‘902 military talks not matter of give-and-take’

Torres: Live-fire bombing and training ‘incompatible’ with Covenant and technical agreements
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres talks to reporters during a briefing Tuesday about last week’s 902 talks in Washington, D.C. (Dennis B. Chan)

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres talks to reporters during a briefing Tuesday about last week’s 902 talks in Washington, D.C. (Dennis B. Chan)

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said Tuesday that the “Section 902” talks with federal officials including those from the Department of Defense are not a matter of give-and-take and said that for any new Defense projects to move forward in the CNMI, existing “promises and contracts” must be fulfilled.

Torres was pointing to the CNMI Covenant, which established a relationship with the United States, and the technical agreement effected at the same time that spelled out the U.S. use of land leased to it.

“We have an existing contract. That needs to be fulfilled, before you start proposing anything else. That’s what we want. Nothing more, nothing else,” Torres told reporters Tuesday.

The Torres administration believes the proposed live-fire and bombing range use of public lands leased on Tinian would have to be “reworked” to become compatible with the “purposes for which the land was leased,” as spelled out in the CNMI Covenant and the technical agreement with the U.S. on the use of land leased to them.

Noting these binding documents, Torres referred to “economic promises” and the two-thirds of land leased to the military on Tinian to build an airbase, build schools, hospitals, “even as much as a movie theater.”

Asked if he though the live-fire project—which also entails bombing Pagan—was incompatible or in conflict with these agreements and if he made this clear in meetings with officials in Washington, D.C., Torres said, “For sure.”

“What we agreed on is specifically stated… We emphasized this is one of the reasons why we joined the U.S. family. We have an agreement and we want that agreement fulfilled before we move to any other proposed projects.”

Pagan, for one, was not required to be leased to the United States and Torres asserts that the CNMI has no real interest in leasing or selling portions of the island for military training purposes.

Right now, Torres said there are in the final stages of “programmatic agreement” for the U.S. Air Force’s divert airfield project, which Torres has stressed to be on Tinian.

“Our request and our concerns have been addressed and so we are getting to where we believe it will protect the people of the CNMI and not just today but 40 years from now,” said Torres.

Torres officials believe that when the CNMI elected to become part of the American family of states, it agreed to lease property on Saipan, Farallon de Medinilla, and Tinian for specific purposes.

The U.S., for one, agreed that—until it chose to build an airbase on Tinian—public lands there would be leased back to the CNMI for ranching and agricultural purposes—and that there would only be basic military operations and maneuvers training such as Cope North and Forager Fury.

In other words, the CNMI agreed to allow live fire and bombing activities on Farallon de Medinilla—not Tinian.

And whether the United States can, officials say, change the use of the property on Tinian for live-fire and bombing ranges is a separate legal issue, which should be considered in the historical context under which the CNMI agreed to lease this property of the United States.

On Farallon de Medinilla, or FDM, Torres said he stressed environmental issues and the proximity of fishing with the current bombing on the island.

“By the time we are given back the property in 2083, it will not be the same as what we gave them, so we did echo that concern,” he said.

‘Not negotiations’

Torres was also asked Tuesday about the “quid pro quo” or negotiating points in the 902 discussions.

Some local leaders claim and even former Cabinet members have suggested that other 902 topic—the CNMI’s expiring contract worker program—and the extension thereof—to stave economic collapse—would require a trade-off for the military use of Pagan, for example.

However, Torres, turning notably more and addressing reporters by name said, “Jill, Dennis, Cherrie, 902 is not about negotiating. We did not walk in there to negotiate because we are not there to give something to receive something. 902 talks are avenue for us to walk in there” and talk about agreements “that made us a part of United States. We are not” going to “say that in 20 or 40 years we are going to ‘give you a little bit and give me little bit.’ We are here to tell the United States what we are facing and the issues that we have. We are not asking for bailouts. We are asking them to look at our situation and perhaps give them a special approach because we do have a special relationship. But no negotiation.”

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Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at dennis_chan@saipantribune.com.

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  • Ioanes

    Raffy’s tough braggadocio is a narrative that fails to understand that the other side has the upper hand here since 1978!

    • Tinalakattne Yantitiyas

      Regardless, Pagan was never in the talks and US Mil did not fulfill their part as of late. Now, I am not no legal person but I know that there is a way out of this that preserves both sides concerns and needs. Zero tolerance should be given to painting a target over Pagan. Even as we speak, Philippines is renegotiating the need for US Mil back on its soil.

      It is not tough talk at all but only a right to challenge. Guam led by Bordallo is leading the charge to pull the good parts leaving us scraps and throwing us under the bus for the rest.

      I am a Veteran and not being a US Mil hater at all. No! We can and must fight for our future generations to leave our lands to them as our ancestors have handed down to us.

      • Chamoru First!

        Awesome comment tinala’katne yantitiyas. America has focused elsewhere. American Dream remains non existent. But national security is priority. Moreover and elevated degree of patriotism is boiling. We are feeling security finally with Americas USCIS presence. Sir thank you for your service and please participate with the veterans recent project to record your experience for documentation so our children can learn with pride of your contribution making us the highest performing race in the history of American military servicemen. Si yu’us Ma’asi ma’gas.

  • Taotao CNMI

    It is not by words that we contextualize the act, but by the very act minced in lexiconic twist.

  • Chamole

    Fantastic work by the Governor. Really focused on the core issues. Well done Governor!

  • agnosic1

    “Chinese spy ship enters Japan’s territorial waters for second time since end of WWII”

  • Chamoru First!

    I admire the Governors pursuit with his “Take no Give” stance but alas, didnt Fitial take the feds to court? we lost our immigration control….negotiations is the way to restore trust and improve our relationship back to normal…include throwing three birds with one stone-more workers, extended renewal, and improved status…oops is it in their contract? Truth is the Ralphs way will call for a deeper and porous quicksand into the abyss of hell as controlling the mass workers exodus into CNMI will be catastrophic.

  • Chamoru First!

    Economic take-over by China is complete in CNMI. America steps in to secure its territories. End of all discussions. Pray for all miracles….all the rests on realistic approach….go Ralph do your best!

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