House panel opposes ‘all’ US military use of Pagan

Saying that a “wholesale militarization” planned for Pagan will permanently foil any meaningful chance for resettlement and result in collateral damage, the House Federal and Foreign Affairs Committee recommends adoption of a joint resolution requesting Gov. Eloy S. Inos to “oppose any and all proposed military use of Pagan and oppose any increased military activities in the Northern Islands.”

The panel said it has concerns that certain proposed U.S. military operations on Pagan and Tinian “will adversely affect the islands’ socio-economic and cultural legacy.”

But the committee, chaired by Rep. Trenton Conner (Ind-Tinian), said the CNMI values its relationship with the United States and respects the Covenant that established the terms and conditions that govern this political relationship.

The committee recommends adoption of House Joint Resolution 18-14, co-authored by House Speaker Joseph Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) and 14 other members.

In its report, which is expected to be accepted by the full House later this week, the committee said the Pagan military roadmap covers not just the entire island of Pagan but also Pagan’s coastlines and surrounding waters and exclusive airspace including airspace restrictions extending to the islands of Anatahan, Sarigan, and as far up north as Pajaros.

The committee said it is also concerned with the current CNMI Joint Military Training plan, which proposes to place an artillery range on Tinian.

“The committee is heedful of the impact on the local economy and collateral damage that military training brings to the local culture, geology, hydrology, and terrestrial biological resources and management should be considered integral,” it said.

It said the military’s Pagan plan for combined-unit live fire trainings and maneuvers include military war game plan that demands “continuous” use and occupation of the entire island of Pagan for warfare functional areas.

This is not limited to amphibious warfare, anti-submarine warfare, mine warfare, strike warfare, air warfare, surface warfare, electronic warfare, and naval special warfare, among others, the committee said.

“The committee understands that for the sake of not just the Northern Islands but also the long-term welfare of the entire CNMI, all necessary measures to oppose the proposed military exercises on Pagan and also the increased military exercises within the Northern Islands must be taken. Therefore, your committee is in accord with the intentions of this resolution and recommends its adoption in its current form,” the report said.

A public hearing on the now 7-month-old resolution was held in February, with at least 14 members of the public testifying in support of the resolution.

Rep. Ralph Yumul (Ind-Saipan), a member of the committee, said he thinks the resolution will pass the House.

Once also adopted by the Senate, HJR 18-14 could become the CNMI Legislature’s unified voice against the militarization of Pagan.

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Haidee V. Eugenio | Reporter
Haidee V. Eugenio has covered politics, immigration, business and a host of other news beats as a longtime journalist in the CNMI, and is a recipient of professional awards and commendations, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental achievement award for her environmental reporting. She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman.

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  • jun

    The island of Tinian had been waiting for the military build up and now that the opportunity is knocking on our door, we worry about the safety of our community relating to the artillery range proposal. I was once an artillery crew member, our battalion to the batteries take the utmost precaution not to endanger the lives within the neighboring town. Also, in any military ranges, it is paramount to have restricted airspace and land where the military life firing is being performed. Before barking up the wrong tree, please at least get your facts together and make wise decision based on facts not on hearsay.

    What you are trying to do is jeopardize our economic opportunities from materializing by misguided myths about the military. We want prosperity then at the same time we don’t want it. There are hundreds if not thousands of communities world wide that benefits from the infusion of funds from the military personals in their town and the multiplier effect had been very beneficial within said communities. The benefits of having military build up in our island chain out weighs the negative impact. But again we tend to bite the very hand who is going to feed or carry us forward with our economic advancement.

    We don’t see the logic behind such resolution above. Military build is one alternative from saving our near bankcrupt local government.

    Si Yu’us Ma’ase

    • Chamole

      You’re an idiot. It is allowing the US military to bomb our lands and waters for money that is short-sighted and selfish. Long after you’ve spend the money the bomb craters will remain, the unexploded ordnance will remain, the soil will remain contaminated, and those that lost their limbs and lives to that ordnance will never get another chance. Do you really think that you can keep our kids away from those areas? They will explore and play on the other side of the fence and pay dearly.

      Every place the US military goes they leave destruction and contamination. The superfund exists because of them. People in these islands are already dying of cancers and lukemias from contaminated soil and water and radioactive exposure. They don’t have enough money to pay for what they have done. They cannot restore our health and bring people back who have died from their poison.

