The Saipan Chamber of Commerce is repositioning its view on the U.S. military’s plans for the CNMI, specifically regarding the use of land on Tinian and Pagan.
At their monthly general meeting yesterday at the Saipan World Resort, Chamber president Alex Sablan said their original statement will change dramatically following recent developments surrounding the issue as well as public hearings and the community’s position.
“We’re still preparing our written position as a Chamber,” said Sablan. “While we haven’t come up with a formal statement, I think the statement will change dramatically from the original.”
In 2013, the Chamber board took the position that they “do not oppose the military use of the Northern Islands, as long as said use does not interfere with the development of private business in the islands.”
Sablan said in the Chamber’s newsletter that the board’s original position was “too simplistic.” At the time, they did not have the facts relating to the CNMI Joint Military Training Environmental Impact Statement document, which was just released in April.
But now, changes will be made as “the CJMT is taking a different course.”
“We’ve come a long way and a far departure from what the original proposal was and so we’re going to have to take a good sound look,” he said.
The Chamber will be hiring consultants to help them through the process and review what the military really wants to do on the islands.
According to Sablan, the overall impact of the training seems to be more extreme than what was originally proposed to the Chamber almost two years ago.
He added that earlier discussion of military live fire training wasn’t given emphasis as it is being given now. Urban assault training and setting up “warm areas” for military use was what was mostly discussed.
“The idea of relocating Pagan residents, putting infrastructures, sharing the island in joint training atmosphere seem like a reasonable approach to selling the idea of training on Pagan.
“But as it states now, looks like they need the entire Pagan island, there will be no joint use from their perspective, and that doesn’t fall in line with the business opportunities and equal tourism and placing Pagan residents back up there,” he said. (Frauleine S. Villanueva)