The House of Representatives passed Tuesday a bill that seeks to regulate bioprospecting activities within the CNMI in order to ensure prior, informed consent, and equitable sharing of benefits.
The full House adopted the report of the House Standing Committee on Natural Resources that recommended the passage of House Bill 22-22, HS1. All 16 representatives present at the session voted “yes” to pass the legislation. The bill now goes to the Senate for action.
If enacted into law, the bill—also known as the Richard B. Seman Bioprospecting Act of 2021—will mandate the Department of Lands and Natural Resources to come up within 180 days with the rules and regulations governing the conduct bioprospecting activities in the CNMI, including the process for registration and the fees.
Bioprospecting refers to the search for plant and animal species from which medicinal drugs, biochemicals, and other commercially valuable material can be obtained.
Before the voting, House Committee on Natural Resources chair Rep. Sheila J. Babauta (D-Saipan) said they did spent months soliciting comments and have received well over 10 comments about the bill.
Babauta thanked the committee members and the bill’s author, Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan), for this legislation that will allow more bioprospecting activities to be regulated within the CNMI.
“We are surrounded by this blessing of natural resources in our oceans,” Babauta said. This bill, she said, will allow for any scientists and organizations to come to the CNMI and study its natural organisms. This, she said, will open opportunities for people to engage in medicinal pharmaceuticals or any other kind of processes that these compounds can produce.
Babauta said they did have a lengthy committee meeting where they went through the bill. She said Demapan is in the committee and he was a part of the process.
“So I am ready to vote. I highly encourage everyone to support this bill,” she said.
Demapan said this is another run at this bill, which was the vision of the late Rep. Richard Seman. He said this is why he included a short title provision to name this bill after the late representative.
“It is an environmentally responsible bill. And it’s also a bill that ensures that we as people of the land have a stake when parts of our resources are harvested for commercial use,” he said.
Demapan introduced the bill last February. He introduced similar legislation in the 20th Legislature in April 2017. The House passed the bill in September 2017 and transmitted to the Senate.
A similar legislation was introduced by Rep. Richard Seman in the 18th Legislature. The House passed it in October 2014 and was transmitted to the Senate. No action was taken by the Senate.