(Press Release) – In the nine months since the appointment of Marianne Teregeyo as secretary of the Department of Public Lands, major developments for sustainable economic growth have been underway.
Gov. Ralph Torres said the overall responsibilities of the Department of Public Lands include the creation and implementation of a homesteading program, the commercial leasing and permitting of idle public lands, the settling of land claims, and designating public land parcels to other government agencies for the fulfillment of public purpose needs.
“Public lands belong to the people of the commonwealth, and as head of DPL, Secretary Teregeyo has continued to develop and adopt a strategic land use plan that promotes cultural and economic growth for the benefit of our present and future generations,” Governor Torres said.
According to Secretary Teregeyo, the plan provides for the efficient and effective management, utilization, disposition and development of public lands for the economic and social betterment of the commonwealth.
“We have successfully executed and entered into real property leases for four major developments: a dock facility, commercial aquaponics and agriculture, a commercial parking lot, and an integrated resort. Early this year, DPL finalized negotiations for a permit to allow a telecommunications company to install its underground fiber optic infrastructure under public right-of-ways on Saipan. This project will be conducted in phases and for which DPL will receive fees assessed per linear foot utilized,” Teregeyo said.
She said DPL managed to reduce the wait-listing of eligible homestead applicants whose applications dated back to the 1980’s.
“We performed over 200 village homestead inspections which included regular monthly inspections, permit extension monitoring and vacant lots. We have issued revocations to non-compliant homesteaders and found vacant lots for issuance to applicants. We anticipate issuing 17 agricultural homesteads on Tinian, 44 on Rota, and more than 200 homestead lots on Saipan, as well as opening up agricultural homesteads on Pagan soon,” Teregeyo said.
To date, DPL’s compliance division enforces public land policies for 80 long-term leases and 369 temporary permits.
In addition, DPL implemented a new accounting software system, which had not been updated since 2002. Secretary Teregeyo said the system has the ability to maintain a general ledger to improve the integrity of the accounting process.
“This has cleared audit findings from 2014 and has eliminated redundant manual inputting of transactions. At the same time, it has allowed DPL to issue notices for unauthorized use of public lands to encroachers and has received additional revenues as a result of such efforts. We have also created a policy on having uniform issuance and expiration dates which have streamlined our permitting process and accountability,” Teregeyo added.
Noting the progression of ongoing developments, Governor Torres stated that DPL has been a crucial component in monitoring balanced and beneficial public land use.
“I commend Secretary Teregeyo for the clear establishment of regulations that have enabled transparency and consistency for maintaining long-term leases and temporary occupancy. The Department of Public Lands has been instrumental in the enforcement of public land policies and services which have eased encroachment issues affecting our capital improvement program allowing many important projects to move forward for the benefit of the commonwealth,” Governor Torres said.