Military exercises meant for destruction, lawmakers say

Lawmakers again lambasted proposed military exercises on Tinian and Pagan, saying that the activities seem to point to destruction and not just mere “presence.”

Tinian and Pagan are being eyed as the sites for the U.S. military to conduct “live fire training” exercises as well as amphibious landing activities. Specifically, Pagan is being eyed as a location where “inert” bombs will be dropped.

“It is one thing to have military presence, but what is coming out of the Department of Defense about the types of training to be conducted on Tinian and Pagan is not really a forward presence, it is destruction,” Sen. Arnold Palacios (R-Saipan) said. “There is a big difference between a forward presence and training with live firing from jets, mortars, and ships.”

For Rep. Angel Demapan (R-Saipan), the islands are the only resource that the CNMI has and bombing should be out of the question.

He is also dismissed that the bombs to be used on Pagan are “inert.”

“If the bombs are so safe, then they should feel free to drop it in the mainland, but keep our Marianas bomb-free,” Demapan said.

Palacios and Demapan head the Senate and House committees on Foreign and Federal Relations, respectively.

The two lawmakers last week attended a symposium in Honolulu, Hawaii, called “Bombs in Paradise: A Legal, Social, and Political Discussion of Militarization in the Pacific.”

Based on the actual cases, Demapan said it is “eye-opening” to see what will happen before and after military exercises are conducted on an island, particularly the devastation.

Demapan said the Hawaiian island of Kahoolawe is a prime example of what could become of Pagan.

Kahoolawe was a U.S. Navy bombing range that has since gained notoriety as “the most bombed island in the Pacific.”

Today, the island and its surrounding waters are littered with bullets, shells, and bombs and decades of bombing eroded millions of tons of topsoil, making the island uninhabitable.

The island remains uninhabitable while the state government scrambles, $400 million later, to figure ouxt how to fund the remaining cleanup of the island.

“This symposium provided a tremendous amount of insight on the devastation forced upon fragile island communities and the severe alteration of indigenous sites and practices,” Demapan said.

According to him, the symposium also covered the history of militarization; the social, economic, and environmental impacts of military testing; the indigenous rights movement; and proposals or alternatives for moving for the future.

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Joel D. Pinaroc | Reporter
Joel Pinaroc worked for a number of newspapers in the Philippines before joining the editorial team of Saipan Tribune. His published articles include stories on information technology, travel and lifestyle, and motoring, among others. Contact him at joel_pinaroc@saipantribune.com.

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