Fitial Proposes Leasing Islands to China

October 24, 2011

If nothing else, Governor Fitial has much success getting the CNMI spotlighted in the national and international news. Having his masseuse released from jail to give him a massage brought lots of media attention to the CNMI. Now the idea of leasing northern islands to China has made the international headlines.

Some news media covering the story are Bloomburg Businessweek: Northern Mariana Governor Offers to Lease Islands to China; Global Times: Northern Mariana Islands offers to lease land to China for investment; AFP:   U.S. Territory offers to lease land to China; and Business Recorder: US territory offers to lease land to China.

Bloomberg reported:
“If you are interested, I am offering these islands to China,” Governor Benigno Fitial told a group of Chinese governors and provincial Communist Party Secretaries at a conference in Beijing. “Lease these islands so that I can have enough financial resources to provide for more full employment for my people.”

. . .“We control the islands, the islands belong to us,” he said. “We have to make sure in the lease agreement that we won’t allow anything that will be military because we are under the U.S. government.”
Why is anyone even surprised? The same man previously leased the CNMI to China with his garment factory plan that was built on quicksand. Fitial and some others got very wealthy, but the economic boon for the CNMI was short-lived and scandal-ridden.

The Western Australian reported:
A spokesman for Fitial, Angel Demapan, said the governor wanted to do business with the Chinese to alleviate economic hardship.

Fitial pitched the Northern Marianas as a prime destination for Chinese tourism, real estate development, agricultural, education and technology investments.

In his statement, Fitial said the acting governor of the Chinese province of Yunnan, Li Jiheng, planned to make an exploratory visit to the islands, while Anhui Governor Wang Sanyun said he was committed to a partnership.
It seems that this governor is always looking outside of the CNMI for investors, when there is a goldmine beneath his feet.  The CNMI is beautiful and could be a top tourist destination if the place was cleaned up and tourist-related businesses were encouraged. Turning the empty Fiesta Mall into a state of the art cultural center would be a start.

By tapping into the talent of the people who are already in the CNMI, the economy could improve. Why are outside investors needed to push agriculture or aquaculture? Property taxes and sales tax could also help raise revenue.

Anyway, it would appear that the CNMI Legislature would have to approve any large-term lease, so can he really "offer these islands to China"? Can a governor even propose leasing an entire U.S. island to a foreign nation?  What about the National Marine Monument?

Bloomberg also reported that a State Department official at the conference wasn't sure of legal barriers:
U.S. State Department Under Secretary Robert Hormats said at the same conference that he hadn’t heard of such a proposal and didn’t know if there
This proposal may raise the eyebrows of U.S. officials. Perhaps the dispute in the South China Sea between the Philippines and China over the Spratly Islands claim should serve as a reminder of what could result if such a transaction were to be penned.


Anonymous said...

it seems a lot of people are unclear of the definition of "priority" from websters, "superiority in rank, position, or privilege". The morton memo gives a priority to people put in deportation proceedings. fortunetly in the CNMI we don't have many national security threats or foreign criminals. so what do you want ice to do once they find those?? sit around and collect their paychecks waiting for the next one?? doesn't work that way stateside or here. ice will prioritize the criminals and when they encounter illegals that are not criminals they can put them into proceedings and the U.S. taxpayers overwhelmingly want them to. It is their job and one they are paid to do and we will be watching to see that they do.....The immigration people and thier court judges won't have much sympathy for unemployed foreigners who are just staying here without a status.....

Anonymous said...

Dear Uncle Ben,

Kiss China's participation in the Guam/CNMI Visa Waiver program goodbye! Allowing the PRC to get a toehold in a U.S. territory so close to our base in Guam would be a national security nightmare.

By the way, have you registered as a foreign agent?

Anonymous said...

China owns and leases billions of dollars worth of land around the United States including Hawaii. You naive individuals need to get off the island more often and see the world.

Anonymous said...

1:34 Show us what island the United States has leased to any foreign country and please tell us how leasing an island in a strategic area will benefit the United States or anyone?

Anonymous said...

Noni 8:51 US taxpayers want non-criminal OCWs deported? Said who? Who doesn't have sympathy for swindled OCWs that have been in the NMI for decades?

Anonymous said...

The Governor's point is only to make CNMI a media event, not to let anyone lease any islands because he knows it's uninhabited area under US which is only good for military base.

The Saipan Blogger said...

I think he's just trying to get a better price from the military for leasing Pagan. However, if he wanted to lease the islands, the CNMI government has mechanisms to lease government land. Five of the the ten islands are nature reserves, and one is a bombing range, but he could lease out Anatahan, Agrigan, Pagan, and Alamagan.