‘Militarization will be discussed in meeting with Kia’aina today’



The proposed militarization of Pagan will be among the topics that will be discussed when members of the House of Representatives meet with Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Esther Kia’aina today.

House Speaker Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) said yesterday he and two others from the lower chamber will be sitting down with the newly confirmed Office of Insular Affairs assistant secretary.

“We have agreed on several topics or issues. One of them is militarization here, even though that’s kind of specific to [the U.S. Department of Defense], but it’s good that she understands what the perspective and the position of the people are. Of course that includes Pagan, the divert airfield, and Tinian,” he said.

Joining Deleon Guerrero in the meeting with Kia’aina are Rep. Trenton Conner (Ind-Tinian) and Rep. Richard Seman (R-Saipan).

Conner is attending the meeting because he chairs the House Committee on Foreign and Federal Relations, while Seman is present “because of his background in natural resources and the submerged land issues.”

Deleon Guerrero said other topics are submerged lands, specifically the agreement between DOD on training on Tinian and the Marianas Trench Monument, where there is also a pending agreement between the CNMI and OIA.

Another issue that is expected to be discussed is potential seabed mining and the contentious topic of immigration.

“Right now we retain the rights and control over our 3 miles but beyond 3 miles, if there’s any seabed mining, Interior has the authority to grant licenses and collect revenues,” said the speaker.

Deleon Guerrero tipped his hat to Kia’aina for taking the time to come out to the islands.

“Even though I know she grew up in Guam, I don’t know if she’s been in the Commonwealth. I’m glad she’s coming out here. She’s taking the time to meet with the leaders and get acquainted with some of the issues affecting us. It’s a good opportunity for her to understand the issues on the various jurisdictions she’s going to.”

Acting press secretary Ivan Blanco welcomes Kia’aina’s visit to the CNMI. “I think this is her first visit here since becoming assistant secretary. It’s pretty much a courtesy call. I know acting governor will say thank you for the federal grants from OIA.”

Kia’aina is scheduled to meet with acting governor Jude U. Hofschneider at 9am. After the meet-and-greet, the acting governor and a number of Cabinet members will be flying to Rota to assess the damage wrought by Typhoon Vongfong.

In a statement, the U.S. Department of the Interior said Kia’Aina will be in the CNMI from Oct. 13 to 17 and will meet with Hofschneider and legislative leaders from both the House of Representative and the Senate.

She will also meet with members of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, visit the Northern Marianas College, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., the Commonwealth Utilities Corp., the Department of Land and Natural Resources, and tour American Memorial Park, among other activities.

Kia’aina will also fly to Tinian to meet with Mayor Ray Dela Cruz to learn first-hand the issues important to the Tinian community.

The Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas carries out the administrative responsibilities of the Secretary of the Interior in coordinating federal policy for the territories of American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the CNMI, and administering and overseeing U.S. federal assistance to the Freely Associated States of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau under the Compacts of Free Association. The Assistant Secretary executes these responsibilities through the Office of Insular Affairs.

Before her appointment and subsequent confirmation as OIA assistant secretary, Kia’aina served as First Deputy Director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources for Hawaii under Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

Kia’aina also worked under Hawaii Sen. Daniel K. Inouye as well as Inouye’s Hawaii counterpart, Sen. Daniel K. Akaka. She followed with time as chief of staff and Legislative Director for Delegate Robert A. Underwood (D-Guam) from 1999 to 2003 and as chief of staff for Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) from 2003 to 2007.

Kia’aina received a B.A. from the University of Southern California and a J.D. from the George Washington University Law School.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at Mark_Rabago@saipantribune.com

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