30 Mar 2014
- By Junhan B. Todiño - email@example.com - Variety News Staff
FOR Maria M. Aldan, 65, Pagan gives her comfort and peace of mind.
Aldan attended the town hall meeting organized by the Northern Islands mayor’s office on Wednesday night at the Carolinian Utt to listen to the residents’ opinions regarding the homestead program and the military’s proposal to use the island as a training site.
“It’s better there because even if you don’t have money there is plenty of food. I want to go back there,” she told Variety.
She and her children have been residing on Saipan since they were evacuated from Pagan following the volcanic eruptions in 1981.
She said they are all willing to go back to the Northern Islands.
Maia Saurez, 59, said her mother Maxima was born on Agrigan.
If given a chance, she said she would like to visit the island.
Lynette Castro, the eldest daughter of the late Antonio L. Kaipat from Agrigan, said her father has been desperately waiting for his homestead lot.
She is opposed to the military’s plan to train on Pagan.
Born, raised and married on Pagan, Maneses P. Castro, 72, remembered visiting Farallon de Pajaros also known as Urracas.
He wants to return to his place of birth.
“The problem with them [some government officials] they are only working for their own interests. They are not looking into the welfare of the community,” he told Variety, as he expressed his disappointment over the “long delay” in the implementation of the homestead program for the Northern Islands.
Manases Castro likewise objects to the “militarization” of Pagan, saying the armed forces already have Farallon de Medinilla.
“That’s enough,” he said. “They will just poison our water and air.”
In a separate interview, Carolinian Affairs Office Director Joe Limes, who attended the meeting, said Northern Island residents who oppose the proposed military activities on Pagan should be supported.
“The Northern Island residents should be united and come up with a strong position,” he added.
Limes said he shares the sentiments of the Northern Island residents who have been “desperately waiting” to be awarded their homestead lots since 1978.
During the meeting on Wednesday, over 50 Northern Islands residents agreed they will ask for a meeting with Gov. Eloy S. Inos to discuss the homestead program.
The meeting was likewise attended by Saipan and Northern Islands Municipal Council Chairman Ramon B. Camacho, member Diego Kaipat, Zoning Board member Gus Kaipat, local architect Herman Cabrera and former Rep. William S. Torres.
The residents are considering filing a class action lawsuit to compel the government, particularly the Department of Public Lands, to implement the homestead program.
Northern Islands mayor’s office program manager Jerome Aldan said they will continue to push for the program, adding that they have been treated indifferently by the government.
He said there are 18 applications for agricultural homesteads for the Northern Islands that have been pending since the 1990’s.