28 Oct 2013
- By Junhan B. Todeno - email@example.com - Variety News Staff
SAVE Pagan Island advocate Jerome Aldan says a military lobbyist made a “horrible misrepresentation” before a Rotary Club on Guam about the proposed military exercises in the Northern Islands.
Aldan said he was not happy with the comments made by Guam-U.S.-Asia Security Alliance member Juan Carlos Benitez who noted that Pagan is a “key linchpin” to the proposed military buildup on Guam and in the rest of the Marianas.
But “Pagan is home,” said Aldan who was born on the volcanic island and is currently the program manager of the Northern Islands mayor’s office. “We have been waiting decades for a chance to return, and now we’ve been told that we may never go back home because the [Department of Defense] needs another firing range.”
Referring to Benitez’s statements, Aldan said “it is appalling to hear that military lobbyists on Guam are offering other people’s homes to profit off construction contracts.”
Earlier this year, the Department of Defense issued a notice of intent to turn Pagan into a vast training complex.
Aldan said the proposal is opposed by “the people of Pagan, as well as regional and national organizations worried about the environmental destruction that would occur if DOD were allowed to bomb the island.”
Aldan said Benitez, who is from Puerto Rico, should have looked into the destruction and health problems caused by military live-fire training in the Vieques in Puerto Rico, so he could “sympathize with the plight of the dislocated and long exiled” former Northern Island residents.
He said Benitez should get more information about Pagan and the concerns raised by international and regional environmental groups including Roots Action, Care2 Make a Difference, the Sierra Club, and the local Mariana Islands Nature Alliance.
According to Aldan, the military already has control over Farallon de Medinilla.
“Military war birds are presently dropping bombs and silencing native birds on Farallon de Medinilla, an island that is part of the Northern Islands just north of Saipan,” he said.
“Our islands in the Marianas are sacred. We have given up Tinian, Tanapag, and FDM already for the defense of our country. We must protect the islands that we now have for the present and future generations to enjoy and benefit from. Enough is enough,” he added.
Aldan said the Guam Rotarians should invite advocates with an alternative view regarding Pagan in order to provide balance to the issue.
Variety was unable to get a comment from Benitez or the Guam Rotarians.