House Speaker Blas Jonathan T. Attao (R-Saipan) knows the CNMI government is pressed for time when it comes to its request for a line of credit from the Marianas Public Land Trust.
However, he wants everything to be done right.
“Everything is time-sensitive. But, like what I always say, let’s do this step by step. For the MPLT trustees to look at all of their options in order for them to fulfill their fiduciary duties and not get sued by anyone.”
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres wants to obtain $15 million from MPLT to enable the Commonwealth government to pay its bond obligations and pay the Settlement Fund.
“We can’t move without [MPLT] since the contract is between MPLT and the administration. We’re just the facilitator. To allow the LOC or loan, or whatever term they may use in the end, we’re just the vehicle that needs to push it through,” Attao added.
He added that he recognizes that they should have introduced a bill where the loan amount is indicated. “But what if that is not going to happen? So, what if the amount that was included won’t be accepted by MPLT? Or, what if I put $10 million but they come in to negotiations and they can go as high as $40 million?”
“The bill or the law would hamper that negotiation and it will make it look stupid. I don’t want a bill that would look stupid. I want to know the amount so the bill would follow the amount. Then it is up to them [MPLT] how much [to loan out] at the end, or should we try do a ceiling that is allowable with MPLT? If we’re going to do a ceiling, why not just remove that and allow it to happen?”
Attao introduced House Bill 21-44, which would establish a credit facility with the MPLT to help the government in addressing its bond obligations and fund payment to the NMI Settlement Fund.
The third-term lawmaker from Precinct 1 said the bond obligations and Settlement Fund payment are being paid by earmarked funds from the budget of the central government. “The Settlement Fund is a court order. What are we going to do if we do not pay that? Get sued more? It is an obligation that we can’t not pay. But it also chokes the other distribution of funds that would have [gone to] other accounts to get paid. This is now our challenge.
“If we’re allowed to get this LOC, it would service the bond and Settlement Fund. The money will trickle down to these accounts and we can at least have more economic activity going on. So, payments are being made out.”
The MPLT board also needs to consult with their own legal counsel, Robert Torres, in order to make sure that their decision doesn’t violate any laws and the agreement it would enter with the CNMI government would be made within the law.