23 Nov 2016
- By Bryan Manabat - firstname.lastname@example.org - Variety News Staff
PAGAN Watch co-founder Pete Perez was the presenter at Northern Marianas College’s Current Issue class on Nov. 17, 2016, and he talked about the U.S. military’s plans for Tinian and Pagan.
He said NMC students should be concerned about such plans which, he added, will have “devastating effects” on each student’s future.
“Just an example, anyone over 30 years old will never see Tinian and Pagan returned in their lifetime if the lease for the bombing ranges on those islands is extended to 120 years which is part of the plan. Then nobody in this room will be alive and their children won’t be alive when we get these islands back,” he added.
The military’s plans are “so massive” for the Northern Marianas, he said.
“Students living in the CNMI won’t even recognize the islands… because there will be bombing ranges all around… it will certainly kill our tourist industry, which will kill the economic health of the islands, and that means loss of jobs.”
Perez said it is not unpatriotic to oppose U.S. military plans that will have adverse effects on the islands that we live on.
“It is a responsibility of every American to vote. It’s his or her responsibility to understand the issues, and to stand up for what is right and oppose what’s wrong — that’s activism.
“On this particular issue, we are not opposed or against the military. We support the military in its objectives and the people that serve in the military. But we are opposed to this policy of using our islands for bombing ranges which is not necessary,
“Because the U.S. military has plenty of bombing ranges and plenty of capacity for training.”
Perez said by being involved in issues that affects us, “we are being patriotic.”
He added, “The other thing we are not opposed to is the United States. We love the United States, we are patriotic Americans, and we are being patriotic Americans by being involved and trying to be involved.”
Some think an activist is a “trouble-maker,” he said.
“But an activist is actually someone who is really involved in their American duty of participating in government.”
He noted that two-thirds of Tinian’s land area was leased to the U.S. military since the inception and founding of the commonwealth, but “the promises of economic benefits from the military’s proposed utilization of the island have never materialized.”
He said 40 years later “they are still not saying whether they will build a base” on Tinian.
As for the military’s current bombing range proposal for Tinian, “they will destroy [the island] because the level of bombing is going to pollute the land. It is going to knock off an awful lot of foliage and habitat, and definitely will pollute the water.”
He said the natural resources on the island “will be very, very damaged if not destroyed, and you will have an island with so much dust, so many decibels of noise from bombing that no one would want to live there — they will literally drive the residents off Tinian so they are going to lose their homes.”
The remote volcanic island of Pagan is another concern, Perez said.
“It is not inhabited, but it is our most beautiful island. It’s kind of like you have a classic car in the garage and you love that car, but you don’t have any gasoline for it. But it is a beautiful car, and maybe you got it from your dad, and your neighbor says ‘Give me the car, I want to use it for demolition derby because you are not using it.’ That is what the military is trying to do. They are trying to take an island that we love. They say ‘You don’t have the money to be there right now so we are going to destroy it.’ That is not fair.”
Perez said their goal is to have the U.S. military withdraw its live-fire range plans in the Northern Marianas.
“We are against live-fire ranges in the Marianas, and we are against the expansion of live-fire activity in the Northern Marianas for the obvious reasons of the environmental and social damage that it does.”
Pagan Watch and other environmental groups have sued the U.S. military over its live-fire training plans.