees and staff, who would then get taxed; it is a domino effect.”
Attao added that the idea for the line of credit is nothing new as MPLT had assisted the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. during the power crisis years ago and the Commonwealth Health Care Corp. “It has been done in the past. This is just something that would help that, so that the flow of the collection would trickle down to other accounts, rather than being sucked all into the Settlement Fund and bond payments. Mind you, those payments are weekly and not monthly. MPLT has also assisted CUC and CHCC.”