Saying its focus is on improved public benefits from land lease revenues, Public Lands Secretary Marianne Concepcion-Teregeyo said the department’s decisions on public land leases is meant to ensure that benefits for those of Northern Marianas descent remains a priority.
According to a statement yesterday, Concepcion-Teregeyo said, “We charge rent based on an appraisal on fair market value. We also collect a percentage of the business gross receipts, which means that leases on public land are charged a base rent plus [business gross revenue tax].
“We are also communicating with members of the Legislature for a possible constitutional amendment which would need to be ratified by the people, where the people will decide if DPL can use lease revenue to pay for homestead infrastructure. For now, we have negotiated for additional public benefit, on top of base rent, which is a commitment from the lessee for the next homestead development project,” she said.
She cited the ruling in Civil Action 84-119 on the case of MPLT v. Marianas Public Land Corporation (the predecessor of MPLA), which upholds that DPL could not use revenue from leases on public land to pay for homestead infrastructure.
The court ruling states: “Chief Judge Robert Hefner defined reasonable expenses and ruled that expenses of administration do not include capital expenditures or capital improvements such as constructing roads, water lines, sewers, etc. on public land designated within the homestead program.”
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres noted that since DPL is authorized to negotiate for public benefits, the department has successfully reached public benefit contributions and redirected all public benefit contributions into homestead areas.
“Homesteads have high populations of people of Northern Marianas descent. In 2016, we worked with Docomo for their underground trenching lease. We successfully engaged public benefit contributions in addition to the base rental revenues from Docomo to install and provide buried fiber optic telecommunications infrastructure to homesteads and simultaneously bury underground electrical service conduit for CUC’s improvements. This has helped with necessary infrastructure costs for the As Gonno homestead subdivision. At the same time, this has strengthened telecommunications and our resilience against natural disasters,” Torres said.
Other recent public benefits include:
IT&E (Kagman, As Gonno, and Garapan, Saipan): Providing landline and internet services at no charge to existing youth centers and to all future village youth center buildings in the CNMI until the expiration of the lease. Ongoing negotiations for an antenna site in the north as well as free outdoor wireless internet in selected areas such as Kagman, or Dandan are being discussed.
Mobil Oil Marianas in Sasanhaya, Rota: Up to $1,000 in fuel every month for the use of official government vehicles for the life of the lease with 15 years remaining, which totals up to $180,000.) and is pending with the 21st Legislature.
Joyful Hope: $75,000 worth of in-kind donations to be used for future homestead infrastructure development); for their Lower Base lease.
Manbao in Garapan: Playground equipment every five years for the duration of their lease.
Advance Marine in Lower Base: $5,000 during each five-year period for the term of the lease; and 10 percent discount to Northern Marianas descent for purchase of cinder blocks at Saipan Unicorn.
Concepcion-Teregeyo said that policies and regulations regarding lease revenues continue to improve over the last three years.
Since the creation of DPL in 2006, the department has transferred a total of $20.9 million to the Marianas Public Land Trust. Under the Torres administration, since 2016, $12,416,932 has been remitted to MPLT. This accounts for more than 57 percent of total funds transferred.
DPL now requires appraisal reports for new leases every five years. In the past, DPL lessees were required to submit an appraisal every 10 years, which hampered higher yield earnings during high performing years. (PR)