‘Land lease bill changes things’

Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands chair Gloria Cavanagh, along with other officials and personnel of HANMI-member hotels on Saipan, attended yesterday’s Senate session. (Jon Perez)

Public Land Secretary Marianne Concepcion-Teregeyo expects a lot of changes in the request for proposal that DPL was about to release for the lease extensions of both Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan and Hyatt Regency Saipan after the Senate passed a bill that would extend land leases to a combined 55 years.

The Senate voted unanimously to pass the measure yesterday. Senate Bill 20-35, introduced by Senate President Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan), now goes to the desk of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres.

If he enacts the bill, it would increase public land leases to 40 years, plus a 15-year extension. Current law for public land leases only allows 25 years, plus a 15-year extension, for a total of 40 years.

All eight senators present—Palacios, Senate vice president Sen. Steve K. Mesngon (R-Rota), House floor leader Rep. Francisco M. Borja (R-Tinian), and Sens. Justo S. Quitugua (R-Saipan), Francisco Q. Cruz (R-Tinian), Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian), Sixto K. Igisomar (R-Saipan), and Teresita A. Santos (R-Rota)—supported the bill. Sen. Paul A. Manglona (Ind-Rota) was excused from the session.

S.B. 20-35 would also authorize certain existing public land leases to be amended to extend the existing lease term up to 55 years and would authorize DPL to negotiate new public land leases with certain existing public land lessees under new terms and considerations without publishing an RFP.

Concepcion-Teregeyo told Saipan Tribune yesterday that she can’t comment right now until she sees the final version of the bill that was passed by the Senate. “There have been so many changes with the bill [that] until I get the transmission, then I will be able to comment.”

With Fiesta and Hyatt expiring on their public land leases “things will now change. …If [Torres] signs it, then that changes DPL’s stand to [solicit proposals].”

Once the Legislature transmits the bill to the Office of the Governor, Torres has 30 days to review and act on it. If Torres does not act on it, then the bill automatically becomes a law after 30 days.

Concepcion-Teregeyo said they have to meet again with both the management of Fiesta and Hyatt, adding all parties involved with the negotiations are on the same page in hoping to reach an agreement. “The Fiesta and Hyatt management are hopeful to be able to work with DPL and we at DPL are also hopeful and on the same note with them.”

RFPs canceled

The DPL chief said they would cancel releasing the requests for proposal for both Fiesta and Hyatt as they wait for any action to be done by Torres once the Legislature transmits the final draft of S.B. 20-35. “Things now change and, of course, if the governor signs it, we won’t publish our RFP. Our RFPs are ready but we will hold off for now.”

Fiesta’s lease is expected to end in June 2021, while Hyatt has two years left on its public land lease.

“We already had a proposal with the final draft to be published and our target to advertise [FRPs] was at the end of December of midweek of January. A lot of things were disrupted and we also had some setbacks due to the storm, but it was only just two weeks for us. Not a very long one.”

Now that the bill passed the Senate, Concepcion-Teregeyo said that Torres has enough time to review it before DPL makes a move. “We won’t be able to publish [RFPs] until the governor signs or vetoes it [S.B. 20-35].”

“Looks like everything would stay in place. There won’t be no publication of RFPs until after 30 days. We have to wait for 30 days for the governor to act on it or not, after the Legislature transmits the bill to the Governor’s Office.”

Prevent another Mariana Resort

Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands chair Gloria Cavanagh and officials of their member hotels—especially those with expiring leases—are relieved.

Cavanagh, who is the Pacific Islands Club Saipan general manager, along with other officials and personnel of HANMI-member hotels on Saipan, attended yesterday’s Senate session. Their group has been monitoring the legislation, with Fiesta and Hyatt’s leases expiring in less than three years.

Senate members and HANMI are hoping S.B. 20-35 would prevent another incident similar to what happened to Mariana Resort & Spa, which closed down last September as the request for proposal ended with only Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC as the lone bidder. However, IPI and the Department of Public Lands did not come to terms with their negotiations, resulting in the resort’s shutdown.

Cavanagh said S.B. 20-35 is close to her heart, being the former general manager of Mariana Resort. “Now we’re dealing with the leases of Fiesta and Hyatt. The bill is too late to save the negotiations of Mariana Resort. So now that it has closed, a lot of the local people that were [previously] working there are now without jobs. …With this bill, it gives us some time to have an effort to negotiate for the next 15 years.”

With the ball now in Torres’ court, HANMI is hoping the governor would act on the bill. “Hopefully, he signs it, then we can go back to the negotiation process. Fiesta and Hyatt are the ones that are under fire right now. Thank God that they [Fiesta and Hyatt] weren’t too affected by [Super Typhoon] Yutu. They just have some minor issues with their facilities. Thank you, too, that Senate President [Palacios] was able to accomplish what he started. We just have one more step to go—for the governor to sign it. Hopefully he signs it soon.”

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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