Next week public comment and informational meetings will be taking place in Tinian and Saipan with regards to recently proposed plans to militarize Tinian and Pagan. For people that are wanting to follow the discussion there between leaders and activists I've gathered together some recent news from The Saipan Tribune and The Marianas Variety. CNMI leaders are putting out a request for help in terms of analyzing and disseminating information about the DEIS or draft environmental impact statement for the build up proposals. They are also requesting an extension as the document is close to 2,000 pages long. It has also, as far as I know, not been translated into Chamorro or Carolinian.
'CNMI will benefit from military trainings here'
by Jayson Camacho
The U.S. Department of Defense’s planned military buildup in the region has put the CNMI community in a quandary, with some supporting military activities on Tinian and Pagan and some opposing it.
One of the islands’ most respected citizens and business leaders, David “Uncle Dave” M. Sablan, has thrown his full support behind the plan and is asking the CNMI’s leaders and community to follow suit.
Everybody already knows about Sablan’s ordeal during World War II and how he survived the war as a 12-year-old boy living in a cave in Marpi.
Despite having a front-row seat on the chaos and destruction the Pacific war brought to the islands, Sablan is encouraging the CNMI and its leaders to give as much as possible a favorable consideration to the military’s request to use Tinian and Pagan for live-fire training.
“The military is not doing anything that would jeopardize the livelihood of the people here in the CNMI. I think it is very important that we do the best we can to accommodate the military’s needs, because they have a mission to fulfill and that mission is to defend the U.S and its territories and we are a part of that,” he said.
“I strongly urge that the leaders of the CNMI to give it a very serious consideration…because it has taken them roughly four to five years to reach their final decision on what they want to do from the standpoint of training for their own people that are capable of maintaining a high standard of military posture, not only the U.S but also because we are on the ‘firing range’ here,” he added.
What he means is that the CNMI is near Southeast Asia and the CNMI is in the Pacific Ocean, inevitably in the crosshairs of America’s enemies if war breaks out.
“All the sovereign nations are roughly in these areas such as China and North Korea. These people look at the CNMI as a very, very small minute area that they, in my own opinion, will not hesitate to do the wrong ‘test’ on and it is dangerous,” said Sablan.
He said he is not trying to scare the community but is merely being practical, the CNMI being a U.S territory and could be a possible target if any war were to break out.
“I am just giving my feeling because I don’t want to see our people suffer through another war. I think these people are being very reasonable, saying ‘Let us train our people here locally’ because this is a territory of the U.S and the training that we accommodate for the military to do here is going to be very beneficial to us because our own people are members of the military,” he said.
“We need them to train, so if there was ever a war and our own people who are members of the military go out there and fight, they need to come back alive and not in a casket. This is my biggest concern.”
Sablan conceded there are certain things the military is not able to share with the CNMI at this point.
“They happen to know the danger that we face here in the CNMI as well as Guam. They are basically training to prevent those from happening. How many times do we see on media North Korea threatening to shoot a missile? We’re very vulnerable,” he said.
“That is why I am in full support of the military to train here so that when the need for defending the CNMI comes, the military is well-suited and fits perfectly for that matter. That is part of the sacrifices that we in the CNMI should seriously consider.”
Sablan recalled that when he was 12 years old in the morning of June 10, 1944, he and his older brother were getting ready to go visit their Japanese military friends. They saw planes in the skies involved in an aerial fight; bombs were exploding all over Saipan and planes crashing.
“I have been through WWII and have seen and lived through it. The military has knowledge of what they’re doing so we should be supportive of that.”
PaganWatch group reactivated in response to military plans
from Saipan Tribune
PaganWatch has been reactivated to respond to the challenge of protecting the Commonwealth’s islands from the U.S. military’s intention to use them as bombing ranges, according to Paganwatch founder Pete Perez.
“We have teamed with Guardians of Gani, another local grassroots group opposed to the destruction of our beautiful islands. Together we are hosting ‘Alternative Zero,’ a local perspective event that will take place at the entrances to the three military Draft EIS public hearings,” he said.
