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SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, August 1) – Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Fitial administration will seek the intervention of the judicial branch to determine the legality of the Legislature’s decision to override the governor’s veto on Senate Bill 15-45 which reinstates the Pagan mining permit of JG Sablan Rock Quarry.

Press Secretary Charles P. Reyes Jr. said the administration plans to submit a legal question to the CNMI Supreme Court and assert Gov. Benigno R. Fitial’s contention that S.B. 15-45 usurps the powers of the executive branch, and violates Article XI of the CNMI Constitution.

"We will pose a legitimate constitutional question to the Supreme Court," said Reyes.

On Friday, the Senate and the House of Representatives overrode the governor’s veto on S.B. 15-45 which seeks to validate all existing mining permits on Pagan as of Feb. 22, 2006.

This period covers the permit of JG Sablan which was issued in 1995.

In his veto message, the governor said the bill violates certain constitutional provisions, specifically that of Article XI.

"First, the proposed legislation purports to exercise control with respect to the JG Sablan mining permit that is exclusively assigned by Article XI to the executive branch. By rejecting the secretary’s decision to terminate the permit and completely rewriting the permit, the Legislature had exercised executive power that can be implemented only by the Department of Public Lands," the governor said.

DPL revoked JG Sablan’s mining permit in May. Subsequently, the mining firm filed an administrative appeal which remains pending.

The administration wants a new mining permit opened to a competitive bidding process this month.

[PIR editor’s note: Early this year, concerns were raised by a CNMI group regarding the company JG Sablan. Later in the year, a U.S. company partnered up with the local company, only to exit later on due to permitting and community issues.]

August 1, 2006

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