08 Jan 2018
- By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa – [email protected] – Variety News Staff
THE House of Representatives and Senate in a joint session on Friday approved a 15-year extension of the government’s land-lease agreements with the Bank of Guam and Construction & Material Supply Inc.
The companies’ 25-year leases expired in 2015, but the Department of Public Lands recommended a 15-year extension.
The law allows companies to lease public lands for a total of 40 years: an initial lease of 25 years with an extension of 15 years.
During a joint session on Friday, the House Natural Resources Committee chair, Rep. Alice Igitol, said she would withdraw her support for the approval of the lease extension, saying the agreement might not be constitutional because the term used was “renewal” and not “extension.”
The attorney general determined that a lease cannot be renewed once the lease has expired, she said.
A lengthy discussion on whether “extension” is synonymous with “renewal” followed.
Rep. BJ Attao then moved that the word “renewal” be replaced with “extension.” But Rep. Joseph Deleon Guerrero said there was no need to change the word because if they changed it, the AG would not sign the agreement
Attao then withdrew his motion and all 28 lawmakers agreed that “renewal” is synonymous with “extension.” The agreement was approved unanimously.
In an interview, Deleon Guerrero said:
“The AG’s legal opinion is that we cannot use the word ‘extension’ after the lease has expired. Even though technically this is just a legal opinion, and we have taken the position that it has expired. But the applicants did exercise their options under the lease to extend the term. The AG did not want to support the word ‘extension’ and that’s why the DPL has to use the word ‘renewal,’ and why there were some members who wished to change the word ‘renewal’ to ‘extension.’ But if we do that, we risk the AG not signing off on the agreement, and the lease would not be extended. So we made it clear in the legislative record that we were approving the word ‘renewal’ but as an ‘extension’ only and this is nothing more than an extension to the 25-year lease for a total of 40 years. After the 40-year lease expires, no more extension or renewal, so this is still within the 40-year lease which is allowed by the current law,” Deleon Guerrero said.
Prior to the approval of the extensions, Rep. Joseph Leepan Guerrero asked why the lease extension for IT&E was not included.
Igitol said the committee report was sent back to the committee for further review and discussion as there were some concerns that needed to be addressed first.
Speaker Ralph Demapan urged the committee to expedite its review on IT&E’s request. IT&E’s 25-year land lease also expired in 2015.
DPL Secretary Marianne C. Teregeyo, who was present during the session, said in an interview:
“The land-lease agreements of these two companies [Bank of Guam and CMS] both expired and the department has asked the Legislature for an extension of 15 years. Constitutionally all public land leases are only up to 40 years, and the department cannot do the extension. It has to get the blessing of a joint legislative session so this is why we are here today. Last month there was a joint committee hearing and we testified, answering all the concerns from the lawmakers,” Teregeyo said.
CMS is leasing public land in Kanat Tabla while BOG is leasing public land in Garapan.
“Both BOG and CMS have been in compliance with all our terms,” Teregeyo said.
CMS chairman Norman Tenorio, who also attended the session, said: “I am happy that everybody voted to approve the extension. I want to extend my appreciation to all the 28 members for their very strong support.”
Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/101308-lawmakers-ok-15-year-lease-extensions-for-bank-of-guam-cms