Washington D.C. – CNMI Governor Benigno Fitial recently asked Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to renegotiate the CNMI’s land lease with the Pentagon in order to allow more development on Tinian. But Washington Officials point out that the lease has already been paid for through 2030 and its unlikley to be renogotiated now.
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Capitol hill experts speaking on background point to the NMI Covenant, which required the U.S. military to pay in full, up front, to lease land on Tinian, Saipan and Farallon de Medinilla
The actual language of the document states in Title 8, Section 803: “The government of the United States will pay to the government of the Northern Mariana Islands in full settlement of this lease, including the second fifty year term of the lease, if extended under the renewal option, the total sum of $19.5 million dollars.”
Most of that sum, $17.5 million, was for the lease of nearly 18-thousand acres on Tinian, $2 million for 177-acres at Tanapag Harbor on Saipan and close to $21-thousand for use of all of Farallon de Medinilla as a firing range.
Hill experts present in the 80’s when the lease agreement was implemented, say Congress’s investigative arm, the GAO, had objections to the sums. But Congress overruled the Agency and the Commonwealth was later paid the full sum, plus several years of inflation.
The grand total came to about $33 million dollars for the entire lease, plus the renewal option.
The first installment of the lease won’t expire until the mid 2030s.
The thinking here is that the Navy, which was still considering Governor Fitial’s request as of last week, would have little incentive to renegotiate terms of a lease it’s already paid for.
But any final decision on changing the terms of all or part of the lease arrangement, including specifically for Tinian, now rests with Secretary Leon Panetta.