Sunday, February 14, 2016


When the US Department of Defense released their Draft Environmental Impact Statement for their proposed military buildup to Guam, you could see both the potential danger involved and the community's reaction in simple numbers. The size of the DEIS in terms of page numbers was close to unbelievable. At 11,000 or so pages, you could not help but wonder about the potential impacts the plans would represent to Guam. If it took 11,000 pages to describe it and discuss it, how could it be good? Shouldn't the massive volume of pages required to articulate it be a sign of danger?

The community responded with more than 10,000 comments, many of which were critical of the buildup. A significant response, close to one for each page of that infernal document. When I recall that a JGPO representative said to me that they were anticipating just "500 on the high side" I feel that through a variety of activists means, people began to question the buildup and how much it might benefit the island and start to worry about how it might negatively affect things.

For the current round of DOD proposals, the SEIS for the use of Northwest Field and Litekyan for a firing range was met with some public outcry, but far more muted when compared to the wave of comments that were solicited in 2010. In the CNMI however, in response to plans to use large portions of Tinian and all of Pagan for training and bombing, more than 28,000 comments were submitted. Bai hu sangan enao ta'lo, "28,000!" 

The plans for Tinian and Pagan are substantial and would mean the destruction of a number of near pristine ecological areas and historical sites. It could lead to a return of the days of the security clearance requirement in the Marianas, where islands are cut off from the outside world due to their strategic importance and the interests of the DOD reign over the interests of the people. 28,000 represents far more than the total population of both Tinian and Pagan, but it shows the way that Chamorros from elsewhere and also concerned people who have seen images of the beauty of Pagan became concerned about the US military's destructive plans. An online petition to stop the bombing of Pagan garnered more than 100,000 signatures, the overwhelming majority from people elsewhere who were inspired to sign because of the idea of that beauty being obliterated for training purposes.

28,000 is a very hopeful sign for the people of the Marianas who are concerned about the dangers of militarization in our region. Below is an article from the Marianas Variety on the number of comments.


THE Marine Corps Forces Pacific is reviewing over 28,000 comments on the draft Environmental Impact Statement relating to the proposed construction of military training facilities on Pagan and Tinian, according to MARFORPAC Executive Director Craig B. Whelden.

In his Dec. 1 response to Tinian Mayor Joey Patrick San Nicolas’s letter, Whelden said his team “will also review and assess the comments provided in your letter.”

He said these evaluations will help shape the scope of the supplemental analysis and provide a basis for future discussions with the CNMI government and the municipal leadership.

He said he will be on Saipan in early February to meet with the governor and brief him “on the way forward with the supplemental” report to the draft EIS.

He told San Nicolas that he is pleased with the mayor’s support for continuing dialogues between the CNMI and the Department of the Navy regarding the CNMI Joint Military Training or CJMT DEIS.
“I am confident that following the National Environmental Protection Act process, continuing to listen to community concerns and engaging in constructive dialogue will ultimately result in a better EIS,” Whelden said.

He acknowledged the mayor’s request to establish a civilian-military advisory council in accordance with the provisions of the technical agreements.

He noted, as the mayor has done, the numerous issues that can be discussed among the CNMI central government, the local governments of Tinian and Pagan, local developers, and the military that can contribute to the economic growth of the CNMI and the Municipality of Tinian.

If Gov. Eloy S. Inos were to convene this civilian-military council, Whelden said he would be supportive of Marine Corps or other Department of Defense participation “to the extent that it is consistent with federal regulations concerning pre-decisional [National Environmental Protection Act] activities or other governing regulations.”

Whelden said he appreciated that the mayor has taken the time and effort to consider how the military and Tinian can work together.

“While it is still early in the process, I look forward to future discussions to help develop one community working and living cooperatively on Tinian as we proceed with the supplement to the DEIS,” Whelden said.

Last month, Mayor San Nicolas sent Whelden a letter about a cooperative plan relating to the proposed military training facilities on Tinian.

“History has taught all of us in the Marianas that land issues never just go away,” he wrote Whelden pointing out a number of issues in the CJMT tied to the land and land leases which San Nicolas said might have to be litigated unless resolved by mutual agreement.

He said he preferred a more proactive approach and is willing to meet with Whelden to talk about “Tinian red-lines.”

These include the mayor’s opposition to the proposed heavy artillery range and the potential dredging of the Unai Chulu where DoD is planning to set up a landing area for amphibious assault vehicles.
The mayor also asked Whelden to support Tinian’s inclusion in the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park system.

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