The Department of Lands and Natural Resources has notified the Saipan Farmers Cooperative Association to stop its use of the public market facility in Garapan.
In a letter addressed to co-op president Frica Pangelinan, DLNR Secretary Richard Seman said that the co-op must “immediately cease and desist” its use of and operations at the Garapan Public Market.
“It has come to my attention that there is no agreement in place between the Department and the Saipan Farmers Cooperative Association for the use of the Garapan Public Market Facility,” Seman wrote.
Seman also noted that it is in his “understanding that the co-op is not currently operating the market.”
“First things first, we need the agreement,” Seman told Saipan Tribune in a phone interview.
Seman said they cannot proceed forward with any operation until an agreement is in place.
“We need that signed as soon as possible in order for them to continue operations,” he added.
Seman said there was a prior agreement but it hasn’t been signed yet and that part of their concern is that, in the absence of an agreement, “some of the existing operation there is not supposed to be happening.”
“Under the current agreement arrangement, it does not allow for others to operate within the co-op because technically, the co-op is operating under the government’s jurisdiction,” Seman said.
In the letter, Seman also stated that the Marianas Meat Harvesting Group must also immediately cease and desist its use of the market.
“The Department has not authorized their use and, as just discussed, there is no agreement in place that authorizes the co-op to permit their use,” the letter said.
As the market was originally intended for the sale of local produce and locally caught fish, DLNR said it needs to determine whether local meat can also be sold at the market.
“That fresh meat is sold by different companies operating like a regular retail store and that’s not consistent because it’s not run by the co-op,” Seman said.
Seman said they don’t like companies to operate within the building to occur in the absence of an agreement.
“We’re not saying that it couldn’t happen, it can. But we wanted to make sure that we have an agreement signed and from there we can go and start entertaining the other interested individuals and parties that would like to participate within the co-op itself,” Seman said.
Asked for comment, Pangelinan told Saipan Tribune that she hasn’t seen the letter dated Oct. 27, 2015 yet.