DANDAN Saipan —The Marianas Public Lands Authority has expressed confidence that ongoing discussions with Korean investors who want to open a hotel casino and a 27-hole golf course on Tinian will bear initial results in the coming weeks.

The project is expected to move forward with the hiring of former Superior Court of Saipan Presiding Judge Edward Manibusan as the investors’ legal representative in the talks.

“That’s a good start ” Edward De Leon Guerrero commissioner at MPLA told the Journal. “They already have an attorney here representing them in the negotiations. Now we have somebody here that we can be in touch with whenever we have questions ” he said.

Guerrero said both parties are working on provisions of the conditional lease that Marianas Resort Development Co. Inc. has been requesting for them to be allowed by their government to bring the initial $11 million in funding that they have raised in Korea for the project.

“We have given a draft copy of the conditional lease agreement to their attorney. I got word that Manibusan will be reviewing that. We should be able to at least finalize the conditional agreement within a two-week period of time ” Guerrero said.

Once the conditional lease is granted by the MPLA board of directors the investors will be given 90 days to submit the requirements. They will also be allowed to proceed with their planning for the golf course hotel and casino.

MPLA will likewise submit recommendations to the MPLA Board of Directors for review and approval of the lease which by law covers a minimum of 25 years with an optional 15-year extension. A lease of over 15 years requires legislative approval. Upon approval of the investors’ petition to lease a public land for the project MPLA gave the investors a list of requirements including a financial statement and the complete project plan.

It has been almost a year since the investors signified interest to construct the resort. In November last year Guerrero assured he would expedite the approval process and get the project off the ground as soon a possible. ‘This has been going on for some time now. The phase on how we consummate the lease agreement depends on how fast the developer can satisfy all the requirements for the board to make a decision. This is a big project. An agreement can not be completed overnight. There is a lot of things that need to be looked into. MPLA stands ready to work with them and move on with the project ” Guerrero said.

He said they are pleased with the design of the resort. “If built as planned ” he said “it will be an additional tourist attraction.” The original site for the project was a beachside property on western Tinian northwest of the San Jose village — the island’s main village — and south of the West Tinian International Airport boundary. The investors had requested to occupy a bigger land area — over five hectares — from the beach inland and near the main road going to the airport.

In June the Journal reported that three businessmen from the United States were interested in securing a 40 000-square-meter prime property on Tinian for a hotel and casino resort project (See “Tinian doubles down ” in the June 13 issue of the Journal.).

The three are Rudy Pamintuan president of Sherman Consulting Inc. of Chicago; Akshay Desai founder of American Family and Geriatic Care of St. Petersburg Fla.; and Kenneth Wong president of CIG Asia Ltd. of Holland Pa.

The three are also members of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders which held hearings in January this year that was attended by David Cohen Insular Affairs deputy assistant secretary at the office of insular affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Cohen through his presentation about opportunities in the Pacific islands convinced the three to seriously consider opening a hotel and casino resort.

Guerrero said there is “not much” progress on that project yet.

For its part The Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino had indicated plans to build an additional wing and expand its 400-room facility to accommodate an expected influx of Chinese visitors following the signing of the agreement in December in China granting CNMI Approved Destination Status.

Tom Liu hotel general manager at the Tinian Dynasty told the Saipan Chamber of Commerce during a general membership meeting on Jan. 26 at the Aqua Resort Club that the expansion plan was a result of the discovery of an untapped market in China.

“The incentive market is a huge market ” he said referring to tour packages given to deserving employees and officials of big corporations in China. “There are companies in electronics computers and other consumer products that are sending their employees abroad for a vacation ” he said. Liu said the incentive sector is a new market that has develop as China’s economy continues to grow and more and more Chinese families begin to have such consumer items as ovens and toasters.

Liu said amendments to the Dynasty’s existing lease agreement with MPLA have to be made. “Our leased public land is zoned for parking and landscaping purposes only. To build a new hotel revisions need to be made to the existing parcel to allow us to build the new hotel.”

The West Tinian International Airport underwent a $21 million expansion project that started in 2001 and was completed in April. The airport’s runway used to be 6 000 feet long and 150 feet wide. Now the runway is 8 600 feet long and 150 feet wide and can take in airplanes the size of a Boeing 777 Ignacio L. “Ike” Perez Tinian ports manager told the Journal in November. Local officials said the extended runway and renovation of the airport’s terminal building will all add to the confidence of investors. MBJ