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LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Four million square miles

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That’s what you’ve got, Ambrose.

Four million square miles of the mainland US, where you can own all the land your heart desires. 

The U.S. mainland is a big place. A really big place. You’ve got a land area bigger than China’s, with only a fifth of China’s population.’

Did I say China? You realize that Chinese businesses and the Chinese Communist Party will be first in line to buy up CNMI land, right? We’re not allowed to own land in China. But if Article 12 is abolished, the Chinese influence will go way beyond a half-finished casino in Garapan. You can bet that our islands will be forever changed: land and culture held by outside interests, not by us NMDs.’

I’ve got nothing against any outsiders, whether from China, Chuuk, or Chicago. I understand that they want to buy land here. But by the same token, they should understand that we, the NMDs, want to preserve this land for ourselves: our sacred land, our culture, and these 200 square miles that are our only home on this entire planet.

For everyone else, they have four million square miles in the U.S. mainland, or another four million square miles in China. Lots of room. Lots of places to own land. On these islands, you can lease land all you want, but leave us NMDs to pass the land down through generations.

What’s the problem with selling your land to another NMD? Multi-million dollar land sales between NMDs happen all the time. It’s not just outsiders who can pay big bucks for land. And if not, then leases are signed all the time, and many NMD families are very happy with the income their land brings them.

We NMDs fully understand that others may want to own a piece of our island. We welcome them with open arms to lease it for 55 years. Who is complaining about that, other than maybe those out to make a fast buck from real estate deals with fly-by-night new arrivals? 

If Article 12 is such a hindrance on the economy, how did we have all the big developments of the past, including the ’90s boom years, with Article 12 in place? What’s so bad about a 55-year lease? It’s a reasonable amount of time for a business to operate, and then renegotiate after the time period is up. How many businesses do you know of, even in the U.S. mainland, that stay in the same location for more than 55 years?

Article 12 makes sense. It doesn’t interfere with our economic development. And it’s been affirmed as legal by the courts time and time again. Even if Ambrose calls himself a “constitutional scholar,” he’s not an attorney. Every attorney in Saipan knows that Article 12 is legal and constitutional. Every attorney in Saipan knows that Wabol v. Villacrusis confirmed the legality of Article 12, just like every attorney on Saipan knows Godfather’s has the coldest beer. 

We have some precious exceptions from universal land ownership, because our islands are so small, and our culture so fragile. The U.S. Constitution, U.S. courts, as well as the CNMI’s founding elders understood this. Land isn’t just dollars. It’s not just coordinates on a map. It’s the home of our people and our culture. Our only home. 

Statesiders have four square million miles to call their own. Citizens of China have another four million square miles. Leave our tiny islands to us, no matter how tempting the quick money deals might be.

Dollars come and go, but once we NMDs have sold our land to outsiders, where do we go? 

Diego C. Blanco
via email

Contributing Author
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