House defers action on MPLT line-of-credit bill

Posted on Apr 30 2019


House Speaker Blas Jonathan T. Attao (R-Saipan), left, talks to floor leader John Paul P. Sablan (R-Saipan) during a recess in yesterday’s session at the House chamber on Capital Hill. (Jon Perez)

The CNMI House of Representatives postponed action yesterday on a bill that would establish a credit facility with the Marianas Public Lands Trust.

The House was scheduled to act on House Bill 21-44 yesterday but chose to delay it and wait for the outcome of a scheduled meeting today between MPLT and the Torres administration.

In creating a line of credit with MPLT, H.B. 21-44 seeks to help the CNMI government meet its bond obligations and fund payment to the NMI Settlement Fund.

House floor leader Rep. John Paul P. Sablan (R-Saipan) said the MPLT board will be meeting today—where Gov. Ralph DLG Torres or a representative is expected to also attend—at 4:30pm at the MPLT conference room on Capital Hill.

“After that, we can have more information regarding the bill. We will leave it [H.B. 21-44] in the bill calendar until our next session,” said Sablan.

House Speaker Blas Jonathan T. Attao (R-Saipan) introduced the measure last week.

Acting Finance secretary David Atalig told Saipan Tribune that H.B. 21-44 would help the CNMI government’s financial situation, especially in meeting its mandated payment obligation in the stipulation order for the Settlement Fund and the general obligation bond payment due on May 1.

“I proposed to repay the line of credit with [Federal Emergency Management Agency] reimbursements and general fund collections,” Atalig said, and the bill proposes to use as the collateral or guarantee future interest due the CNMI from MPLT.

In yesterday’s House session, Attao said H.B. 21-44 is the Legislature’s response to help the CNMI government, especially with the islands recovering from its losses from Super Typhoon Yutu last October.

“We’re preparing ourselves for what types of solution we can come up with it in order to cushion the damage from our losses,” he said.

Rep. Tina Sablan (Ind-Saipan) said the House should seek additional information from Torres and Atalig regarding the planned line of credit. “So we could get more answers to some of our questions. But it is good to know MPLT and the administration will be meeting to iron out the details. We need to hear from all of them and we need to do this right. It is our understanding that MPLT has some amendments that they would like.”

In an earlier interview, Attao said that H.B. 21-44 would get money circulating within the community. “If we are able to get that line of credit, we can put the money into the Settlement Fund and bond obligations for the next couple of months. The money will trickle down to various accounts so we can drawdown and start paying vendors, and even overtime.”

Senate President Victor B. Hocog (R-Rota) also welcomes the idea of a line of credit and said the Senate is ready to discuss and act on H.B. 21-44 as soon as the House passes it. “It is not a bad idea to do the line of credit in the event we are hit again with another unforeseen disaster.”

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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