New Request For Proposal Plan For NMI Public Lands

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Land department feels RFPs would weed out bad investors

By Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, May 1, 2013) – In the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Department of Public Lands (DPL) is planning a new strategy of issuing a request for proposals, or RFP, for available public lands suitable for investments, DPL deputy secretary Pete Itibus said yesterday. This will not only weed out fly-by-night investors holding up public lands that could have been developed by other investors, but also to get the best offer among competing and legitimate investors.

DPL has seen anywhere between $30 million and $1 billion in proposed hotel resort development on public lands, only for the plans to fizzle out when investors fail to secure financing, fail to pay their land leases to the department and then abandon the whole project.

"DPL is planning to issue out RFPs for public lands that are suitable for commerce to get the best offer, the best proposal. I believe this will be the first time that DPL will be taking this route of issuing RFPs," Itibus told Saipan Tribune.

The Inos administration supports DPL's plan.

"Properties are resources. The more we can realize from such resources, the better for the Commonwealth," press secretary Angel Demapan said yesterday.

Governor Eloy S. Inos recently appointed his senior policy adviser, Pete A. Tenorio, to serve as DPL secretary. The Senate has yet to confirm Tenorio's nomination.

Itibus said that DPL is now working on the scope of work of an RFP.

He said among these public lands available for lease is a more than 5-hectare property in San Antonio.

DPL leased the 5-hectare property to KSA Corp. to build a hotel with villas and condotels. The project didn't materialize, resulting in DPL terminating the lease with KSA Corp. in June 2008.

Later, DPL terminated a temporary authorization it gave Pacific Investment and Development Corporation (PIDC), previously Kevin International Corp., for the same San Antonio property due to a lack of development on its plan. PIDC had plans to build a $30-million, 300-room condominium-hotel resort on the property.

Itibus said DPL has other public lands suitable for investments such as those in the northern part of Saipan.

DPL and the Legislature approved a lease to Flame Sako, which had planned to build a $60 million to $80 million hotel on 109,003 square meters of land in Marpi north of the former Palms Resort. Flame Sako abandoned the lease. At least three other investors later expressed interest in the same property, only to also abandon that plan.

The most ambitious plan yet that also fizzled out-more than once-was that of Neo Gold Wings and Paradise. The company had announced a $1.6 billion to $3 billion project that included a "six-star" casino hotel and resort, a theme park, and a 36-hole golf course on Tinian.

In the 17th Legislature, then Senate President Paul Manglona authored a bill requiring DPL to publish an RFP to lease public lands at least a year before the expiration of an existing lease requiring legislative approval. He said that by doing this, DPL will be able to obtain the best offer available for such properties. The 17th Senate passed the bill but the House did not act on it.

Any lease of public land consisting of more than 5 hectares requires legislative approval.

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