A lease extension application for a large fuel company located within close proximity to a school on Rota reportedly lacks public benefit, pushing a committee to conduct a public hearing to procure the comments of Rota residents.
Mobil Oil Mariana Islands Inc. requested for a 15-year lease extension on Sasanhaya-Songsong, Rota through a letter to the Department of Public Lands dated June 27, 2018.
DPL secretary Marianne Teregeyo, in another letter, explained that they have sought public comments from Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig back in Feb. 26, 2018. Atalig reportedly noted concerns about the facility’s location, which is in close proximity to residential areas, a hotel, and the Rita I. Hocog Inos Junior Senior High School.
“Other concerns listed by Mayor Atalig was potential disaster and the absence of the lessee’s sense of community in the lessee’s assistance in contributing to community programs,” Teregeyo wrote to Senate President Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan) and House Speaker Rafael S. Demapan (R-Saipan). She added that DPL is still reviewing Atalig’s concerns.
Sen. Teresita A. Santos (R-Rota), in a statement Monday, pointed out that the company’s request indicated little public benefit and that a public hearing should be held to seek Rota residents’ opinion on the matter.
“There have been serious safety concerns raised as the bulk plant is situated just several feet away from Dr. Rita Hocog Inos Jr. Sr. High School, a school which accommodates hundreds of our students,” she told members of the Senate in Monday’s session.
“[The company’s] response for public benefit on its lease extension made no mention of any public benefits or safety drill exercises or trainings for our public school system, students, parents, faculty and staff, or even neighboring residence,” she said.
According to an April 17, 2018 communication from Mobil Oil Mariana Islands Inc. director Garet Olivares, the lease agreement extension was updated to include Rota benefits, such as fuel supply for government vehicles being used by the Rota municipality with a maximum limit of $1,000 per month; 20 safety cones for every two years for the Rota municipality; eight drums every five years of fire-fighting foam for fire drill exercises and training for the Rota Fire Department; and 1 bale of absorbent booms and three bales of absorbent pads every three years—each bale consists of eight pieces of 10-foot absorbent booms and 100 pieces of absorbent pads respectively.
During the session, Sen. Sixto K. Igisomar (R-Saipan) concurred with Santos’ statement while Sen. Francisco Borja (R-Tinian), who also chairs the Senate Committee on Resources, Economic Development, and Programs, promised that his committee would conduct a public hearing to give the residents of Rota a chance to comment.
“I have read also the communication from Atalig, and the community’s concern is legitimate, therefore I [believe] the opinion of the people of Rota should be heard,” he said.