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Save Pagan Island advocates say military exercises bad for Pagan

SAVE Pagan Island advocates on Thursday told students of Northern Marianas College’s current issues class that if military exercises are allowed in the Northern Islands, the commonwealth might as well “kiss Pagan goodbye.”

Architect Herman Cabrera, standing, talks about the destructive effects of the proposed military exercises on Pagan.  Also in photo are Northern Islands mayor’s office program manager Jerome Aldan and former Rep. William Torres, who are both Save Pagan Island advocates.
Former Rep. William S. Torres, standing, talks about the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed military live-firing exercises on Pagan.  Photos by Junhan B. Todeno
Northern Islands Mayor’s Office program manager Jerome Aldan, architect and eco-tourism developer Herman Cabrera and former Rep. William Torres emphasized to the students of current events instructor Michael Berglund the destructive effects the proposed militarization will have on the volcanic island of Pagan.

In their hour-long presentation, the Save Pagan Island advocates explained why Pagan should be spared from any military live-firing exercises.

Aldan said in February this year the U.S. military visited the Northern Islands mayor’s office and discussed at length its plan for Pagan, including the proposal to only use “a part of the island” for military exercises.

However, the notice of intent published in the Federal Register on March 14, 2013 included details that were not presented by the military during its discussions with the Northern Islands mayor’s office, Aldan said.

“They want the entire island to be used for live-firing,” he said, which the mayor’s office doesn’t want to happen.

Torres said the U.S. military through the Covenant can use the land it has leased on Tinian, Tanapag harbor and Farallon de Medinilla.

“But Pagan is not a Covenant trophy,” he said, adding that advocates want to preserve Pagan for the people of the CNMI.

Cabrera, for his part, presented his plan to develop an eco-tourism project on Pagan.

He told the NMC students that he recently acquired a permit from the Department of Public Lands, allowing him to develop some areas on Pagan in preparation for the scheduled visit of a cruise ship next year.

Cabrera said he was also contracted by a company in Los Angeles to do a feasibility study on the value and quantity of pozzolan deposits on Pagan. Pozzolan is volcanic ash used in making cement.

“There’s at least $1 billion worth of minerals on the island,” Cabrera said. Pagan, moreover, has boundless natural beauty, including white sand, black sand, coral reefs, hot springs and rare indigenous species of plants, birds, insects and other animals, he added.

He said Pagan is “very important” to the CNMI.

“We need to stop the proposed bombing. All they want to do is destroy the island and contaminate the water,” he added, referring to the military.

The advocates encouraged students to support their advocacy by signing the Save Pagan Island online petition.

Torres noted that national and international environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, Care2 Make a Difference and Roots Action are supporting the petition.

One of the NMC students, Francis Pangelinan, said the presentation was very informative.

“This has given us a broader view of the disadvantages and benefits of allowing military exercises on Pagan,” he added.

Torres said the most of the people on Capital Hill are “seeing green” in the military’s proposal.

“They are thinking how much the military will give to the CNMI for the destruction of Pagan,” he said.

He presented to students documents regarding the “destruction” committed by the U.S. military in different parts of the world where it conducts live-fire exercises.

Torres, at the same time, said military exercises will lead to the construction of an airport and seaport as well as power, water and transportation infrastructure.

“But these are only short-term benefits,” he said, noting that the military is paying only $24,000 per year for the lease of Farallon de Medinilla.

After the military exercises, he said, there would be problems with the maintenance of the infrastructure that the CNMI government cannot afford.