      Every few months we have to close off access to Marpi so that we can detonate all the WWII unexploded ordnance found since the last detonation. WWII was over 60 years ago! The US Military has not stopped bombing our islands since then. The waters around Naftan Rock are littered with ordnance. Aguiguan is almost broken into two islands from the relentless destruction from aerial bombing. That island that once was the last refuge for the Chamorros under another repressive colonial power is off limits to us. That sacred place is being systematically bombed into oblivion.

      Tinian is an island that provided us with what we needed to live for thousands of years. The US Military will turn it into a toxic bomb-pitted wasteland. Is that the best use of a beautiful tropical island with rich soils? Are you serious? What would your ancestors say if they heard you advocating the destruction of our lands and waters for some money? I’m sure they would question your sanity. We are a tiny island community where land is scare. Land can be used for ranching, farming, hunting, recreation and living. That is they would tell you. You do not destroy land when there is so little of it!

      Shame on you for even thinking that it is okay for these disrespectful people to come here, move us off our lands, and bomb it. Their reasons are nonsense. They do not need these islands (Aguiguan, Tinian and Pagan) for military exercises, they just WANT them. They want them because they are convenient. They are close to Guahan – another of our islands that they basically stole. One third of the entire island is under their control, and guess what – they want to do live fire there too.

      We need our land. We need our waters. We don’t need a military that will protect us from enemy bombs by bombing us. We are supposed to be Americans – entitled to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. What happens to our liberty when we are forced – yes forced to leave our lands? What happens to our Liberty when we are not allowed on our own waters beause they are near the lands that they took from us? What happens to our Lives when we are poisoned by US Military contamination?

      We have lived in these islands for 3000-5000 years. Who are you to let the military destroy them for a few dollars!!!!

      By the way, we fed ourselves for thousands of years. Your saying that the US is the hand that feeds us is an insult. We made a deal with the US that established the Commonwealth. Everything we get from the US is a consequence of that deal. Everything they get is a consequence of that deal. So who is feeding who? They got the military presence on the Pacific Rim that they wanted. That is worth far, far more than all the money they ever spent on these islands. Too bad they can’t be satisified with that and now want to misuse Eminent Domain to take whatever they didn’t get in the deal too.

      • Bananarepublic670

        What percentage of NMDs living today have actually visited Pagan? What percentage have any concrete plans to do so? I think we all know the answer. We get on our soapbox and blather about how important Pagan is to our souls, our culture, etc., when in reality, the only reason anyone is talking about the little speck of rock in a giant ocean, is because a few little specks of people like Lee Torres keep trying to drum up support to develop it in an effort to wrest control of the senate from Rota and Tinian. Do you think those guys really care about pagan? If they did, they’d be up there sitting on their ass drinking beer like Juanita suggests. It is all about trying to line their pockets and sounding like bigshots.

        • Chamole

          Clearly you have never been to Pagan. It is the most beautiful island in the Marianas. Do yourself a favor and visit before it is gone.

      • jun

        Buenas Chamole,

        We respected your opinion and we understand your concern about the negative impact relating to any military usage of our land or property. If your concern is very evident, then why there are hundreds if not thousands of military ranges throughout the world and we had not herd anything negative how you described it in your above statement. Yes, there is negative part of using live ammunition in a certain area relating to contamination, but remember that there hundreds if not thousand of non exploded ammunition throughout our island chain. When we were younger, we used to used the non exploded ordinance’s black powder for fishing in the past (homemade dynamite). We loved to go hunting in the jungle of Tinian in the past, because we find Japanese weapons and grenades and we nick name such device as the fourth tumbling hand grenades. It always explode on the fourth time it hits the ground and Kabum. We are still alive to this day, your allegation that it will endanger our kids is misleading and a hearsay. Have you been exposed to live ammunition? There are many safety net before an ordinance explodes. We are not sure of your background, but growing up we enjoyed playing with explosives in the jungle of Tinian. The ordinances throughout the island of Tinian was unchecked for decades after the second World War and we had not heard any of us dying for being exposed to the live ordinances.

