Fiddling with public land


Since the abolition of the Marianas Public Lands Authority nearly a decade ago, the various legislatures have attempted to pillage the department of public land’s “segregated” funds, violate the constitutional mandate of the agency in terms of its duties and responsibilities, among other hugely misguided legislation that turned into fodder for comedy.

There’s the often-vicious discussion on Article XII that replaced a working land tenure system. Yes, it helped disoriented politicians catapult their political career capitalizing on racist agenda but gave the landowners the unexpected perfect royal screw by denying them ownership of land that belongs to them. Can something that “is” be “isn’t” at the same time? In short, can land that is yours not be yours?

Yes, there’s the principle view of personal property hailing from the basic document. It’s premise used to declare Article XII discriminatory. Sounds almost a perfect answer to simply abolish this constitutional provision or that it’ll never meet U.S. Supreme Court muster. Well, how do you explain granting ownership strictly to Native Americans in huge parcels of Indian Reservation properties across the country? That too would be discriminatory, right? Think! What’s good for the goose is also very, very good for the gander.

We dilly-dally trying to foster investment stability in the NMI. Without due diligence to determine the validity of the 99-year stretch, we assume that it is the answer or single pill cures all illnesses on the stabilization of investments. Have we done due diligence rummaging through other model leases to draw the best possible paradigm? Or did we shove it aside once more or simply defer it to another grand sleepwalking through our snooze wonderland? Are we that lazy intellectually as to ignore researching our materials?

The term of the proposed lease of 99 years isn’t going to lure more investments to the NMI. We’ve insulted our Japanese friends with unintended arrogance forcing the termination of JAL flights from Japan, shutter of Hotel Nikko, and other major investments. It was our attitude of political arrogance that had big Japanese investors taking an exodus. It wasn’t the term of our land leases. Our attitude simply crushed the altitude of lasting investments!

Have any of our illustrious policymakers ever looked into how burger king McDonald’s leases land across the county? It’s no more than 25 years and it has succeeded on a grand scale too! The agreement includes a certain percentage increase (equity) in the land lease that goes to the landowner. Obviously, use of the land is premised on profitability, therefore, sustainability. If the location is poor for your line of business, it’s time to close down and begin the search for another property! Profits drive businesses not the length of the land leases.

Now, the idea of a referendum for any use of NMI land for military purposes may sound politically glamorous though equally premature and a waste of time. Reviewing pertinent Covenant Agreement provisions on use of land for this purpose involves a process. What’s my point? It’s federal law or US PL 94-241. It would seem to me the planned referendum would be redundant and fluid! I mean there’s nothing to stop the referendum. But could we stop the final decision legally? How do you argue against “national security” concerns?

The latest is the fast emerging controversy on renewal of long-term land leases that expire in the next couple of years. All the marshland reed scientists have been preparing their dossiers hoping the man from “Imperial I Deni” would pick him as the ambassador to explain hidden decisions on Marpi and other land areas here set for BS. I wouldn’t want that job and not when initial meetings would include heavy coffee cups destined for my thin skull. Nah! Nor am I ready to be mowed down by the mob in village meetings. Nah!

Subsequent discussion on land lease renewal would be pretty rough sailing. Be that as it may, the final decision reached determines the investment, therefore, economic future of the NMI. Hope none of us had to think with his or her luggage heading out jet ways in search of greener pasture elsewhere! Let’s keep paradise the grand place to raise families where opportunities abound for one and all. Let these pearly isles ours to share!

Did someone just spouted of grand poverty here?

Too Small: Is there a chance more folks would sell land over the next five years? I mean, if most of what’s left is the last family lot, would you be greedy and stupid enough to venture selling it? Once you’re landless, you would be granted an honorarium as a permanent member of the Land Squatters platoon, right?

Eventually, it may mean that the rest of us taxpayers would have to pay additional taxes to build centers for the homeless including those who sold their land. Why would we reward shallowness, greediness and stupidity? Entitlement assistance must be denied those who purposely dug their own graves.

I can’t fathom the heavy collision of poverty, disasters, and more disasters ahead. Has anybody seen my “solutions driven” team? Eh, it’s time to step up to the plate to begin planning what’s there to do when the fiscal crisis turns against each of us hailing from negligence somewhere upstairs. Scary! No worries. I won’t ruffle feathers against fully tidied senior staffers of the governor. We will roll out the carpet of “Do-Nothings” to glorify your steady smiles of “screw you!” Are you smiling now? Tickles your pickle, yeah?

John S. Del Rosario Jr. | Contributing Author
John DelRosario Jr. is a former publisher of the Saipan Tribune and a former secretary of the Department of Public Lands.

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