Henkin says 2013 agreement junked transfer of 5,000 Marines to Guam

The 2013 agreement between the United States and Japan got rid of the requirement that the U.S. Marines in Okinawa would be transferred to Guam, according to Earthjustice counsel David L. Henkin.

Yet the U.S. government keeps talking about the 2009 agreement, which has already been superseded, Henkin said, pointing out that the 2013 agreement is already being enforced.

“Japan just said location outside of Japan, get them off of Okinawa. And there are a lot of ways of doing that,” said Henkin in an interview after Thursday’s hearing on the U.S. government’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by four groups.

Henkin argued for the Tinian Women’s Association, Guardians of Gani, PaganWatch, and the Center for Biological Diversity.

They opposed the military’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona placed the motion under advisement.

The groups are suing the U.S. Department of Navy, U.S. Department of Defense, and their then-officials for alleged violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and Administrative Act over the Navy’s decision to relocate 5,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam and to conduct live-fire training on Tinian and Pagan.

Henkin said the 2013 agreement also got rid of any deadline for the relocation to happen.

“So there is plenty of time for the Marines to follow, do what they are supposed to do. Look at the impacts, look at the alternatives, and make a fully informed decision. They don’t need to rush forward,” Henkin said.

What the U.S. military wants to do is to rush forward and make it a done deal, he said.

“So even if they violated the law, there is nothing anyone can do about it. The reason why we are in court today is make sure that we get a timely result from the court that can help the people of the Northern Marianas protect their rights,” he said.

Henkin asserted that the main issue before the court is whether the people of Tinian and Pagan will have their day in court, whether the court is going to clarify the issue if the Navy has violated the law by failing to be honest with the people of the Northern Marianas.

“We feel that it is the job of the judiciary to be a watchdog over the executive branch…to make sure that they are very careful to be honest about what the effects of bringing Marines to Guam would be and how it would affect the daily lives of people here,” he said.

“That’s the proper role of the judiciary and we are hopeful that the judge would see it that way and proceed with the case,” Henkin added.

Since Manglona placed the matter under advisement, at this point the best they can do is to wait and see, he said.

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Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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