        So your claim that it will contaminate our ground water and islands, you are a day late and dollar short chelu. Contamination is very evident throughout the island of Tinian from the atomic bomb pit and some instances you can’t grow any crops in a certain area. Shame on us for caring for our people’s way of life that we will accept, we will not stand aside and let opportunities past us, because of your ideology how to implement things.

        The CNMI island chain does not belong to anyone, but we all have a stake to our future and noone is right or wrong when it comes to decide what becomes of our island.

        Si Yu’us Ma’ase

        • Chamole

          Sorry for callingn you an idiot. You clearly are not one.

          Think “best land use” for Pagan. Is it the best land use to bomb it? Does that not take away pretty much every other land use possibility? To not allow the military to use this beautiful island as a highest-level live-fire bombing range is not depriving us of opportunity. It is simply choosing other opportunities.

          Your description of your activites playing with bombs and hand grenades scares me to the core. I do not want my children doing anything like that. You were very, very lucky. There a many people in Cheuk with missing limbs from handling the ordnance after WWII. I know of one person here in Saipan missing a thumb and fingers from handling ordnance on Pagan.

          Let’s stop the further contamination of our lands and waters. Maybe it is too late for many of us, but it is not too late for others, especially our future generations.

          I think the US Military has really let Tinian down by not doing anything with the land they leased. That lease was done with the promise of a build-up on Tinian that never happened. Now they finally have a reason that is important to them – the divert airfield, and they don’t want to use it. Instead they want us to give them that beautiful piece of property by the airport that we use for soccer and baseball and picnics and that is the first thing that tourists see when they get here. That is unwanted and unfair to Saipan, but is especially insutling to Tinian who instead of getting something that provides local jobs and infuses the local economy with cash, gets a ramped-up live-fire range instead.

          Jun, I think it would be good for you and your family to oppose this destruction of your island and instead join the others in your community who want to see the divert airfield there. It is a much better use of your preciouis island don’t you think?

          • jun

            Buenas Chamole,
            Like I said to Guardian, we need to be civil when we discuss our future for our islands. We agree with your concerns relating to the Military contaminating our islands. But you have to understand that our people are suffering and the beauty of our island chain will not help them in anyway. Do we want as a society to preserved our environment with the expense of our people’s lives. We had seen towns, counties and countries benefited from military bases around the world and we have to explore such ideas.

            Anyone can buy a thousand square meters of property for the pennies on the dollar in the CNMI. Why properties are not valuable in our island? Who suffers when our economy nose dives? Who would benefit from the military build in the CNMI? The U.S. Military build up will give our economy infusion of funds and such funds will be realize by the commoners in our community via social programs, business opportunities, etc. Remember that whenever there are military activities, infrastructures will sprout and businesses will benefit from such arrangement. We need to nurture the idea of making our economy better, so our people would not settle for the pennies on the dollar for their prime land. In our lives, we give and take to better ourselves, giving up Pagan for the betterment of our society’s economy growth is a logical idea and we need to find ways to better our people way of lives.

            The way things that are done in our island chain, the richer get richer and the poorer get poorer and ordinary people like us get the best of it from acquisition of lands. Do we want to continue and suffer for the idea of preservation of our environment? Or do we sacrifice one or two islands to benefit from the infusions of funds from the military?

            I had been to the Northern Islands and Pagan many times in the past. I remembered fishing in Pagan with a machete when it was low tide and I only catch what I was going to eat that day. I was fortunate enough to be afforded to make trips to the Northern Islands and I had the opportunity to stay in Pagan, Sarigan, some of the other islands for extended period of time. At one time, we were chasing a big male goat during the night in the southern part of Anatahan and when day light came, I was mad at myself, because I was chasing the goat on the edge of the cliff line without knowing it. I could had kill myself easily without knowing it by falling several hundred feet to the ocean.

            The moral of the story above is we have several other islands to preserve, letting Pagan and Tinian is a small sacrifice for our people to pay in comparison to the benefits we are going to get. I am a realist individual and the military will help us address our economic situation. At least we can depend on uncle Sam to protect us when other countries decides to annex our land. China had been spreading its economic muscles throughout the world and sooner or later they will use their military might to expand and we will be the first to go. Just a thought.

            By the way thanks for being civil when you used our media.