The public hearings are scheduled to be held on the following dates:
Wednesday, April 29, 2015, from 4pm to 9pm, Saipan Southern High School cafeteria
Thursday, April 30, 2015, from 4pm to 9pm, Tinian Junior Senior High School cafeteria
Friday, May 1, 2015, from 4pm to 9pm, Garapan Elementary School
“The military wants Alternative 1, Alternative 2, or Alternative 3—all variations on bombing our islands for practice. We want Alternative Zero—peaceful and productive use of our land and waters for the benefit of the people,” said Perez.
“Alternative Zero will inform the public as to the true nature of the military’s intention—the realities of turning beautiful islands into bombing ranges. It will also educate people about non-destructive alternatives for Tinian and Pagan,” he added. (Saipan Tribune)
'Alternative Zero' hopes to share fourth option not included in EIS
by Dennis B. Chan
Sometimes, the best option is no option. This is what “Alternative Zero,” a local group concerned about proposed live-fire training in Tinian and Pagan, hopes to get across.
In an interview, one of the group’s leaders Pete Perez, and member of the now reactivated Paganwatch, said, “Alternative Zero is designed to bring the truth out.”
The U.S. military has been working on the draft environmental impact statement for the live-fire training for years. The impact statement details three “alternatives” for the proposed training. Three public hearings are set next week.
Perez said the conversation now should not be about mitigation, but should be about “what do we want to do with our land?”
“The question is do we want to change our society? Alternative Zero tells our story. What the people want our community to be,” he said.
“We don’t even have to talk about the [impact statement]. We should be able to say thanks…but no thank you,” he said.
Perez said the group will set up tents outside the public hearings an hour before and hour after the hearings.
His message to the public is to “show up” at the hearings.
“Just show up. Come into the tents. Enjoy the company. See what the military has to say,” he said.
“This is our home. We just need to talk to each other and make sure we shout out with one strong voice, ‘No.’”
He said the only way the military will win is if the public remains quiet.
Those interested in making financial contributions to the group can head to Rosal Zest, a print company, on Monsignor Guerrero Road near Atkins Kroll, or buy 50 bumper stickers and distribute them.
Northern Marianas Descent advocates: No to any military bombing training
(Press Release) — At what cost?
What would remain of our already small islands? Do NMDs know about and understand what will happen to their sacred cultural homeland if the U.S. military is allowed to conduct live fire and bombing training in their lands? Will NMDs allow the US military to permanently destroy their sacred cultural homeland and surrounding marine environments and displace their social and cultural livelihoods like Bikini and Enewetok in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Vieques Island in Puerto Rico, Kahoolawe in Hawaii, and others?
These are but a few questions that NMDs and fellow residents are extremely concerned about as they consider their future survival against uncertainties and lack of specifics by the U.S. government and its military. The more than 1,000 pages draft environmental impact statements or EIS spread over almost 10 chapters were prepared by paid consultants and commissioned by the U.S. military, all of whom are “outsiders” who have neither physical nor cultural connection to the NMDs’ sacred homelands aimed to be permanently destroyed.
• Due to the complexity and highly technical language contained in the EIS, NMDC requests for more adequate time preferably 2 years for the CNMI government and its leaders, private sector, community organizations, and individuals to review and understand the scope and permanent destruction to their cultural homeland, ocean and marine environment, and their future survival.
• NMDC demands that the U.S. government and its military be strictly and unconditionally held accountable for their actions associated with decades of militarization to date by requesting that an independent environmental impacts study be conducted to determine the effects on marine ecosystems and surrounding lands — major sources of subsistence livelihoods for NMDs — from the years of military aerial target bombings on Farallon De Mendinilla.
• This on top of the deleterious and permanent chemical contamination of the entire Marianas from the military assault and unexploded ordnance or UXOs abandoned and stored throughout the island since WWII.
• Therefore, in view of the compelling and clear present dangers and unlimited risk exposures to the lives, health, and safety of the people of the Marianas from further U.S. military bombings and in order to preserve their sacred cultural homeland and sanctity of the lives of NMDs and residents now and the future generation without any undue disturbances and permanent destructions the Northern Marianas Descent Corporation unequivocally opposes any U.S. military bombing training in the entire Mariana Islands.
