LAND LEASE WOES STALLING TINIAN CASINO INVESTMENT

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By Haidee V. Eugenio

$200 million project stalled over size of development property

The $200 million to $500 million hotel resort and casino project on Tinian by Neo Gold Wings Paradise is being stalled by the Department of Public Land's planned reduction in the size of public land to be leased, from the original 300 hectares to only about 160 hectares, among other issues.

Sen. Jude U. Hofschneider, chairman of the Senate Committee on Resources, Economic Development and Programs, yesterday expressed hope the land lease issue will be resolved soon to get the project going.

"We hope to get the ball rolling again for the two parties," he said.

A joint House-Senate session on the proposed land lease agreement between DPL and Neo Gold Wings Paradise scheduled for yesterday morning was cancelled until further notice because of likely changes in the proposed land lease deal.

"The reason why we cancelled the joint session is because there are some amendments that need to be made on the lease [agreement] based on DPL and Neo Gold wings meeting," Hofschneider said. "Initially it was 300 hectares...DPL wants to reduce the size to 1,600 million square meters or 160 hectares."

DPL Secretary John Del Rosario could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Hofschneider said a joint Senate-House committee will meet with DPL and Neo Gold Wings representatives today to try to resolve the issue.

The senator said committee members want DPL to stick with the original 300 hectares of land to be leased to Neo Gold Wings Paradise.

"Our suggestion is to allow them up to 300 hectares with the condition of developing it as they go," he said.

Neo Gold Wings Paradise is proposing to lease approximately 300 hectares of public land on Tinian's Pina Area for the construction of a "six-star, 1,000-room mega hotel resort and casino."

Two other investors are proposing to build casino and hotel resorts on Tinian, which so far has only one operating casino, the Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino.

The Senate Committee on Resources, Economic Development and Programs, chaired by Hofschneider, and the House Committee on Natural Resources, chaired by Rep. Ramon A. Tebuteb, held a public hearing on the proposed land agreement on Feb. 12 at the Tinian courthouse.

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