After more than two hours of talks, the Marianas Public Land Trust board chose to defer action on the government’s request for a line of credit, saying it wouldn’t agree to the request unless the Department of Public Lands transfers the full amount that is due the MPLT.
MPLT chair Martin B. Ada told Saipan Tribune last night that DPL still owes the agency $7.6 million in revenue from public land leases.
“It was the consensus of the [MPLT] board that, unless DPL remits the full amount due [and] as soon as [DPL] remits the full amount, then we would consider taking the step,” he said.
The MPLT is claiming that DPL owes it $10.9 million in public land lease revenues since 2017. DPL remitted $3 million to MPLT last Thursday and another over $300,000 that the board learned of yesterday afternoon.
Ada said that they also plan to meet with Gov. Ralph DLG Torres in order to put a closure to the issue. “The letter to the governor would be the next step that we’re going to be taking, but it will all depend on the remittance of that $7.6 million from DPL.”
“This is a very crucial decision to make. It is a major investment decision that would require the full participation of the board. …That’s the consensus of the board. Majority of the trustees have agreed to make that decision that we’re going to wait for that $7.6 million. Then we will take it from there and proceed with what is needed. We will have more discussion on this,” Ada said.
Torres had asked MPLT last April 26 for a line of credit for the CNMI government—through the Department of Finance—to help the government pay its bond obligations and to the NMI Settlement Fund.
House Speaker Blas Jonathan T. Attao (R-Saipan) had already introduced a bill, House Bill 21-44, to authorize that line of credit.
Attao insists that the money—in any amount that the government would get from MPLT—will not be used for operational funds but would rather address both the bonds and Settlement Fund.
Ada said the MPLT board will also discuss the suggestion of MPLT trustee Pedro R. Deleon Guerrero (Saipan) about suing DPL to settle the remittance issue. “We’re not yet considering it. Anytime a trustee has a concern, it will be put on the table for a vote and a majority will pass the issue. It is a concern that we’ve been actually discussing—whether to take DPL to court or not.”
“If an issue is put on the table, it has to be voted by the trustees. …And three out of five would have to agree whether to take DPL to court or not. That’s how we conduct things here. I’ve been here with MPLT for seven years. We’ve been after DPL on that remittance every year. The $10.9 million was just two years ago,” he added.
The other MPLT trustees are Maria Frica T. Pangelinan (vice chair), Peter Q. Cruz (Tinian), and Vianney B. Hocog (Rota).