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Rota public hearing discusses resolution against increased military presence in NMI

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THE House Committee on Federal and Foreign Affairs conducted a public hearing on Rota earlier this week regarding House Joint Resolution 21-8, which requests Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to oppose an increase in “destructive military presence” in the CNMI.

“The response was pretty positive in regards to that resolution. Those who testified didn’t have any objections to what the resolution entails,” said the committee chairman, Rep. Luis John Castro.

He added that there is no reference to Rota in the resolution, which placed a lot of the emphasis  on Tinian and the Northern Islands.

He said the speaker of the Youth Congress, Dawno M. Agbayani, who is a Rota resident, also presented his comments to committee.

“He actually took concerns from different constituents and brought them up in his testimony,” said Castro, commending Agbayani for his testimony.

Regarding the public hearing on Tinian, Castro said Tinian Mayor Edwin Aldan told the committee that he isn’t opposed to the resolution, but neither is he opposed to the military.

According to Castro, the mayor said the military is “working with Tinian to ensure that whatever they want to touch, nothing will get damaged significantly.”

Castro added that “the administration itself has been speaking with the military to not go above and beyond because of the cultural and environmental impacts that the buildup is going to have.”

From left, Reps. Tina Sablan, Donald M. Manglona, Luis John Castro, Youth Congress Speaker Dawno M. Agbayani, Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig, Reps. Richard T. Lizama, Ivan A. Blanco, Ralph N. Yumul,  and Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero pose after a public hearing on Rota. Photo courtesy of Rep. Luis John DLG Castro

Castro said as a U.S. territory, “we have to work collectively with anything that comes with being part of the country, which includes the military.”

However, he said, “I do see what military presence in the states and in the Pacific — particularly the territories — has done like those negative impacts on Guam. There’s still that ‘back-and-forth’ with the military and I get concerned because [Guam’s] the closest example that we can have in case this buildup doesn’t go the way that we want it to. We’ve observed long enough how things have happened with our neighbor to the south….”

Castro said although he tries his best to be impartial, “from a personal standpoint, I’m concerned just as much, especially due to the fact that we’ve seen the damage that has happened to [Farallon de Medinilla].”

The U.S. Navy has leased FDM from NMI since 1971 and in 1983 negotiated a 50-year lease with an option to renew for another 50 years.

Castro said he also intends to reach out to the military regarding the resolution.

“I do want to get more input on it as best and as quickly as we can. The window is closing, and sometimes, when you work with the military, sometimes they close that window quicker than a hiccup.

“We’re strategically important, but also cultural-wise and environmental-wise, we’re just as important,” he added.

The committee will be accepting public comments until sometime in mid-August, Castro said.

For more information, or to submit written comments/statements, contact the Office of Rep. Luis John DLG Castro at 664-8903 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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