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    Saturday, December 7, 2019-5:34:31A.M.






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Kilili: Divert-airfield negotiations a local matter

U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan said he would respect the negotiation between the CNMI government and the U.S. Department of Defense pertaining to the divert airfield, adding that the issue is a local matter.

“I have always taken the position that land-use negotiations and decisions between the U.S. Department of Defense and the commonwealth government are a local matter, and I will continue to respect that process,” he said in an email, Tuesday.

Gregorio SablanGregorio Sablan

Last week, he added, “Lt. Gen. Anthony Crutchfield made it clear that the Air Force decision to locate the divert airfield on Tinian was in response to Governor Torres’ request. I respect that — both the governor’s request and the Air Force response,” he said.

Over the weekend, Kilili reported in his e-newsletter that the Air Force included $9 million in its military construction budget request for the lease of 7.1 hectares of land in support of divert activities and exercise initiatives.

Kilili said the land will be identified during negotiations with the commonwealth which is expected to begin this summer.

He said based on a Navy real estate survey, the cost to acquire the land by fee is $3.2 million, “but the Air Force is prepared to lease the property at a higher cost in order to conform to the Covenant agreement to acquire only the minimum real property interest necessary to meet mission requirements.”

This $9 million funding proposal is part of President Obama’s FY 2017 budget proposal sent to the U.S. Congress on Tuesday last week.

Kilili said he made the case for the selection of Tinian in his 2012 response to the Air Force Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

In his e-newsletter, he said the “divert airfield will be used for training and will give the Air Force a backup in case planes cannot use Andersen field on Guam. Saipan was considered and the Air Force also looked at dividing its activities between Saipan and Tinian. Specifics of the Tinian-only plan are not yet fully available. I look forward to learning more once the final environmental impact statement is released this spring and I will continue to listen to the voices of constituents and the commonwealth government as the details of the Tinian-only plan emerge.”