FITIAL SEEKS REVIEW OF CNMI LAND OWNERSHIP LAW

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By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Dec. 27) – Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Governor Benigno R. Fitial says he will continue to ask the Legislature to address concerns on CNMI land alienation law that prevents the entry of new investors.

Under the CNMI Constitution, only indigenous residents can buy or own land in the commonwealth.

Public lands can be leased up to 25 years and private lands up to 50 years.

The governor wants the restriction of land ownership abolished or land lease terms lengthened.

Fitial, in an interview during the opening of the Hyatt’s new spa, said changing the CNMI’s land tenure system will restore investor confidence.

He said his administration has been trying to improve CNMI investment policies, and businesses "know that investment policies are being improved."

He did not say, however, whether the new labor law he signed, P.L. 15-108, which local businesses oppose, is part of his efforts to bring in more investors.

But the governor said once the land alienation issue is resolved "we can rest assure that investments will boom in the CNMI."

Outgoing Rep. Absalom Waki, Covenant-Saipan, said some Japanese investors have complained to him that CNMI laws "change often."

He said these businessmen were not happy with the "many amendments" to CNMI laws.

Asked if the CNMI changes its law so often, Fitial said, "Yes and no."

He reiterated his administration’s willingness to "cater to the investors’ needs."

Fitial said he is always willing to help new businesses.

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