House panel: Proposal to ‘get back’ American Memorial Park requires legal review

THE chairman of the House Committee on Federal and Foreign Affairs said the proposal that the CNMI should acquire the American Memorial Park will require a thorough legal review as it involves the islands’ Covenant with the U.S.

Rep. Donald Barcinas’ House Resolution 20-8 calls for the transfer of the park’s administration to the CNMI government.

According to the chairman of the House committee, Rep. Gregorio Sablan Jr., there is a current agreement between the U.S. Department of the Interior and the CNMI government to lease the property to the federal government so it will be managed by the U.S. National Park Service.

In a meeting on Tuesday, the committee decided not to take action on the resolution.

“We also agreed to talk to the author [Rep. Donald Barcinas] and ask him if he can introduce this as a House bill and then, from there, we will ask the executive branch to make a formal request to the Department of the Interior. Should we get American Memorial Park, it may fall under the Department of Public Lands and then it could be transferred to the Division of Parks and Recreation of the Department of Lands and Natural Resources. But there’s a lot of issues here that we need to look at. Even if it’s given back to us, we will have to make sure that we have enough manpower, personnel and equipment to maintain the park’s operations. It is going to be a big responsibility on the part of the CNMI so it needs to be reviewed thoroughly,” Sablan said.

He said they also sought the advice of the administration which told them to review it thoroughly.

“The intent is not only to take it back,” Sablan said. “Back in the old days, many activities and festivities were held there. But now there are restrictions imposed on us, and we are limited in terms of what we can undertake there. We are not trying to vandalize the park, we just want to promote some of our activities there and showcase our culture, but those are prohibited under the present park management.”

Saipan Mayor David Apatang, in the comments he submitted to the committee, said he supports the intent of the resolution, but added that the operation of the park might be a tremendous burden on the CNMI.

The Marianas Visitors Authority also supports the proposal, but said that the administration of the Visitor Center, the museum, the Court of Honor and other memorial sites should remain under the U.S. National Park Service which is the agency“most capable” of operating them.

The Department of Public Lands is also concerned about the CNMI’s “ability…to fund the operations and maintenance of the park,” and whether it can be used for commercial purposes.

The Indigenous Affairs Office supports the resolution’s intent but said it should be introduced in the form of a House bill.

The Department of Lands and Natural Resources said it supports the proposal as it will bring in revenue since the area lies in the heart of the main tourist district.

DLNR said the park is a convenient location to hold activities such as the Flame Tree Arts Festival, the Liberation festivities, Taste of the Marianas, athletic and sporting events and the Saipan Fishing Derby.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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