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House to act on American Memorial Park bill

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REPRESENTATIVE Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero on Thursday  introduced House Bill 21-119, which proposes to transfer the administration of American Memorial Park, or AMP, from the federal government to the CNMI government.

The bill will “respectfully compel the governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to make the request authorized by U.S. Public Law 95-348 to the United States secretary of the Interior to transfer the administration of  American Memorial Park to the government of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.”

U.S. PL 95-348 is an Act to authorize appropriations for certain insular areas of the United States. It became law in 1978 during the Carter administration.

Guerrero asked that the bill be placed on the bill calendar for the next House session, but Rep. Tina M. Sablan objected.

“This is a major step that this legislation is proposing, and it will also present significant costs to the Commonwealth to take over the administration of this park,” she said.

She added, “I am familiar with the issues raised about this legislation before, and there were some misunderstandings about how the park is administered and really what the process is to have community events.”

She said it is possible to have community events at the park, and added that the park has a new leadership.

“I would ask that this be referred to committee and that there be a hearing and that we reach out to the National Park Service and afford an opportunity for the stakeholders who use and enjoy this park to review and comment on this,” she added.

 

 

Rep. Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero, back to the camera,  speaks during a House session on Thursday. Photo by K-Andrea Evarose S. Limol

But Guerrero said “It’s been 42 years, and this U.S. public law is telling us and giving us the opportunity to oversee managing the [park]. For 42 years, what has the National Park [Service] done? Sooner or later, the iconic pavilion will be underwater. [NPS] has no interest to fix it.”

He added, “What you see there is what they invested. Nothing more. They don’t even bother to fix the road. Look at it now. It used to be pristine where [families] could go  and spend time at the beach. But [now], it’s overgrown with vegetation.”

He said his bill is not just about using the facility for public purposes.

“We’re looking at trying to raise revenue. There is a $3 million endowment that’s sitting at [the Marianas Public Land Trust]. That has probably doubled. That will be sufficient funds to operate the park,” Guerrero said.

“The agency that could  oversee [this operation] is [the Marianas Visitors Authority]. It will save MVA money for its events.”

Guerrero reiterated that U.S. P.L. 95-348 is giving the entire park back to the Commonwealth.

“All it needs is legislation to allow the governor to write to the secretary of the Interior to bring this back to the island. Maybe we can put a sunset provision that in a year, or after a year’s period, that it will revert to the CNMI,” he said.

“This is something that we need to do now because we’re talking about reviving the economy of the CNMI. What does it bring to us? I have nothing against the National Park [Service], but we need to start taking a proactive approach in how to improve the economy of the CNMI. We have listened to a lot of the departments coming in here asking for more money or [if they are] going to get additional money.”

By a vote of 12 to 8, H.B. 21-119 was placed on the calendar for action in the next House session.

Those who opposed the motion were House Vice Speaker Lorenzo Deleon Guerrero, Rep. Roman Benavente, and all six members of the minority bloc.

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