Speaker proposes to raise lease for submarine cables by more than 600%

SUBMARINE CABLES: Alupang Rock sits in the middle of the bay along the coastlines of East Hagåtña and Tamuning. Post file photo.

A submerged land lease between the government of Guam and GTA could net the Chamorro Land Trust Commission upward of $21 million over the next 35 years.

Bill 36-36, a measure that would authorize the agreement to lay submarine fiber optic cables in Alupang Bay, was substituted Tuesday by Speaker Therese Terlaje, the chairperson of the committee. One of the major changes made was including a firm price tag for the lease.

Originally, the bill would have adopted the higher of two appraisals selected and paid for by GTA. Terlaje’s substitute assesses a one-time $100,000 fee for each cable system installed, with $100,000 in an annual license payment due no later than 30 days after a system becomes operational. The measure allows for a maximum of six systems to be paid under this schedule. If enacted as it currently stands, the deal would be effective for an initial 25-year period, with two optional extensions of five years each.

Terlaje, in a news release, said similar existing leases with GovGuam are “inconsistently valued,” and that the increased cost represents “a much fairer amount for the people of Guam.” The local government is asking $5,000 annually for a current submerged land lease in Piti that includes four undersea cables. GTA originally proposed to pay $15,000 for the agreement covered by Bill 36, according to the speaker’s office.

“I want this to be a minimum baseline for similar leases going forward while Guam works to benefit even more from its position as a telecommunications hub, through the planning and development of data center and islandwide telecommunication infrastructure and ensuring affordable, efficient power to support the industry,” stated Speaker Terlaje, of the $100,000 figure in the new version of the bill.

Her substitute proposal also directs all lease proceeds to the CLTC’s surveying and infrastructure fund – a pot of money that is supposed to pay for much-needed power, water and sewer lines to be built in order for the agency to issue more residential leases to landless residents.

“We are aware of the changes, and we are waiting for the measure to go through the legislative process,” Michele Catahay Perez, GTA Community Relations manager, told The Guam Daily Post when reached for comment on the amended proposed lease.

A more comprehensive statement on the bill will be forthcoming, Perez said.

Sen. Joe San Agustin, who authored the original measure, said the speaker’s committee “has finally seen the light” in moving the bill closer to a full vote from lawmakers. He said he’s still reviewing the amendments made by Terlaje, but he welcomes the opportunity for the CLTC to receive additional funds.

“I thank Speaker Terlaje for finally getting this out and look forward to seeing the bill in session, where we can ensure balanced and fair opportunities for all telecom vendors who serve our island," he said.


Recommended for you