DANDAN Saipan — The Marianas Public Lands Authority will work with local businesses and the legislature to come up with a program that would require establishments — including hotels and golf courses — to provide discounted rates to indigenous residents.
“All public lands belong to the indigenous people. We hope that in the future we could work as partners with developers for them to give some sort of a discount to the indigenous people because this land is theirs ” Edward De Leon Guerrero commissioner of the MPLA told the Journal.
Business establishments operating on public lands pay the government certain lease rates computed based on the area’s appraised value over a period of time — 25 years. Certain businesses mostly golf courses and hotels already provide discounts to locals. “We are hoping for perhaps a bigger percentage for them ” Guerrero said. Besides he said MPLA has been receiving complaints from businesses that said they find it difficult to distinguish who the locals really are. “They show them driver’s license and that’s it ” Guerrero said.
MPLA will also hold talks with lawmakers to come up with legislation that would provide more teeth to the measure. He said the plan was patterned after Hawaii’s Kamaina rates provided to people of Hawaiian descent at business establishments.
On Aug. 17 MPLA launched a CNMI-descent registry campaign that would enable the government to come up with a database on the indigenous population. Those who registered were given identification cards.
Guerrero said the turnout has been good with people coming in to their office to sign up. So far he said 500 people on Saipan have registered. “On Rota they’re lining up. And we will have an inaugural ceremony on Tinian on Sept. 15.”
He said MPLa expects the numbers to increase once MPLA staff go into the community with tents tables and chairs at different business establishments and government offices to open registration centers. The NMI-descent registry campaign was approved by the board of directors of MPLA and had an initial funding of $86 000. MBJ