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    Thursday, September 19, 2019-2:45:45P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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New group vows to protect NMD interest in public lands

A NEW group organized at the Saipan Leadership Courtyard in Chalan Kanoa vowed to protect the interest of the Northern Marianas descent population when it comes to public lands.

After almost two-hours of a contentious and emotional discussion on how to bring all NMDs together, the new group, which initially called themselves the Northern Marianas Descent Council, elected its board of directors with John R. Castro as chairman; Glenn Manglona, vice chairman; Celina Babauta, secretary; and former Rep. Anna S. Teregeyo, treasurer.

The newly elected officers of an NMD group pose for a photo at the Saipan Leadership Courtyard in Chalan Kanoa on Saturday. They include treasurer Anna S. Teregeyo, vice chairman Glenn Muna, chairman Juan R. Castro and secretary Celina Babauta.  Photo by Emmanuel T. EredianoThe newly elected officers of an NMD group pose for a photo at the Saipan Leadership Courtyard in Chalan Kanoa on Saturday. They include treasurer Anna S. Teregeyo, vice chairman Glenn Muna, chairman Juan R. Castro and secretary Celina Babauta. Photo by Emmanuel T. Erediano

Also attending the meeting were Elizabeth Rechebei, David M. Sablan, Juan I. Tenorio, former Rep. Daniel O. Quitugua, Frank Tomokane, Maria Castro, Julie Manglona, Tony Mareham and about 20 other local residents.

“We are rising now to reclaim the benefits that NMDs are entitled to,” Glenn Manglona said. “We have been taken advantage of for so long. We are bringing the people together— the people who are the owners of public lands because we have been let down for so long already.”

Frank Tomokane said the pressing issue they want to raise now is the Marianas Public Land Trust’s review of the central government’s request for a $15 million line-of-credit.

“We want that money to directly benefit the NMDs. We may need some kind of legal approach, either by way of legislation or a constitutional amendment if necessary,” he added. “We the NMDs are the real owners of public lands. We are the stakeholders.”

Juan R. Castro said the CNMI Constitution designates the NMDs as the beneficiaries of public land revenues.

“I’m not pointing fingers here. I’m just saying that the subject of public land benefits has never been taken up by any previous Legislature or administration. Although the community has been talking about it, one person cannot move the agenda forward,” he added.

Castro noted that a previous organization tried to move it forward.

“But did they move it forward? I’m not really sure,” he said.

Castro said he has “talked to a lot of people about trying to arrive at a solution as to how the public land benefits can come down to all NMD population. And as you can see in today’s meeting, it is a contentious issue. But in the end, we structured the board already, and the real work can now begin.”

The road they are taking, he said, “is going be very complex, very sensitive and I know it is going to be political. But with the leaders that we have right now I think we can smoothly move forward without creating any dissension among ourselves.”

The goal, he added, is to ensure that the NMD population benefit from public land revenues.

Citing the composition of the board and its members’ knowledge and expertise, Castro said he is confident that “we will advance to that point sooner or later.”

Former Rep. Ana S. Teregeyo said she is concerned about MPLT’s actions.

She said it bothered her that the MPLT board met with a Department of Finance official and lawmakers only.

“The NMDs, who are the owners of public lands, were not mentioned,” she added. “We, the NMDs are the real stakeholders.”