But Dela Cruz says ‘nothing is set in stone yet’
After a meeting with visiting Marine Forces Pacific representatives yesterday, Tinian Mayor Ramon Dela Cruz said it seems there is a “much larger” military use planned for Tinian, along with Pagan. Rota, he said, could also be included in military plans at this time.
“But nothing is set in stone. Everything is preliminary at this time,” Dela Cruz told Saipan Tribune.
The mayor said there will be “bigger facilities that will be taken into account” on Tinian alone, including a U.S. Marine Corps facility to accommodate some 1,000 Marines, at a time when the military is looking to expand training areas and ranges in this part of the region.
If the U.S. Air Force divert airfield is also placed on Tinian—which the CNMI has been pushing for—then Tinian will see “much more activities than we had anticipated,” Dela Cruz said.
On Friday morning, the media would have a chance to interview MARFOPAC executive director Craig Whelden after his scheduled meeting with Gov. Eloy S. Inos.
MARFOPAC officials are in the CNMI this week to continue consultation with CNMI leaders and agencies, a follow up to the January briefings on the current status of the National Environmental Policy Act process for the proposed expanded military training activities on Tinian and Pagan.
NEPA is the overarching law requiring the U.S. Department of Defense to consider and identify the environmental effects of the proposed expanded military training activities on Tinian and Pagan prior to a decision.
The Draft EIS is anticipated to be released later this year, followed by an opportunity for the public to comment. The final study will be completed over the next two years.
CNMI residents and officials have expressed opposition to the use of Pagan, especially, for military training ranges and other training activities that they cannot do in Guam or Tinian.
The governor himself said Tinian “will never be the same again” if much bigger artillery ranges are built on the island, compared to what was initially thought of.
Meanwhile, Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) earlier said while there’s no decision yet on which CNMI island a divert airfield would be built, “all the alternatives, including doing nothing and, perhaps, splitting the project between Tinian and Saipan, are still under consideration.”
A divert airfield is intended to be an alternative landing base for Air Force planes if Andersen Air Force Base in Guam becomes unavailable because of weather or war.
In December, President Barack Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2014 that provides $29.3 million for the development of a U.S. Air Force divert airfield in the CNMI.