            Si Yu’us Ma’ase

          • jun

            Buenas Chamole,
            Like I said to Guardian, we need to be civil when we discuss our future for our islands. We agree with your concerns relating to the Military contaminating our islands. But you have to understand that our people are suffering and the beauty of our island chain will not help them in anyway. Do we want as a society to preserved our environment with the expense of our people’s lives. We had seen towns, counties and countries benefited from military bases around the world and we have to explore such ideas.

            Anyone can buy a thousand square meters of property for the pennies on the dollar in the CNMI. Why properties are not valuable in our island? Who suffers when our economy nose dives? Who would benefit from the military build in the CNMI? The U.S. Military build up will give our economy infusion of funds and such funds will be realize by the commoners in our community via social programs, business opportunities, etc. Remember that whenever there are military activities, infrastructures will sprout and businesses will benefit from such arrangement. We need to nurture the idea of making our economy better, so our people would not settle for the pennies on the dollar for their prime land. In our lives, we give and take to better ourselves, giving up Pagan for the betterment of our society’s economy growth is a logical idea and we need to find ways to better our people way of lives.

            The way things that are done in our island chain, the richer get richer and the poorer get poorer and ordinary people like us get the best of it from acquisition of lands. Do we want to continue and suffer for the idea of preservation of our environment? Or do we sacrifice one or two islands to benefit from the infusions of funds from the military?

            I had been to the Northern Islands and Pagan many times in the past. I remembered fishing in Pagan with a machete when it was low tide and I only catch what I was going to eat that day. I was fortunate enough to be afforded to make trips to the Northern Islands and I had the opportunity to stay in Pagan, Sarigan, some of the other islands for extended period of time. At one time, we were chasing a big male goat during the night in the southern part of Anatahan and when day light came, I was mad at myself, because I was chasing the goat on the edge of the cliff line without knowing it. I could had kill myself easily without knowing it by falling several hundred feet to the ocean.

            The moral of the story above is we have several other islands to preserve, letting Pagan and Tinian is a small sacrifice for our people to pay in comparison to the benefits we are going to get. I am a realist individual and the military will help us address our economic situation. At least we can depend on uncle Sam to protect us when other countries decides to annex our land. China had been spreading its economic muscles throughout the world and sooner or later they will use their military might to expand and we will be the first to go. Just a thought.

            By the way thanks for being civil when you used our media.

            Si Yu’us Ma’ase

          • jun

            Buenas Chamole,
            Like I said to Guardian, we need to be civil when we discuss our future for our islands. We agree with your concerns relating to the Military contaminating our islands. But you have to understand that our people are suffering and the beauty of our island chain will not help them in anyway. Do we want as a society to preserved our environment with the expense of our people’s lives. We had seen towns, counties and countries benefited from military bases around the world and we have to explore such ideas.

            Anyone can buy a thousand square meters of property for the pennies on the dollar in the CNMI. Why properties are not valuable in our island? Who suffers when our economy nose dives? Who would benefit from the military build in the CNMI? The U.S. Military build up will give our economy infusion of funds and such funds will be realize by the commoners in our community via social programs, business opportunities, etc. Remember that whenever there are military activities, infrastructures will sprout and businesses will benefit from such arrangement. We need to nurture the idea of making our economy better, so our people would not settle for the pennies on the dollar for their prime land. In our lives, we give and take to better ourselves, giving up Pagan for the betterment of our society’s economy growth is a logical idea and we need to find ways to better our people way of lives.

            The way things that are done in our island chain, the richer get richer and the poorer get poorer and ordinary people like us get the best of it from acquisition of lands. Do we want to continue and suffer for the idea of preservation of our environment? Or do we sacrifice one or two islands to benefit from the infusions of funds from the military?

            I had been to the Northern Islands and Pagan many times in the past. I remembered fishing in Pagan with a machete when it was low tide and I only catch what I was going to eat that day. I was fortunate enough to be afforded to make trips to the Northern Islands and I had the opportunity to stay in Pagan, Sarigan, some of the other islands for extended period of time. At one time, we were chasing a big male goat during the night in the southern part of Anatahan and when day light came, I was mad at myself, because I was chasing the goat on the edge of the cliff line without knowing it. I could had kill myself easily without knowing it by falling several hundred feet to the ocean.

