SAIPAN - Sen. Francisco Q. Cruz, the author of Senate Bill 21-10, which would require the CNMI Department of Public Lands to issue a deed of conveyance to homesteaders, said the measure is applicable only to those who were already issued permits to enter their homestead lots.

In an interview on Monday, Cruz said there were homestead lots raffled in 2009, but the homesteaders did not receive their permits to enter until 2014.

He said S.B. 21-10 applies only to the homesteaders who were issued permits in 2014 and not to those who have not received their permits.

The homestead law requires homesteaders to improve the lot and build a house within three years after a homestead permit has been issued. But Public Law 20-5, which Cruz also authored, authorizes DPL to waive the requirement to build the house, provided that homesteaders continue to maintain or clean their homestead lots.

Cruz said he wants to reduce the waiting time to 45 days because two years is too long for those who have already complied with the DPL requirement.

“These homesteaders who were already issued a permit to enter have been cleaning their respective lots since 2014. They’ve been complying with the requirement for five years now. Why wait for another two years?”

He said he authored P.L. 20-5 because of the “financial hardship” involved in buying construction materials. He said building a house in the midst of a financial crisis was a heavy burden for the homesteaders who were already given permits to enter their lots.

Cruz said some House members must have misunderstood his bill, adding that the issuance of deed of conveyance doesn’t necessarily allow the homesteader to build anything on the lot.

Cruz said the Tinian homesteader who told Variety that the homestead village does not have roads must be one of those who have yet to receive their permits.

Cruz added that the homesteader may be referring to a different village.

He said there is another homestead village in west Tinian for homesteaders who were issued permits. That village, he added, has roads because permits would not have been issued if there were no roads in the area.

S.B. 21-10 is now on its way to the governor after the House passed it by a 13 to 5 vote last week.