Approve Hyatt’s land-lease extension already

IT seems that the ongoing land-lease discussion between Hyatt and DPL is nothing more than old fashioned, negotiated extortion. “You've got a nice hotel here. It would be a shame if something happened to it.”

DPL may say that it is only following the law. If true, then that law is senseless and should be amended or repealed. How indeed can you “protect the local workforce” when you’re trying to shut down their place of employment and kick out their employer — amid a global pandemic and the worst economic crisis in CNMI history?  Is DPL intentionally trying to evict a long-time investor and one of the island’s exemplary corporate citizens? Because that will be the end result of DPL’s haggling over what should be a simple land-lease extension deal.

DPL keeps mentioning numbers and figures, including those on its wish-list. But there is actually only one number for the CNMI and its people, and it is zero if the Hyatt is chased out of the island. Instead of zero, however, the CNMI can continue collecting tax revenue from a major business entity which can continue employing mostly local workers, all of which generate more economic activities and government revenue that will benefit everyone, especially the local people.

We keep mentioning DPL. But no one believes that DPL is doing what it’s doing without the approval, tacit or otherwise, of the central government. In any case, this hotel-fiasco-in-the-making is more unforgivable than the Mariana Resort blunder. And this time, there will be no one else to blame but the Torres-Palacios administration.

How to really help PUA applicants

COMPLAINING PUA applicants want  their applications processed as soon as possible. Politicians who say they feel the applicants’ pain should try to find out what exactly is causing the delay. This may involve (if possible) sitting down with CNMI DOL and the complaining applicants, and examining each and every problematic application to pinpoint specific deficiencies, and to fix them (if possible).

We should also remember that every time we haul CNMI DOL officials and/or staff from their ongoing work we may be causing more delay in the PUA review and approval process.

Oh the things they say so they won’t say what should be said

THE House of Representatives on Tuesday adopted a resolution to oppose a pay raise for the Settlement Fund trustee that the federal court has already approved. So what is the point of the resolution?

It may be non-binding but the resolution is supported by a vocal group of retirees (voters). It also involves criticizing a lawyer from Guam and, in a way, an outgoing federal judge from the same island, so there is not much of a downside from denouncing these legal luminaries (who don’t vote in CNMI elections).

For the more politically discerning members of the community, however, the 12-7 vote in the House was the highlight of the whole shebang because it could indicate the contours of the incoming House leadership.

As for the claim that the Settlement Fund is getting regular payments because of the “hard work” of the federal court and its trustee, and the “cooperation” of the CNMI government — really? The CNMI government is mandated by a federal court ruling to make regular payments to the Settlement Fund which owns a consent judgment totaling $779 million. The Settlement Fund may enforce the judgment against the Commonwealth in federal court if the CNMI government “fails to timely pay its obligations due under the Settlement Agreement.” To say that the CNMI is “cooperating” with the federal court is like saying that an arrested person in handcuffs and legcuffs is “cooperating” with his armed captors by not trying to run away.

The CNMI government, in short, must meet its obligation to the Settlement Fund with cold hard cash, amounting to tens of millions of dollars each year. And as the trustee herself noted in a report submitted to the federal court,   the  CNMI government “is able to make the weekly $1 million payments, in part, because of the increased Casino GRT revenue…. The Casino GRT has developed into  a primary source of revenue for the Government.”

That primary source of revenue is now gone. So, the House adopted a non-binding resolution over a moot issue, and passed a bill to ban foam food containers which are most helpful for many fundraising events and for distributing food following a natural disaster.

Good riddance to the 21st House of Representatives, and thank you Rep. Edmund Villagomez, who could be the next House speaker, for voting no to another useless, virtue-signaling piece of legislation.

Editor

Zaldy Dandan is the recipient of the Best Editorial Writer Award of the Society of Professional Journalists, and the CNMI Humanities Award for Outstanding Contributions to Journalism. His three books are available on amazon.com

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