NMDC strongly invites and urges residents of the CNMI to attend the scheduled public meetings next week:
• Wednesday, April 29, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saipan Southern High School cafeteria
• Thursday, April 30, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Tinian Junior Senior High School cafeteria
• Friday, May 1, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Garapan Elementary School
NMDC equally urges residents to submit and register their comments at the hearings and/or online by visiting http://www.cnmijointmilitarytrainingeis.com. Incidentally, the U.S. military canceled earlier proposals to use sacred lands in Pagat, Guam due largely to the overwhelming opposition of tens of thousands of comments that were submitted by Guam residents earlier in 2012, which is considered an unprecedented historical feat and a hopeful demonstration of undisputed solidarity.
Inos to meet Northern Islands' mayor: I want to make sure we're on the same page
by Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa
GOVERNOR Eloy S. Inos said he plans to meet with Northern Island Mayor Jerome Aldan to discuss the pressing military issues.
“He and the residents of Pagan have taken a very strong position [against the military’s training proposals] so I just want to make sure that we’re on the same page,” the governor said in an interview on Thursday.
Inos also wants to meet with the members of the Military Ad Hoc Committee to discuss his request for an extension of the review period for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement or DEIS.
Inos said the military has responded to his letter of request and the matter has been placed under advisement since the military will conduct public hearings for the Draft EIS on April 29, 30 and May 1.“The military has responded to me that they will go through the public hearings before they make the decision. It’s under advisement so it appears that they will not be making any decision before the scheduled public hearings take place,” Inos said.
He will attend the public hearing on Saipan but not the one on Tinian.
“I don’t want to interfere so the people from Tinian can speak freely about their position,” he said.
“I will also meet with the ad hoc committee — there is an ad hoc committee to address individual and specific areas of concern but their schedule is already set for these hearings although there might be time for side bars, so to speak.”
Craig B. Whelden, executive director of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific, in his response to Inos’s letter, said a six-month extension as requested by the CNMI is a significant amount of time beyond the standard 45-day comment period.
“While the DEIS is admittedly lengthy, it has been shaped by over 18 months of collaborative effort between the Department of Defense and CNMI officials through regularly held working meetings,” Whelden said.
“The DoD remains committed to continued cooperation and I encourage the CNMI to continue participating in these meetings as they have been a great forum to exchange information and discuss issues of mutual interest,” he added.
Whelden said once the scheduled hearings are over, he will consider Inos’s request.
“Once my team has had an opportunity to assess initial comments, up to and including those received at the public meetings, I will be in better position to consider your request,” he told the governor.
Online Save Marianas movement activated
by Richelle Agpoon-Cabang
MORE than 50 members of the community including some politicians and government employees are having a group discussion online and oppose the plans of the military to expand its training exercises in the CNMI to include Pagan.
The group is considering a petition and sending invitations to U.S. senators and to President Obama to visit the CNMI and discuss the issue with local residents.
“The truth of the matter is, the only way our Marianas will be recognized in its struggles and hardships, and our people’s desire to preserve our natural resources understood, is if someone huge, someone famous enough visits and allows the world to see what a beautiful hidden gem the CNMI is,” one of the members said.
She added that “it will take someone as big as the President to listen to our stories and recognize the true beauty of the Marianas.”
The online group members say they are also working with their family members and friends who are in the U.S. to help bring their concern to the White House through letters.
Variety learned that one of the online group members is already in direct contact with U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington.
Murray wrote back, and in her letter, which was posted online, she promised that the senators will look at all the environmental aspects of the military’s proposal.
She also encouraged others in the CNMI community to communicate with the U.S. senators.
“I will keep your thoughts in mind, and I encourage you to stay in touch if you would like to know more about my work in the Senate,” the letter said.
One of the other online group members, Dåko’ta Alcantara-Camacho, said she has also spoken to representatives of the United Nations about “demilitarization.”
“I will do everything I can to amplify the voices of the Marianas and advocate for our freedom. Yesterday I delivered an intervention at the United Nations on demilitarization, specifically calling attention to the issues we are facing in the Marianas. Many people are supportive of our issue, yet I do agree we have much work ahead of us to bring unity to our people and develop a plan of action.”
A petition is currently being circulated on Tinian and will be available on Saipan next week, Variety learned.