Marianas Variety

Last updateSat, 19 Jan 2019 12am







    Friday, January 18, 2019-1:10:42A.M.






Font Size


OPINION: Regarding several pieces of legislation

BUENAS yan Hafa Adai Honorable Alice Santos-Igitol, chairwoman, House Committee on Natural Resources, and members!

This is in reference to several pieces of legislation both from the House and Senate that have been referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources for the committee’s review and deliberation.

On behalf of MATUA Council for Chamorro Advancement, I hereby submit the following brief statements on our position to the respective proposed legislations that has been referred to your committee. A detailed analysis of our position to each of the legislations will be forwarded to the respective author of the bill and a copy to the House Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Committee on Resources and Economic Development.

Liana M.S. HofschneiderLiana M.S. Hofschneider

• H.B. 20-023 — “To define industrial port use, port related operations and to amend 1 CMC §2606 (9g), Public Lands; Fundamental Policies; and to allow government agencies on the islands of Tinian and Rota to lease public lands, convey to them by Public Lands, for legitimate public purpose related to their agencies mandate.” Introduced by Rep. Edwin P. Aldan.

We oppose H.B. 20-023 in its entirety to transfer interest of public lands from the Department of Public Lands to any department or agency of the government to negotiate lease terms in this regard. It is the intent of the Covenant and the Constitutional provision to revert interest of any public lands back to DPL transferred to any department of agency for its operational use that are not being fully utilized. It is DPL’s fiduciary duty to lease and maximize its investment on any land lease for the benefit of its intended beneficiaries, especially, the Chamorros who are the indigenous peoples of the Mariana Islands.

• H.B. 20-137 — “To designate Commonwealth Parks and establish a CNMI Parks System and to re- designate the Department and Division of Historic Preservation Office within the Department of Lands and Natural Resources; and for other purposes.” Introduced by Rep. Donald C. Barcinas.

We oppose H.B. 20-023 in its entirety to designate certain public lands as “Commonwealth Parks” and transfer interest of these public lands to the Department of Lands and Natural Resources. This public policy is contrary to the intent of the Covenant and the Constitution to allow a certain government department or agency to transfer and take control of the land listed herewith in the legislation depriving the intended beneficiaries of their interest in these public lands as envisioned in both the Covenant and Constitution.                                        

Additionally, we oppose the proposed provision in this legislation that included the transfer of the Division of Historic Preservation Office from the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs to a division within the Department of Lands and Natural Resources.

It is important to note that the Department of Lands and Natural Resources has purview over four large divisions under the department: Division of Fish and Wildlife, Division of Agriculture, Division of Parks and Recreation, and Division of Lands and Survey; and including interest in a national federal agency, the Western Fisheries Management Council.

We are cognizant that DLNR has numerous issues pertaining to the management and operation of several of its divisions, especially in the expansion of the tourism economic development; and management of our ocean resources that has several conservation issues on the table, to list a few.

Further, the Historic Preservation Office is a critical office and important office to have careful and focused management in its disposition of our cultural and historical heritage, especially our ancient Chamoru settlement sites.

The Committee members shall recognize that it was the former Division of Public Lands under DLNR first leased this property to an investor where 263 ancient graves were recovered. This site should have been in the United States National Registry of Historic Places under the National Parks Service as a cultural heritage site of the native inhabitant or first people, the Chamorus.

Furthermore, this legislation intends to absolve the liability of Imperial Pacific International and Best Sunshine International; including any other potential party in the violation of P.L. 3-39 and P.L. 10-71 in the assessment of the $10,000 per day per violation of the intended destruction and desecration of our ancient Chamoru village and burial ground at Anaguan dated 1100 A.D. or 900 plus years old settlement site.

To date we have not seen or heard the enforcement of this public laws by either the Historic Preservation office director Mertie Towai-Kani who is also the governor appointed State Historic Preservation Officer, or DCCA Secretary Robert Henry Hunter or the Office of the Attorney General.

This merits and renders a call for an oversight hearing by both Houses of the Legislature on the status of the enforcement of these applicable laws to this important division, HPO. And to also focus on comprehensive “stand alone” legislation to strengthen the management and accountability to our invaluable cultural and historical heritage and resources by providing a provision to re-establish the governing board of HPO to list a few.

• H.B. 20-139 — “To amend Title 1, Division 2, Section 2807 to grant the Department of Public Lands Secretary the authority to negotiate public land leases pursuant to his/her fiduciary, constitutional and statutory duties.” Introduced by Speaker Ralph Demapan.

We oppose H.B. 20-139 in its entirety. This legislation would potentially give one or two individuals or one entity the sole authority to negotiate and approve lease of our public lands or “Trust Lands” on the most valuable asset belonging to the beneficiaries of these lands, especially the indigenous people, the Chamorus.

This legislation is tantamount to the divestiture of the representatives of the beneficiaries, the Legislature, which gives an authoritarian power to the few to dispossess our public lands or “trust lands” from the beneficiaries as they deem fit — tantamount to opening the doors to the gateway of possible corruption and malfeasance in public office that has continued to plague our islands’ government in the last two decades.

• H.B. 20-073 — “To amend Title 2, Division 4, Chapter 1 of the Commonwealth Code by inserting new section to restrict the rezoning of Public Lands until the completion of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan.” Introduced by Rep. Vinson “Vinnie” F. Sablan.

• H.B. 20-081 — “To amend Title 1, Division 2, Part 1 Chapter 14 of the Commonwealth Code by inserting new sections to restrict future public land leases until the completion of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan.” Rep. Lorenzo “Larry” I. Deleon Guerrero.

We support the intent of both H.B. 20-073 and H.B. 081; and endorse the passage of the Committee Report adopted by the House Committee on Natural Resources for both pieces of legislations.

This Committee is cognizant of the mandate of the former Marianas Public Lands Authority, the former Marianas Public Lands Corporation, and now the Department of Public Lands where they all failed to adhere to the adoption and implementation of a Constitutional provision that called for a Comprehensive Land Use Plan for all public lands in the NMI.

It is imperative that this body must ensure that the Saipan Zoning Board should be prevented from zoning and re-zoning of any public land to fulfill its purpose because the mandate of P.L. 15-2, the Constitution and the Covenant is paramount to that of the Saipan Zoning law in regards to the disposition of all public lands or trust lands that infringes upon the assets and interests of the beneficiaries, especially the indigenous people, the Chamorus.

Further, the Secretary of the Department of Public Lands’ failure to adopt and implement the “Land Use Plan” since the inception of the Constitution and P.L. 15-2 is a violation of both its Constitutional mandate and its fiduciary duty to ensure the utmost protection and disposition of all trust land for the beneficiaries.

• S.B. 20-047 — “To amend 2 CMC §4372; to amend 2 CMC §4376 to establish the Kastiyu Agricultural Homestead Development in Tinian; and for other public purposes.” Introduced by Sen. Jude U. Hofschneider.

We support the intent of S.B. 20-047 to ensure that suitable lands are reserved and preserved for future settlement sites of the descendants of the native inhabitants of the Mariana Islands, the Chamorus.

Again, we appreciate the Committee’s support in the recommendation to pass the Standing Committee Reports for H.B. 20-073 and H.B 20-081, SCR 20-060, SCR 20-061, respectively; and approval of S.B.20-047.

We look forward to a collaborative working relationship with the members and committee in providing a comprehensive legislation to address the protection, preservation and persistence of our cultural and historical heritage and resources in the NMI for the future generations of Chamoru children.

Si Yu’us Ma’asi.