Lawmakers over the weekend discovered a potential flaw in the language of the CNMI Constitution while discussing whether to pass a “renewal” or an “extension” of leases for Bank of Guam and Construction Material Supply Inc.
In a joint session held last Friday afternoon at the House chamber on Capital Hill, a lengthy discussion surrounding whether to use the term “extension” or “renewal” for the expired leases of BankGuam Properties Inc. and CMS with both properties expiring last 2016, lawmakers argued that the term “renewal” was applicable since extensions are only applied to agreements that have yet to expire.
While Section XI, Article 5(c) of the CNMI Constitution provides that foreign lease holders are only allowed to lease land for 25 years plus an additional 15 granted it is with the blessing of three-fourths of the Legislature in a joint session, the language of the article specifically mentioned both “renewal” and “extension,” causing conflict.
“The corporation may not transfer a leasehold interest in public lands that exceeds twenty-five years including renewal rights. An extension of not more than fifteen years may be given upon approval by three-fourths of the members of the legislature.”
A representative of the Attorney General’s Office assigned to the Department of Public Lands opined that the Attorney General Edward Manibusan might not sign a resolution passed by the Legislature since technically, “extension” pertains to prolonging an agreement that has yet to expire. For both BankGuam and CMS’ cases, the lease term of 25 years have already expired.
If the Legislature opts to support a “renewal,” then it might seem that they support a repeat of the 25-year initial period of the lease.
According to the CNMI Constitution, a lease may only be held for a maximum of 40 years.
As discussions between the lawmakers commenced, Rep. Blas Jonathan Attao (Ind-Saipan) suggested an amendment to replace “renewal” with “extension” for the joint resolution pertaining to both companies. Rep. Joseph Deleon Guerrero (R-Saipan) suggested otherwise, citing DPL’s legal counsel opinion that Manibusan might not sign off on the resolution if the term “extension” was used.
Ultimately, the Legislature agreed not to amend both resolutions after an hour of discussions on the language of both resolutions and unanimously supported both companies.
Specifically, BankGuam is seeking to lease the parking area of Bank of Guam while CMS is seeking to lease their lot in Kannat Tabla.
A third resolution, which was drafted to support the extension of IT&E, was held back since Rep. Alice Igitol (R-Saipan) did not support the resolution due to a conflict in the terms. According to Igitol, she would first review the contract while House Speaker Rafael Demapan (R-Saipan) urges her to expedite the review.