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Last updateTue, 10 Dec 2019 12am







    Monday, December 9, 2019-12:00:08P.M.






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DPL, lawmakers discuss homesteads in Northern Islands

THE Department of Public Lands wants to wait for the disposition of U.S. military proposal to conduct exercises on Pagan before DPL implements the homestead program in the Northern Islands.

But Northern Islands mayor’s office program manager Jerome Aldan said they don’t need to wait for the military’s decision.

In a meeting early this month with DPL and the Saipan and Northern Islands legislative delegation, Aldan said Public Lands Secretary Pete A. Tenorio told them that military plans were delaying the homestead program.

Tenorio, according to Aldan, admitted that no action has been taken on homestead implementation for over seven years now because of safety concerns, uncertainty over the military’s plans and the unresolved issues related to pozzolan and the former permit holder.

Now that the pozzolan issue has been resolved by the local court, there’s a need to conduct an updated study on the value and quantity of the minerals, Tenorio said, adding that the previous studies may no longer be valid.

Aldan said Tenorio informed them that DPL recently completed a comprehensive land-use plan for Pagan.

However, Aldan added, DPL failed to seek input and guidance from the residents of the Northern Islands.

The Northern Islands mayor’s office was also not afforded an opportunity to comment which Aldan said is contrary to statutory requirements.

Aldan said Tenorio also stressed that DPL cannot pursue the homestead program without guidance from the Legislature.

Public Law 16-50, according to DPL, in a way impedes the implementation of the homestead program due to concerns about lack of infrastructure and the enormous cost associated with capital development in the Northern Islands.

Aldan said the existing public laws such as P.L. 2-13, P.L. 8-9, P.L. 11-96, P.L. 14-66, P.L. 15-2, P.L. 15-64, P.L. 16-8, and P.L. 16-50 should provide the guidance that DPL seeks from the Legislature, adding that the department should apply to fast-track the homestead programs in the Northern Islands.

He said the land-use plan and parceling by Juan C. Tenorio, P.E. in 1979 including DPL’s own parceling plan could be used in implementing the homestead programs in Pagan.

He added that the existing survey of the first village homestead on Pagan is still with the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Aldan said there’s also a need to implement the free trade zone referenced in Public Law 18-15.

The Legislature, moreover, needs to act on Rep. Trenton Conner’s Bill H.B. 18-109 which compels DPL to act on the homestead program in the Northern Islands, Aldan added.

During the meeting, Aldan said they also discussed what he described as the “proposed military takeover” of Pagan.

Besides Tenorio, DPL was also represented by planner Patricia S. Rasa, real estate director Rachel Roque and homestead director Manuel Rabauliman.

Also participating in the meeting were former Rep. William Torres and architect Herman B. Cabrera both with the Northern Islands Development Task Force.

Concerning the safety issue raised by some lawmakers, Aldan said now more than ever Pagan, a volcanic island, is in good hands.

He attributed the safety measures to the million-dollar fiber optic cable installed over the summer to monitor seismic activity on Pagan and the other Northern Islands.

He said the technology is highly advanced as it could be remotely accessed for high resolution, real time photos, seismic activity and other specialized uses, including internet access.

Aldan said he presented to the lawmakers a plan for proposed village homestead plots in Bandera and village and agricultural plots in Regusa.

He said he also updated the delegation about the pending agriculture-waiver claims submitted during the time of then-Mayor Valentin Taisakan’s administration and current Mayor Tobias Aldan.

Jerome Aldan said the current mayor is following up on the status of the homestead-waiver claimants

He said Mayor Aldan expressed his appreciation to the leadership of delegation committee on resources, particularly Vice Speaker Frank Dela Cruz for his “unwavering support” and for calling on DPL to issue without delay homestead permits to Northern Island residents using existing laws.

During the meeting, Jerome Aldan said Dela Cruz pointed out that the decision on the homestead particularly on Pagan is a local concern and DPL should take the necessary steps to issue deeds and permits to the Northern Island residents.

DPL “should not entertain or second guess the military’s plan, more so because the homestead laws pre-dated the military’s interest in Pagan,” Jerome Aldan quoted the vice speaker as saying.

Rep. Chris Leon Guerrero, who opposes the “militarization” of Pagan, agreed that homestead concerns should be addressed now, Jerome Aldan said.

Leon Guerrero also reminded DPL about the $2 million appropriated in fiscal year 2014 for homestead development programs in the CNMI, including those in the Northern Islands, Jerome Aldan said.

Rep. Roman Benavente, for his part, offered to draft a resolution opposing the use of Pagan as a military training ground.

Jerome Aldan said Rep. Richard Seman discussed DPL’s land-use plan and the evacuation plan for the Northern Islands.

Seman asked DPL whether it adequately consulted with the residents on the land-use plan for Pagan.

Jerome Aldan said Tenorio and Rasa admitted that there was no consultation made with residents of the Northern Islands regarding the Pagan land-use plan.

As for the evacuation plan, Seman wanted to know the cost that would be incurred by the government to evacuate people from the Northern Islands in the event a disaster occurs there.

Rep. Ramon Tebuteb reminded DPL about his request that the department provide a slot for Northern Marianas College student interns to visit the Northern Islands for educational purposes.