Members of the Kitami family and employees of the Mariana Resort & Spa were “shocked” by the decision of the Department of Public Lands to solicit competitive bids instead of granting a lease for the Japanese-owned resort.
“Kan Pacific has received the letter from DPL. KPS (Kan Pacific Saipan), the Kitami family, and our employees are feeling shocked because we were led to believe we were getting another lease,” a formal response, sent by email by Gloria Cavanagh, Mariana Resort & Spa general manager, said.
The letter said Kan Pacific “received reassurances of this as recently as two months ago.”
“We intend to discuss this matter with the DPL and hopefully come to an agreeable resolution in the near future,” the letter further said.
DPL Secretary Pedro A. Tenorio, in a letter, said “after considering all options, it is the position of this department that the best interest of the collective owners of public land are best served by conducting a global solicitation for proposals for the public land upon expiration of existing leases.”
Tenorio added, “this will be the rule for any expiring leases with our government.” The letter was addressed to Yoshihiro Kitami, president of Mariana Resort & Spa. The resort’s long-term lease with the government is set to expire in 2018.
Rep. Vinson Sablan (Ind-Saipan), a lawmakers from Precinct 4, where Mariana Resort & Spa is located, said he is concerned that contributions of the resort to the community were apparently not being considered.
“The resort is employing hundreds of locals. It is very active in the community projects. They’ve been here for more than 30 years now. These factors should all be considered,” Sablan said.
He also said he cannot understand the reason on getting another lease from the resort when it already submitted a proposal, detailing more than $70 million in additional investments.
He said the DPL’s decision is “alarming” and might send the wrong signal to investors.
Sablan’s fellow Precinct 4 lawmaker, House Floor Leader George Camacho (R-Saipan), echoed the same sentiments regarding Mariana Resort’s planned investment.
“Did he (Tenorio) even read the proposal of Mariana Resort?” Camacho asked.
Rep. Joseph “Lee Pan” Guerrero (R-Saipan) said he “understands the DPL secretary’s approach to get what is best for the CNMI.”
But he said the investor in question is a Japanese investor, and the decision to issue competitive bids comes at such a time that efforts are being made to try “to save the Japanese market” for tourism.
He also said he would recommend the DPL to make a determination of the value of land where Mariana Resort is located and perhaps sit down with the resort’s management and “work something out.”