Attorney General Edward Manibusan was involved in the CNMI-Docomo Pacific memorandum of understanding that allocated $6 million for the telecommunication company to connect both Rota and Tinian when it was laying its fiber optic cable called Atisa for Saipan, according to the governor.
In a statement to Saipan Tribune, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said the attorney general was involved in the CNMI-Docomo Pacific MOU, despite the claims of Rep. Ed K. Propst (Ind-Saipan) stating otherwise.
“…The [attorney general] was involved throughout the process of creating an MOU in direct coordination with Office of the Governor and Docomo,” the short statement to Saipan Tribune said.
The Torres administration declined to comment further until the bill is on the governor’s desk for enactment.
Rep. Angel A. Demapan’s (R-Saipan) House Bill 20-165 is currently pending at the Senate floor for action while H.B. 20-164 is at the conference committee for review.
Both bill contain provisions that pay Docomo Pacific $1.3 million for extending fiber optic cable connectivity to the islands of Rota and Tinian.
During the House discussions on H.B. 20-165, Propst pointed out that the CNMI-Docomo Pacific MOU was non-binding in nature since it lacked the approval of the attorney general.
Propst questioned whether the MOU condition should be addressed since the MOU also did not specifically indicate that the CNMI government would shoulder the additional costs for the fiber optic cable project.
According to a copy of the March 10, 2016, MOU, it was agreed, among other things, that the CNMI would request for federal funding from the U.S. Department of the Interior to increase the CNMI Capital Improvement Projects funds allocation for three years or, alternatively, increase the Technical Assistant Grant Fund to facilitate the project.
Also according to the MOU, in the case that the endeavor to increase funding is unsuccessful, the CNMI would have to look for alternate sources of funding the project.
“…If the CNMI is unsuccessful in obtaining an increase in the CIP funds and/or the Technical Assistance Grant funds, the government of the CNMI will endeavor to commit funding from alternative sources for the next three years in consideration for bandwidth capacity by Docomo Pacific commensurate with the amount of the CNMI government investment,” the MOU added.
Demapan, author of both H.B. 20-164 and H.B. 20-165, said during the discussions on H.B. 20-165 in a House session last Friday that the appropriation from the Casino Gross Revenue Tax would be the alternative source of funding.