            The moral of the story above is we have several other islands to preserve, letting Pagan and Tinian is a small sacrifice for our people to pay in comparison to the benefits we are going to get. I am a realist individual and the military will help us address our economic situation. At least we can depend on uncle Sam to protect us when other countries decides to annex our land. China had been spreading its economic muscles throughout the world and sooner or later they will use their military might to expand and we will be the first to go. Just a thought.

            By the way thanks for being civil when you used our media.

            Si Yu’us Ma’ase

          • Chamole

            Hi Jun,

            I think there is great potential for everybody to win in this situation. In other words, we can “have our cake and eat it too.” It is only a matter of everyone considering the needs of everyone else and being willing to compromise.

            If we were to insist that the US military not use our lands and waters in any way that is destructive or deprives of us the use of our resources, then it can all work out. They can conduct training and in the process provide needed infrastructure. We can have eco-tourism, farming and fishing, as well as some of the other things we’ve talked about but have never had the money or opportunity to do – things like a cultural village where our kids can learn about their history and traditional ways in a beautiful and unspoiled environment. Open campsites for anyone who wants to experience the Northern Islands. There can be mining that is non-destructive and actually increases usable land by removing lava flow.

            The US military has 20% of the entire national budget. They are rich beyond imagination. If they feel they need to have islands to destroy, they can lease some from the PI. It is not necessary that they have our particuliar islands for this purpose.

            I’ll bet those times in the Northern Island were some of the best times in your life. I would like to experience that and I would like to know that my grands can experience that too. It is possible as long as the military can be convinced to behave with the best Americans ideals of fairness and respect for others. Nobody likes a bully. They can be far more successful in their objectives if they don’t act like one.

      • potatoe

        I respect your opinions, and am not all that much of a fan of the military’s Pagan plan either (but I have little to no problem with their plans for Tinian or a Saipan divert airfield, and with proper controls I think the Pagan plan could be a real benefit, as the CNMI certainly does not have the resources to construct all of the infrastructure up there that the military will).

        Just as a word of advice, you should be careful not to get too carried away by the sound of your own voice, so to speak, while writing. Preaching to the choir (in your own mind) can do that. Acknowledge other viewpoints, stick to facts and rational, calm rhetoric, and you will have a better chance of winning over your more important critics – the folks who actually have a say or stake in approving these developments. In other words, people over 35 or so, who have mostly matured beyond the influence of your style of argument (we see through it, in other words).

        Also, if you spread your zealousness around to some of the other issues at hand, such as say the environmental impacts of a casino and megaresort that will more than double Saipan’s tourist population, you might not come off sounding like you simply have an ideological grudge against the military or America.

  • mamababy

    As long as ten people are residing up north there will never be any social-economic impact from the military. It will be declared as uninhabitable place. The NI need 950 additional people to reside for a stronger voice against any intrusion, be it the marines or investors. William Torres needs to think outside the box and stop listening to Herman and Jerome.

  • potatoe

    “The committee is heedful of the impact on the local economy and
    collateral damage that A 2,000 ROOM MEGA RESORT AND CASINO brings to the local culture,
    geology, hydrology, and terrestrial biological resources and management
    should be considered integral,” it said.

    You could substitute “A 2,000 room mega-resort and casino” for “military training”, as I did, and have an equally factual statement.

    “Just sayin’.”

    • mamababy

      They are not gonna make IT!!!!!!!

  • Juanita Mendiola

    Beat them to it! Get there and occupy it and prove to them how valuable it is you are claiming. Sitting on your chairs doing nothing but writing resolutions is pretty, but will not deter military action!

  • Ioanes

    In the case of Tnian, two-thirds is in the hands of DoD per the Covenant Agreement. Same agreement ensures that additional land for military purposes must have an approved plan and budget by the US Congress before bringing it to the table. If we refuse its request, then there’s the eminent domain arm it could use provided just compensation is met. Use the agreement for guidance.

  • potatoe

    Thank you for your well-reasoned and thoughtful response. I think you and I are actually in agreement, then. I had not heard that the military was considering using eminent domain to take Pagan. If that is the case, then I oppose that, as well. I thought that had only been mentioned by other commenters, on here.

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