The full Senate adopted yesterday the report of the Senate Committee on Resources, Economic Development and Programs that recommends filing—effectively setting aside—a legislative initiative that proposes to amend Article 12 to remove the land alienation restriction in the CNMI Constitution.
In legislative lingo, “filing” a bill means shelving it or not acting on it further.
All nine senators, including Senate president Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian), who is the author of Senate Legislative Initiative 22-01, voted “yes” to adopt the committee’s report.
The initiative had proposed to amend Article 12 of the CNMI Constitution to remove the restriction on the alienation of land in the CNMI and thereby allow Northern Marianas descent landowners to fully exercise their real property rights. The initiative also sought to reduce the NMD percentage of ownership interest in a Northern Marianas Descent corporation.
Committee chair Sen. Justo S. Quitugua (R-Saipan) related that, as soon as the legislative initiative was referred to his committee, they held public hearings on Rota, Saipan, and Tinian to give people the opportunity to express their testimonies and comments.
Quitugua said that, based on the testimonies presented during the public hearings and those submitted in writing, an overwhelming majority of the testimonies on Tinian and Saipan opposed the initiative.
Also,Quitugua said, the author of the initiative legislative himself, Hofschneider, requested the committee to file the measure during the Senate session last May 18.
“So with the aforesaid reasons, the committee made the decision to file Senate Legislative Initiative 22-01,” Quitugua said.
Sen. Victor B. Hocog (R-Rota) said he is very proud, though, of Hofschneider for giving time to introduce this initiative legislative. “I must applaud you for bringing this matter before the people and your committee to ensure that we wake them up about the situation of Article 12,” Hocog told Hofschneider.
Article 12 of the CNMI Constitution restricts ownership of private land to persons of NMD. It is a provision unique to the CNMI.
Hocog said there were some proponents in the past who wanted to amend Article 12 to provide more opportunities to business entrepreneurs, but that did not happen. After 20 some years of letting the topic lay dormant, Hocog said it was good of Hofschneider to put up a sort of a wake-up call to check whether or not people would like to change, or continue to maintain that rule.
He said there are people out there that supported the initiative, but the REDP Committee came up with a conclusion based on public opinion, as well as Hofschneider’s blessing. “At this time, I think that we have seen their concern,” Hocog said.