The Department of Public Lands is eyeing to issue request for proposals for new leases on public lands.
The department expects the draft for the RFP to be completed in about six months, DPL Secretary Pedro A. Tenorio told lawmakers during a budget hearing at Capital Hill on Wednesday.
Tenorio emphasized that the new RFP is one of the options for long-time leases in the CNMI that are about to expire. The other option is to grant an extension of the expiring lease.
One of the most significant of these leases was the lease agreement of Mariana Resort and Spa. The lease is about to expire in two years.
Tenorio said this is the “first time in the CNMI” that a 40-year lease is about to expire, and that he and Gov. Eloy S. Inos are in discussions on how to go about the expiring lease.
Under CNMI laws, investors can apply for 25-year lease with an option for an extension of another 15 years, for a total of 40 years.
Mariana Resort and Spa, owned by Kan Pacific Saipan, is one of the very first resorts in the CNMI and has just recently celebrated its 37th anniversary.
The owners of the resort earlier expressed their interest to continue the 40-year lease.
But according to Tenorio, the recommendation he got was to “float” the RFP on the expiring leases and hopefully attract “competitive proposals.”
“I do understand emotional attachment (to Mariana Resort), but we have to look at what is in the best interest of the community,” Tenorio, adding that the RFP is the best “approach.”
He said he also wants to hear more recommendations, particularly from lawmakers.
Tenorio added that in making the evaluations, the DPL will factor in not only the current value of the public land that was leased but also the improvements.
He added that there is no provision under the law that the original lessee gets “first crack” on the expiring lease.
Rep. Antonio P. Sablan (Ind-Saipan) said his position on the lease has always been clear.
“I hope that the DPL will also look at the value of these earlier investors who decided to stay and stick it out in the CNMI even during economic difficulties,” Sablan said.
He mentioned that the government should also look into factors “that we do not see on paper” when making the evaluation to enter into new public land leases.