Public Lands Secretary Oscar M. Babauta said yesterday that a Chinese conglomerate will be investing “more than $100 million” to develop some 1 million square meters of public and private land in Marpi for a combination of resort and retirement homes, a proposal that Rep. Ray Tebuteb (R-Saipan) described as a “better” alternative than pushing for casinos on Saipan.
Babauta said executives from the conglomerate will be on Saipan in two weeks to formally make a presentation of their proposed investments from north of the former The Palms Resort Saipan to north of Marianas Resort & Spa in the San Roque-Marpi area.
“It will be a combination of resort and retirement homes, short of a mini-city targeting tourists and high-end retirees as clientele,” Babauta told Saipan Tribune.
Although Babauta had earlier disclosed the investment proposal, this is the first time he gave a ballpark figure of the total investment cost.
Tebuteb, one of the five House members who voted against the latest bill to legalize casino gambling on Saipan, said the Department of Public Lands’ announcement of a resort-retirement home combo investment is welcome news.
He said lawmakers and other government officials should support investments like this instead of focusing on Saipan casino legalization, which have been voted down twice during elections, as well as during a Nov. 4 non-binding survey. He said casino is already legal in the CNMI, particularly on Tinian and Rota.
But Tebuteb said enticing and supporting non-casino investors should also be complemented with revenue-generating bills pending at the House and Senate.
He said many of these revenue-generating measures are languishing in House committees, including rebate cut, increased “sin” taxes, an initiative to reduce the salaries of elected officials during periods of austerity and a review of Article 12.
“They will not only offset budget shortfall but will also help grow the economy,” he said.
A portion of the area covered by the proposed resort-retirement homes development used to be leased by Flame Sako for an $80-million hotel that was later abandoned.
A second investor, Leisure Planner, followed with a planned a $120-million hotel but also scrapped the project even before an actual lease agreement was signed and approved by lawmakers. Then came Island Ventures LLC which planned a $60-million, five-star hotel, only to dissolve the corporation later on.