Merger pays dividends for Land Management - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Merger pays dividends for Land Management

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - "There's just a lot of activity that has only justified this merger," noted Land Management director Monte Mafnas. He said since the merger with the Chamorro Land Trust Commission and Guam Ancestral Lands Commission nearly a year ago, a lot of redundancies have been eliminated along with reaping savings in the hundreds of thousands.

He adds the merger has helped in clearing up to 80 percent of delinquencies and collecting over a million dollars in past due rents. "The real savings is that everybody is happy and proud to work in this department, assisting the beneficiaries of the trust," Mafnas explained.

Relative to improving its services, he's following up on several initiatives expected for the CLTC, including a memorandum of understanding with the USDA Rural Development that establishes a mechanism to secure loan makings in the area of CLTC lease properties. It was announced in June, yet he hasn't heard word back but expects an update possibly after the presidential election.

"But I am very confident and having talked to Mr. (Chris) Kanazawa from USDA Region IX Hawaii that we are moving forward; not as expeditiously as we want, but the fact is we are going to engage in an MOU," he said.

He adds waiting a few months is nothing compared to the nearly two decades it took to even quantify Guam under the federal registry. And while a Department of Justice investigation into the CLTC due to claims of discrimination and violation of federal law is ongoing, Mafnas says he's submitted all the necessary documents to the attorney general's office but has yet to hear word back personally from the DOJ.

"I feel very confident and welcome the investigation with DOJ, and I'm not worried because we are running this to the best of our ability conforming to the law," he told KUAM News.

He adds compared to the state of Hawaii, which only issues land to pure Hawaiians or of 50 percent lineage through its Department of Hawaiian Homelands, Guam is more lenient in its quantification of lessees for any inhabitant living on Guam prior to August 1950. And speaking of the Aloha State, Mafnas just returned from the Native Hawaiian Conference earlier this month in which he says was both enlightening and allowed him to meet different people in hopes of securing funding for the Guam.

"And I believe nowadays you got to look for the funds," he said. "You can't just sit on your laurels and expect to get money - you just got to go out there and fight for your share."

In the meantime, the CLTC is set to meeting Thursday where it will continue to discuss finalizing the contract for Robert Cruz as its legal counsel and continuing to collect on delinquent accounts.

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