NMD group seeks direct monetary benefits from hotel land leases

PEOPLE of Northern Marianas descent should get direct monetary benefits from the CNMI government’s land-lease agreements with hotels, according to John Gonzales, president of the NMD Corp.

On Saturday, his group, members of the Aghurubw Foundation as well as officials of the Carolinian Affairs Office, the Indigenous Affairs Office and the CNMI Women’s Association met with Rep. Alice Igitol, chairwoman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, to discuss Senate Bill 20-35 which will extend the hotels’ land-lease term from 40  to 55 years. It will also allow for a 15-year extension of land leases that are soon to expire.

Gonzales, who is also the chief of staff of Lt. Gov. Victor Hocog, said the NMDC and other indigenous organizations want an extension for hotels whose 40-year land lease agreements will soon expire. These include Hyatt Regency and Fiesta Resort.

“They have been ardent supporters of and investors in our island, so I think it is only fair to give them an additional 15 years, if and when that proposal is passed by both houses which would still have to go to the governor for his signature and enacted into law,” Gonzales said.

He said the position of the indigenous groups is “if the leases are all expiring, let us sit down again and negotiate for the next 40-year [land-lease term].”

He said the CNMI should seek competitive and marketable proposals that directly benefit NMDs.

For example, he said NMDs might acquire stock in a company leasing public land. “Another option is to tag  a percentage of the company’s profit every year. For example, 1 percent of their profit will go to NMDs,” Gonzales said.

He said the NMDs want to be “partners” with businesses that lease public lands.

“Look at the example of the Native Americans. They own the franchise for Hard Rock Café and that for casinos and  restaurant chains in the U.S. They own them, but they hire management firms to run  Hard Rock Café, to run the hotels, to run casino resorts, to run the restaurants,” he said.

“We own the land here. We are the collective owners of CNMI public land. We believe that partnerships with businesses will be a ‘win-win’ scenario because we will continue to work together to ensure that the investment is successful and profitable so that we can then benefit from the profits that we are working for collectively. “

Gonzales said the “current arrangement underrepresents” the NMDs. “It doesn’t benefit us because the money doesn’t directly benefit us. We want direct dividends or royalty benefits.”

He said they also asked Rep. Alice Igitol to conduct two or three more public hearings to hear the side of NMDs.

“They gave [a similar] opportunity to the [hotel association] and the investors. All we ask is a fair opportunity for our side to be heard,” he said.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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