Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Pagan and Tinian

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After months of waiting and speculating, the military has finally released their plans for Pagan and Tinian. Read the articles below to learn more. Five years ago the mood in the CNMI was one very supportive of militarization. The leadership there seemed willing to offer Pagan and Tinian and anything else on a plate to the DOD, especially in the context of resistance to military increases on Guam. It is good to see that this has changed.

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Government should focus on homestead program: Aldan
By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa 
Marianas Variety
4/15/15

Northern Islands Mayor Jerome Aldan’s message to the military is to "pack up and leave Pagan alone." Aldan was among the public officials who were in the House chamber yesterday to hear what the representatives of the Marine Corps Forces Pacific had to say during a meeting that lasted for more than three hours.

Aldan in an interview said he has not changed his position and is still opposed to the proposed use of Pagan for any military activities in the Northern Islands.

"Pagan is an island that people of Northern Marians descent should use to the full extent. There are a lot of resources there that we can tap. When you’re talking about bombs and live ammunition, that’s destruction to me. No matter how you call it…I still find it hard to believe because when you’re dropping bombs of course they will have a a significant impact once they hit the ground."

Instead of considering the military proposal, the CNMI government should help implement the homestead program for the Northern Islands.

He did not say how the financially strapped CNMI government can finance the resettlement of Pagan, which has an active volcano.

"We need the government to help us expedite the homestead program so we can go back to the Northern Islands. It’s not true that the place is uninhabited. There are still families living there and the numbers have tripled. So instead of prolonging the issue, let’s implement the homestead program. We can start it in Pagan. There’s a lot of flat land in Pagan and it’s a lot easier to maneuver there — there’s a road and there’s an existing landing area there already and all we have to do is renovate and upgrade them."

The mayor said the airport master plan was done by Efrain Camacho & Associates and it cost $500,000.

"All we need is to get the money," he added.

"We are losing a lot of lands already. There are over 4,000 pending applications for homestead lots so my take is let’s do it. Let’s start improving Pagan. We don’t need the military’s money. In fact I even asked the Marianas Visitors Authority to include Pagan to the list of the CNMI’s tourist attractions. It’s beautiful and there are a lot of attractions there."

[PIR editor’s note: Marianas Variety also reported that ‘There is a gradual loss of access to the islands. ... This was a perspective that Sen. Arnold I. Palacios, chairman of the Senate Committee on Federal Relations and Independent Agencies conveyed to the visiting Marine Corps Forces Pacific representatives yesterday in a meeting on Capital Hill. ... "We are starting to lose our islands," said Senator Palacios noting that it was not just to the U.S. military, but to other federal agencies as well. ... The islands are being federalized. ... "I am just looking at it from a different perspective. Out of the 14 islands, we have lost eight of our islands — eight to the federal government; one to nature—Anatahan."’]

Aldan said he is not against the military.

"Our CNMI leaders are also leaning toward no to bombs, no to live fire exercises at all. Even on Tinian, there are a lot of concerns…. I’m just surprised that nobody has asked yet about the possible contamination."

He is urging members of the public to get involved in the upcoming meetings.

"It’s important to participate. We want the people to come out and voice their concerns and be active and be involved because these are their islands.

"Again, I am not against the military. It’s their proposal that I’m against with. It’s not the plan that we see for our kids and the future. I just hope the Legislature and the governor will do the right thing and decide what is best for the people."

For his part, Lt. Gov. Ralph Torres is also requesting community members to participate in the hearings and public meetings regarding the draft of the Environmental Impact Statement.

Torres in a statement yesterday said: "We are in a crucial stage of the long-discussed military activities on Tinian and Pagan. In the hearings and public meetings of the coming weeks, we are provided an opportunity to participate in this important process.

"I strongly encourage the members of the public and community organizations to take the time to contribute your thoughts and comments both in writing and during the scheduled public meetings."

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CNMI Mayor: Strong Opposition To Pagan Militarization


Militarization and resettlement incompatible


A Northern Marianas mayor says most of the people in his region opposes the United States military's plans for a live fire range on Pagan island.

The military wants to lease the uninhabited island in its entirety so the Navy, Air Force, Army and Marines can practice live fire training as part of plans for a greater presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

But the mayor of the CNMI's northern Islands, which include Pagan, Jerome Aldan, says the island's original inhabitants were hoping to re-settle, but those plans will be scuttled if it is turned into a firing range.

"What do you think about live-fire and live-bombing? For me, it's destruction, contamination and basically after they're done the island is going to turn into a wasteland. I can say about 100 percent are against this, more particularly the folks from the northern islands who are waiting to make good use of the island, go back home."

Jerome Aldan says there are also plans to site a fishing community on Pagan in coming months, but this could now be halted.

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08 Dec 2014
By Richelle Agpoon-Cabang - richelle@mvariety.com - 
Marianas VarietyV

ALTHOUGH she resides on Guam, local artist Analee Camacho Villagomez is speaking up for Pagan by opposing the military’s plan to use portions of the remote, volcanic island as a training site.
In a recent interview, Villagomez said she loves being a Pacific islander and is deeply concerned about military training sites in the region.
“America has a lot of land, why would they want to take ours?” she asked.
She is concerned about the health of the community, noting that chemicals used in military training will impact the islands’ environment, its air and water.
As a nature lover and artist, Villagomez said she has visited the different islands of the Marianas.


