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By Moneth G. Deposa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, April 27) – Northern Islands Mayor Valentin I. Taisakan expressed disappointment with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Legislature for its failure to pass three "important" bills, adding that he will meet with the lawmakers next week for the reintroduction of these measures.

He said these bills are the Northern Islands Homestead Waiver Act, the Economic Development and Incentive Act and the Rural Homesteading Act.

They were introduced in May 2002 in the 13th Legislature.

"I am really disappointed," Taisakan said. "I need to sit down with these lawmakers and talk to them about why they have held the bills that long because they are keeping our people waiting for their approval."

He added, "They informed me it’s up for review and I think they want to make some changes in the bills. Apart from that they haven’t talked with me regarding these bills after they were introduced three years ago. And now that we have been waiting for almost three years now, I believe it’s about time to talk about it."

Taisakan said the bills would benefit Northern Islands residents, who mainly depend on farming and fishing for their livelihood.

The Northern Islands has a total population of over 200 residents, on Anatahan, Sarigan, Alamagan, Pagan and Agrigan. Five other islands were declared sanctuaries by the CNMI government.

The Homestead Waiver Act proposes to waive any requirements, limitations or regulations relating to the agricultural homesteading program in effect prior to Jan. 9, 1978. It would grant legal title to any person who can demonstrate a 15-year continuous and actual occupancy or use of public land for agricultural purposes.

The Economic Development and Incentive Act of 2002 would authorize the CNMI government to implement new ways of promoting development programs in the Northern Islands by offering economic and other business development incentives for investors and developers.

It would also authorize the CNMI to waive or exempt the developer infrastructure tax and other development licensing fees for all commercial projects and activities in the Northern Islands for a period not to exceed 25 years.

The bill, moreover, would authorize the Marianas Public Land Authority to lease public lands on Anatahan, Sarigan, Alamagan, Pagan and Agrigan to private developers.

Under the bill, the lease payments will be applied to offset the developer’s costs in constructing water, power, sewer, public roads, public utilities, port facilities, and other critical infrastructure in the Northern Islands.

The Rural Homesteading Act aims to create a rural homesteading program that provides flexibility to the Marianas Public Lands Authority in setting requirements for pre-existing infrastructure as conditions for the issuance of homestead lots.

April 27, 2005

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