Military top brass, lawmakers to meet on divert plan

The U.S. military top brass in the Pacific will hold a dialogue with lawmakers on Capital Hill on April 2 to discuss issues and concerns regarding the military’s plan to build a divert—or alternative—airfield in the Commonwealth.

Joint Region Marianas commander Rear Admiral Bette Bolivar is expected to attend the meeting, along with other military officials, according to Rep. Angel Demapan (R-Saipan), who confirmed the dialogue.

Demapan earlier sent a letter of request to the military top brass seeking the dialogue.

The lawmaker, who chairs the House Committee on Foreign and Federal Affairs, said he sought to invite the military officials to shed more light on the divert airfield plans.

In his letter, Demapan said it was agreed upon in the Covenant between the CNMI and the federal government that all future Department of Defense activities would take place on Tinian.

“It was the intent of our Covenant framers to do this so that Saipan would be allowed to realize commercial and economic development,” Demapan said.

He said the Air Force “has now surprisingly given rise to a new proposal—a hybrid divert airfield plan that would be partially situated on Tinian and on Saipan.”

Given that tourism is the CNMI’s primary industry, “any disruption to commercial flights arriving on Saipan will have severe ramifications to the industry, and ultimately, the economy,” he said.

The U.S. military last month outlined details of the proposed “hybrid” plan, which involves the construction of several military facilities on Saipan and Tinian.

In the proposed divert plan, there will be less structures on Saipan compared to Tinian, where a majority of military activities will take place, officials said.

Officials said the military cannot give a “100 percent guarantee” that the divert plan will not affect commercial flights, but stressed that as much as possible, there will be no “disruptions” of commercial flights, particularly on Saipan.

The divert airfield is supposed to provide an alternative landing site for Air Force planes in the event the Anderson Air Force Base in Guam is not available due to war or calamity.

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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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