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    Saturday, December 7, 2019-11:45:44A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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NMI delegation shares their thoughts on live-fire training demonstration and discussions with DOD in Hawaii

(Office of the Governor) — Last month, the Senate president, members of the Tinian Legislative Delegation, the mayor of Tinian & Aguiguan, the mayor of the Northern Islands, the chairman of the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation, members of the Tinian & Aguiguan Municipal Council, and members of the board of directors of the Commonwealth Ports Authority joined Governor Ralph DLG Torres in Hawaii for a series of meetings and live-fire training demonstrations or LFTD at the invitation of the Department of Defense.

After witnessing the LFTDs and engaging in discussions with DOD, Senate President Victor Hocog noted that while the demonstrations accorded CNMI officials an opportunity to understand the training requirements necessary to maintain military readiness, any discussion regarding training in the CNMI is still very preliminary in nature.

“Several questions and concerns were raised by the delegates. Each training facility has different exercise concepts but for only one purpose. Therefore, it is necessary to continue discussions in an open dialogue with the CNMI delegates in order to develop a sound and trustworthy covenant moving forward. I urge the Department of Defense to be transparent in their proposed plans wherein trust can be restored to our leaders and our people of the Commonwealth,” the Senate president emphasized.

Senate Vice President Jude Hofschneider, who is also the chairman of the Tinian & Aguiguan Legislative Delegation, acknowledged that the LFTD offered insights and a clearer understanding of military training requirements.

“This trip was by no means a dialogue or negotiation with the military to engage in live fire training in the CNMI. However, the demonstration certainly allowed the members of the Tinian leadership a clearer understanding of the specific types of artillery being used in military training. While we understand and support the need for our military personnel to be fully trained, it is also important to get some knowledge in the event this issue becomes a subject in the near future. A single demonstration does not mean we understand everything, but the fact that we went through that level of demonstration gives us more insight about exactly what is on the table and why,” said Hofschneider.

Tinian Mayor Edwin P. Aldan for his part, recognized the need for a continuing effort to strengthen the CNMI’s partnership with the DoD to support military readiness while ensuring that the welfare of his people will not be sacrificed.

“As stated previously, Tinian supports our brave men and women who are defending our freedom at home and abroad. We stand committed to be good partners to all branches of our U.S. armed forces and in support of finding ways to accommodate the need for training, critical to their success when they are called to defend the freedoms that we all enjoy. We also remain steadfast in our belief that the need for training should not come with having to sacrifice the health, safety, and well-being of the people of Tinian,” stated Mayor Aldan.

For Northern Islands Mayor Vicente Santos Jr., the demonstration tour was enlightening. “It was an eye opener. The first-hand observation definitely provided a better understanding and perspective of military exercise activities, the types of weapons and ammunition being proposed, and how training ranges are managed to mitigate effects, shared Mayor Santos. The mayor extends his appreciation to the Department of Defense and he looks forward to working closely with Governor Torres and the CNMI Delegation. "I thank DoD for the opportunity to see first-hand the training activities involved to ensure our military are mission ready. However, there remains many questions and concerns and I look forward to working closely with Governor Torres and the delegation to addressing those concerns with DoD."

House Floor Leader John Paul Sablan, chairman of the Saipan & Northern Islands Legislative Delegation, expressed his gratitude to the INDOPACOM leadership for the opportunity to witness first-hand the live fire demonstrations and hopes that the DoD will address the concerns raised by the delegation.

“I would like to extend my sincere gratitude, especially to the United States Indo-Pacific Command. The demonstration was fruitful and educational for me and my colleagues. Although no decision was made by both the CNMI Delegation and the Department of Defense, I sincerely hope that the concerns raised in our meeting regarding the environmental impacts and the magnitude of the military live fire training proposal on the islands of Tinian and Pagan will be addressed,” stated Chairman Sablan.

Tinian Municipal Council Chairwoman Thomasa Mendiola acknowledged that the demonstration is beneficial as it provided awareness of what is to be expected if the CNMI allows the Department of Defense to carry out the proposed trainings and exercises on Tinian.

“The live-fire training demonstration is beneficial. It has given us a clearer picture of what to expect on the proposed training exercises if we are to allow the Department of Defense to carry out its proposal. Their presence is inevitable, most especially on Tinian. However, more in depth collaboration is needed to ensure the livelihood and

welfare of our people will not be compromised,” Mendiola added.

The Commonwealth Ports Authority, on the other hand, remains committed to fulfilling its mission of developing air and sea navigation to and from the CNMI to its fullest potential.

“Undoubtedly, this includes the development of air and sea navigation within the Commonwealth. The live-fire demonstration witnessed by members of the board validates CPA's concerns that restricting airspace will have an impact on the CNMI's main thoroughfares of international travel and inter-island commute,” said Chairwoman Kimberlyn King-Hinds. “CPA stands by its previous statement and remains steadfast in its opposition, as expressed in CPA Board Resolution 2019-04, to the present and any future requests by the Secretary of the Navy to restrict airspace on or around Tinian,” King-Hinds reiterated.

Overall, the CNMI delegation considered the live fire demonstrations to be informative. The delegation learned much information regarding the impacts of training ranges on the land itself and on the surrounding communities.

The experience of the communities with military installations that have been around for many years as compared to the CNMI, where the interaction would be largely new, is something that the observation tour could not fully replicate. While there remains many questions and issues that need to be resolved going forward, the delegation extends their appreciation to the Department of Defense for the opportunity to observe some of the exercises that are being proposed for the Commonwealth.