House, governor say land compensation payments a priority

THE House leadership engaged in a lengthy discussion on Thursday about, among other things, the $16 million owed to the Mangabao estate, a government obligation that has been accumulating interest since the 1990s.

Paying the compensation owed to the heirs of Maria Mangabao will be among the priorities that the House will consider once a supplemental budget becomes available later this year.

The Mangabao land compensation is also a priority of the Torres administration.

Rep. Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero, a member of Ways and Means, said they all agreed to prioritize the Mangabao estate because of the accruing high interest.

Among the heirs of Mangabao are Rep. Edwin Aldan and former Rep. Ramon Tebuteb.

In a statement, Gov. Ralph Torres said aside from Mangabao, the government will also pay the Estates of Lizama in civil case 08-0149; Muna, civil case 96-0769; Quitugua, civil case 96-1158; and Rogolofoi, civil case 05-0197A.

Torres said the business-gross-revenue tax generated by the casino industry has been earmarked, among several community priorities, for the payment of land compensation judgments.

“With the increase in revenue as a result of our growing economy, we are now able to fully pay off our government’s biggest debts and obligations. Since the June 23, 2017 court order, my administration, through then acting Gov. Arnold Palacios, held several meetings and discussions with the Office of the Attorney General, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Department of Finance in order to come up with a payment plan. It was agreed that the most fiscally responsible decision would be to pay the judgments in full by Aug. 18, 2017,” the governor said.

He said Palacios and Speaker Ralph Demapan, in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General, facilitated the drafting of the appropriation bill which will be sent to the Legislature to fulfill the government’s obligations to the Mangabao and other mentioned estates.

“The prompt passage of this bill is important, not only because it fully pays off the judgment so that it does not accumulate additional interest, but it also solidifies our commitment to paying off our government’s other debts and judgments. Other outstanding land compensations judgments will be addressed in subsequent legislation, and the administration and the Legislature have been successfully collaborating to get those done,” the governor said.

“For years, these families have been promised action and have waited. My administration and the Legislature would like to thank them for their patience and sacrifices. I believe that our government needs to live up to its promises. It is my hope that, under my administration, we will continue to address the other land judgments and other government debts so that we can start building a better future for our children and for our commonwealth.”

Source: Marianas Variety :

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