THE Northern Islands mayor’s office can conduct its own homestead survey on Pagan, Department of Public Lands Secretary Marian C. Teregeyo said in a letter to Mayor Jerome Aldan.
Aldan earlier said they could use a common geographic information service overlay that his office can easily obtain.
Teregeyo said they use GPS for conducting surveys.
“There is [also] no substitute for having a qualified surveyor on the ground to both establish the coordinates and properly mark the corners of each lot, even with the ‘overlays you describe,” she told the mayor.
He said DPL has already taken steps toward conducting surveys, adding that they have advertised an invitation to bid for chartering a vessel to transport surveyors to Pagan.
But “the timing of the trip is critical for a group of 30 people…due to weather, ocean and tides, and the duration of the stay on Pagan.”
She said they discussed the trip with CNMI Homeland Security & Emergency Management which informed them that it has no capability to respond should an emergency occur and a need to evacuate people from Pagan arose.
According to Teregeyo, DPL has taken the lead and has been the only one concerned with the health, safety, and educational needs that the Constitution requires the CNMI government to provide residents.
DPL she added, has been the only one that has discussed having homesteads on Pagan with the Public School System, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., the Department of Public Safety, the Commonwealth Utilities Corp., the Bureau of Environment and Coastal Quality, and the Department of Fire and Emergency Service.
Teregeyo reiterated that the residents’ health, safety and education must be addressed before homesteads are issued.
“I hope you appreciate DPLs thoroughness in attempting to address all the issues toward achieving the objective,” she told Aldan.
Right now, she added, there’s no evacuation plan for Pagan.
“I need to ensure the safety of my staff while on Pagan should the volcano become active. Their lives would be at stake.”
Teregeyo said she was informed by Gerald Deleon Guerrero of CNMI Homeland Security and Emergency Management that U.S. Geological Survey personnel will be in the CNMI in March and are planning to go to Pagan.
“In the less than one year that I have been [DPL secretary], we have progressed tremendously in our efforts to reestablish the homesteads in Pagan. We have [also] successfully secured a vessel charter,” she said.
Regarding the free trade zone or FTZ designation for the Northern Islands that Aldan is requesting, Teregeyo said DPL is prepared to submit a certified question to the CNMI Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the laws pertaining to the free trade zone.
Aldan earlier said, based on the attorney general’s opinion, DPL must implement and enforce all laws or be subject to 6 CMC § 3203, “whereby the Office of the Attorney General may bring criminal charges against a public official when he or she does ‘any illegal act under color of office, or willfully neglects to perform the duties of his or her office as provided by law.’ ”
Teregeyo said she asked Attorney General Edward Manibusan about it and he said he was unaware of such an opinion.
She asked Aldan to provide DPL with a copy of the AG’s opinion.
“Quite frankly, your citation of me violating my fiduciary duty offends me as you know DPL has taken an active role in both homesteading, and addressing the FTZ, more so that it was DPL that planned and coordinated the stakeholders meeting with CUC, PSS, CHCC, BECQ. It is DPL that has contacted and continues to work closely with HSEM, DPL and DFEMS, including DLNR-DLRS, DLNR-DFW in connection with to the upcoming trip,” Teregeyo said in her letter.
“Please allow the process to take place.”