Similar to what “Save Pagan” and Northern Islands residents are going through with land issues, an advocate of the group said that they support the renewal of Kan Pacific’s lease, which is set to expire in a couple of years.
“Save Pagan” advocate William Torres said that persons of Northern Marianas descent, or NMDs, are beneficiary investors of CNMI public lands, just as they are also the owners of CNMI public lands. Their collective ownership of CNMI public lands on Rota, Tinian, Saipan, and the Northern Islands entitles NMDs to ultimately make decisions on their investments and public land uses, he said.
Torres argued that Public Law 15-64, which created the Department of Public Lands, makes it the “minister and trustee—conflicting and contradictory roles—of all CNMI public lands, in essence a de facto owner of one of all public lands and doesn’t owe no duty of loyalty to the beneficial and equitable owners and investors.”
Torres said that they support the owners of Mariana Resort in the renewal of their land lease because what Save Pagan advocates are pushing for is in line with their objectives.
Citing comparisons to that of Hawaii, Saipan Tribune learned that the situation on land leases is similar to that of the legal franchise known as the Bishop Estate in Hawaii, inuring to the benefit of Native Hawaiians.
As beneficial and equitable owners of Bishop Estate properties and income, Native Hawaiians are the sole and exclusive beneficiaries and beneficiary owners and investors in Native Hawaiian properties coordinated through the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and governed by an elective governing board of trustees.
Like OHA in Hawaii, DPL here in the CNMI performs and serves ministerial duties as custodian of NMD lands but Torres said the department has taken a stance that is “inapposite to Native Hawaiians with OHA.”
“With many concerned citizens and other supporters of Marianas Resort, DPL’s decision isn’t in the best interest of the CNMI, Torres said.
DPL Secretary Pedro A. Tenorio in June said they will solicit proposals for Mariana Resort & Spa’s public land upon expiration of its lease, adding it is the best interest of the collective owners of the public land to conduct solicitation for proposals upon expiration of existing leases.
Kan Pacific, which owns Mariana Resort, said it had been assured that it would be given a renewal.
DPL’s alleged about-face led several members of the Hotel Association of the Northern Marianas Islands to question whether their existing land leases would also be renewed, putting a damper on their plans to improve amenities and raise hotel standards.
“The secretary [Tenorio], who is appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate, serves at the pleasure of the governor pursuant to PL 15-2, Section 102. And just when all think that the secretary is held to strict standards of fiduciary care, he/she is nonetheless removable at-will for any or no reason at all by the governor,” Torres said.
“Save Pagan” is a group of CNMI residents that opposes the U.S. military’s planned live-fire training exercises on Pagan, as outlined in the CNMI Joint Military Training Plan-Environmental Impact Statement/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement.