07 Apr 2013
- By Junhan B. Todeno - email@example.com - Variety News Staff
ENVIRONMENTALIST John Gourley said the law protecting endangered species will not stop the proposed military training on the volcanic island of Pagan.
“It doesn’t actually change their plan of action,” he told Northern Islands residents and lawmakers attending the second meeting on the Pagan military plan at the Carolinian Utt on Thursday night.
Residents must understand how the Environment Impact Statement process works, Gourley said.
“Be very careful, you have to know the details,” he said, citing the example of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, about which some of the “promises” of the federal government have not been realized.
Monument proponents claimed that it would result in a “tourist center in Saipan [that would] revitalize [the] tourism industry [as] people from around the world…visit this national marine monument.”
Gourley said the biggest threat to military plans on Pagan is a united people.
“You have to come up with a united position,” he said, adding that they should also solicit the support of other organizations.
“You are fighting the federal government so you cannot fight the federal government through local [means]. You have to fight the federal government in federal ways, and that requires unity,” Gourley said.
He said Adm. Tilghman D. Payne, commander, Joint Region Marianas of the U.S. Pacific Command, and Defense coordinating officer and political-military advisor Roy N. Tsutsui said the military is open to discussion regarding Pagan and Tinian whose leaders welcome a greater military presence.
“One of the options that came up from them was that they were not really looking at taking over the entire island of Pagan rather it would be a portion and this is coming from them at that meeting,” Dela Cruz said, referring to Payne and Tsutsui.
During that meeting, he said lawmakers were told that residents on Pagan can stay on the island while training is ongoing.
However, whenever the training involves live-fire, residents will be relocated to Saipan and once the training is done they will be taken back to Pagan, Dela Cruz said.
Dela Cruz said the residents of the Northern Islands should come up with a unified position.
He said he has discussed the Pagan military plan with the Inos administration and U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan.
Pursuant to the islands’ Covenant with the federal government, there’s a possibility that the military has the right to conduct exercises on Pagan, Dela Cruz said, adding that Sablan is now consulting his legal counsel to look into this issue.
Dela Cruz said the Legislature was told by the military that if the people of Pagan are opposed to the training, the armed forces will conduct it somewhere else in the Micronesian region.
Rep. Felicidad T. Ogumoro, for her part, urged residents of the Northern Islands to find out exactly what the military plan is.
“I hope they will not deny us that right to know before a decision is made for the use of Pagan by the military,” she said.
She said she will support whatever the position of the residents is.
Ogumoro also told them that the Northern Marianas Island Descent Corp., a new organization, is now accepting new members.
Saipan and Northern Islands Municipal Council Chairman Ramon B. Camacho wanted to know how long the military will use Pagan for its training.
He said the island has economic potential and “lots of people want to go back there,” he added.
Northern Islands mayor’s office program manager Jerome Aldan said the series of pre-scoping meeting will educate residents on the proposed combined-unit military training activities on Pagan.