Through the social networking site Facebook, Villagomez is asking her friends on Guam and the CNMI to support “saving” Pagan from the military.
“They want to bomb your island! Pagan…your Marianas…what about your health?” she asked.
“Bikini Island, Runit Island and Kwajalein Island in the Marshall Islands are all messed up because of U.S. military training. Kohoholawe Island in Hawaii as well…. No means No! We must keep our eyes open not just for the Marianas but for the whole world,” she said.
Villagomez said she is speaking as a concerned citizen and as an ordinary citizen.
“I am just me. I love our islands. Let us take care of what we have,” she said.

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Posted on Mar 31 2015
The Saipan Tribune
The 2nd Women’s Summit kicked off yesterday with Guam Legislature Speaker Judith Won Pat citing the military buildup during one of the panel discussions on what the CNMI could do to protect its culture and future.
Speaking as a panelist under the topic of “Empowering Women as Leaders,” Won Pat focused on the construction of live-fire training facilities being proposed for Tinian and Pagan, compared them to two other areas that were proposed for Guam, and how the community voiced their concerns.
“I am aware that the draft Environmental Impact Statement on the military’s plan for training on Tinian and Pagan will be released this Friday—April 3— and Guam has gone through two very major military impact statements since 2010 concerning the military buildup and learned many lessons about leadership in the process,” she said.
“Our community has been divided about the buildup. The popular perception has been that the buildup would result in economic growth and jobs, both of which our island needs. However, it will also result in unnatural population growth [that] will strain our infrastructure and increase the demand on public services,” she added.
Concerns raised about the buildup focused on its potential for negative impact on the environment and the culture of Guam. The most contentious issue, she said, is the need to find a place where the U.S Marines can conduct live-fire training among Guam’s cultural and historical sites.
Won Pat said she studied the situation from all angles and perspectives, read all necessary documents, did additional research, looked at similar situations in other places, and studied the CNMI’s history for answers.
“I wanted to understand as much as what was being planned and how it would impact us. I knew that the plan to move the Marines to Guam was intended to lessen the presence of Marines in Okinawa, so I went to Okinawa to see it,” she said.
According to Won Pat, Okinawa’s community had been protesting the Marine’s presence on their island since 1995, when three Marines kidnapped a 12-year-old girl and raped her.
“I had to ask myself if that is what I wanted for my community. I had to listen…I met with the women and they had valid concerns about the impact on children and the amount of money it would cost our government…I formed a group and became vocal about the need to put Guam first…I was heavily criticized and deemed anti-military, but as a women I would not back down,” she said.
She said the youth empowered her, enabling her to spread the word into Guam’s community and its leaders. Some 10,000 comments were made when the draft EIS came out, which she says the Navy said was unheard of.
“We share the same culture. I invite you to the path we’ve taken and ask yourself: Is this what you want for Tinian and Pagan? We have to learn from each other because no matter what political lines divide us, we are all one family. …My final point is, everything I do as a leader I do from a place of love for my family, island, ancestors, and future generations. …CNMI, you have more political power than we do in Guam because you are a Commonwealth. If you don’t want Pagan to be bombed, you can say no…make it happen,” she said.
In related news, Rep. Angel Demapan (R-Saipan), who chairs the House Committee on Federal and Foreign Affairs, said that military officials will be sitting with the committee this Thursday to discuss the military’s plans.
Demapan said the military has been holding many stakeholder meetings but never with the Legislature.
“Like what Won Pat said, if they want to be a part of the community, they have to be a partner of the community and that opens that dialogue so that they can become a good and responsible partner and benefit our community,” he said.

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Military proposes new training areas, ranges on Tinian, Pagan
Written by
Pacific Daily News
4/6/15

The military today released its proposed plans for the buildup in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, which involves the construction of a live-fire unit and combined level range and training areas on two islands in the CNMI.
According to the plan, existing live-fair and training range facilities in the Western Pacific are insufficient to support the military’s training requirements, specifically in the Mariana Islands.
A unit-level range and training area is proposed on Tinian and a combined-level range and training area is proposed on Pagan. When complete, they would be manned by 95 full-time personnel.
A combined level training area allows various units and unit types to train simultaneously, the plan states.
Each year, there would be 20 weeks of live-fire training on Tinian and 16 weeks of live-fire training on Pagan, the plan states.
The military anticipates that live-fire training on those islands could increase to as much as 45 weeks a year, but it would first require another impact statement.
On Tinian, additional property would be acquired through long-term leases, the plan states.
The military would lease all of Pagan, which is uninhabited, from the CNMI government, the plan states.
Public meetings
The military has scheduled informational open houses and public hearings later this month and early next month:
• April 29: from 5 to 8 p.m. at Saipan Southern High School, Saipan;
• April 30: from 5 to 8 p.m. at Tinian Junior Senior High School, Tinian
• May 1: from 5 to 8 p.m. at Garapan Elementary School, Saipan
A separate draft environmental impact statement for the Guam portion of the military buildup is expected to be released by the end of May.



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