17 Apr 2015
- By Alexie Villegas Zotomayor - firstname.lastname@example.org - Variety News Staff
HIS position on the issue has remained unequivocal for two years. U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan reiterates that there should not be any bombing on Pagan.
“I have made my personal position on Pagan clear for over two years: I oppose the bombing of Pagan,” said Sablan.
Sablan said how Pagan and other public lands are used is a question of local self-government.
“Negotiations are going on between the Commonwealth government and the U.S. Department of Defense and we have to let the local decision-making process run its course,” he said.
Several lawmakers last week conveyed to the visiting Marine Corps Forces Pacific representatives their opposition to the use of Pagan for military purposes, citing among many reasons, the loss of the habitat for endangered species, the prevention of resettlement of Pagan residents, the loss of fishing grounds, possible contamination, and loss of access.
They also pointed out that 60-day comment period is too short a time for them to review the voluminous draft Environmental Impact Statement.
Just last week, Gov. Eloy S. Inos himself asked for a six-month extension of the comment period.
The CNMI Joint Military Training draft EIS/OEIS was released on April 4.
As to the proposed training facilities for Pagan and Tinian, several studies determined that the U.S. Pacific Command will need to meet 42 unfilled training requirements in the Northern Marianas by setting up live-fire ranges and training areas on Tinian and Pagan.
Pagan is being considered for combined level training while Tinian is for unit-level training.
Neither can proceed without the other as the combined use of these islands for the training will meet the objectives of the proposed action.
Allaying the lawmakers’ fears that Pagan would become another Vieques — an island of Puerto Rico that was used by the U.S. Navy for bombing exercises — Defense Policy Review Initiative Planning Group operations officer Tim Robert and environmental specialist Sherri Eng said comparing the two islands islands would be like comparing apples and oranges as the training scenarios are different.
“The way we will use ranges, the type of weapons we will use is totally different from what was used in Vieques,” the lawmakers were assured.
With the mounting opposition by lawmakers, residents and conservationists over the proposal to use Pagan, there remains an option for the federal government: to invoke the power of eminent domain.
In an earlier Variety report, local historian Don Farrell offered his opinion on this possibility.
“The Covenant does provide that ‘in the event it is not possible for the United States to obtain an interest in real property for public purposes by voluntary means, it may exercise within the Commonwealth the power of eminent domain to the same extent and in the same manner as it has and can exercise the power of eminent domain in a State of the Union,’ ” Farrell said.
Variety posed this similar question to Sablan.
“You also asked what I would do if the U.S. invokes eminent domain to take Pagan. That is a question way ahead of its time and best addressed when — and if — it ever comes up. We will probably have a new President by the time this is ever an issue,” said Sablan.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific has been assuring the public that it will continue to listen as it shapes the alternatives that will add up to a win-win for all concerned.
Copies of EIS and Comments
Copies of the draft EIS are available at the offices of the Tinian Mayor, Northern Islands mayor, Joeten-Kiyu Public Library, Olympio T. Borja Memorial Library, Tinian Public Library and Antonio C. Atalig Memorial Rota Public Library.
It is available online at www.CNMIJointMilitaryTrainingEIS.com.
Public meetings are scheduled for April 29, Saipan Southern High School; April 30, Tinian Junior Senior High School; and May 1, Garapan Elementary School. Comments may be submitted during these meetings.
Comments may be submitted online or mailed to:
Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Pacific
Attn: 09PA, Public Affairs Office
258 Makalapa Drive, Suite 100
JBPHH, HI 96860-3134.
The comment period runs from April 4 through June 3 unless extended by MARFORPAC owing to a request made by Governor Eloy S. Inos for a six-month extension.