The Northern Marianas Descent Corp. opposes a Senate proposal to amend Article 11 of the CNMI Constitution that would allow longer lease terms on public lands.
In a meeting Wednesday night, NMDC members voted not to support extending public land leases beyond the 40-year period provided by the CNMI Constitution.
A bill that’s now pending in the Legislature, Senate Bill 20-35, proposes to allow extending public land leases by 35 years on top of the current 40-year period allowed by law.
“The NMDs [Northern Marianas descent] present tonight decided, in all due respect to our esteemed legislators, to keep Article 11 as is, which means 40 years maximum land lease,” said NMDC president John Gonzalez.
He said this was because NMDs did not want to close the door to other possible investors. The members of the corporation believe that the land-bidding process should proceed, once a public land lease is up, while ensuring a fair and just bidding process.
“…Nothing in the existing Article 11 public land lease prohibits anyone, any authentic investor, from submitting a competitive proposal to invest in public lands, including existing investors,” said Gonzalez.
He said this will ensure that individuals of Northern Marianas descent receive the best land lease offers and “NMDs will achieve the best optimum dividend returns.”
Senate President Arnold Palacios (R-Saipan), who spoke at the meeting, said that his concern is for hotels and businesses that have leased public lands and contributed to the islands’ economy.
He said these hotels and companies have given much to the economy and extending their leases should be considered for these hotels so they could further develop their assets.
Rep. Sixto Igisomar (R-Saipan), who supports extending public land leases, wants to see diversity among its investors. He believes that an extension will keep the current diversity among investors, ensuring a healthy economy.
By extending public land leases, existing investors will be able to come up with a stronger proposal for their properties, ensuring a continuous diversity among investors on the island, Igisomar said.
According to Gonzalez, the NMDC decided that diversity is still achievable by allowing the current investors to proffer their best proposals. Gonzalez said the NMDC believes that “40 years is a lot of time.”