An amendment that has just been proposed in Congress seeks to change the process by which the military can acquire land in U.S. territories, alarming Rep. Angel Demapan (R-Saipan) who said this would undermine the legal process of land acquisition.
According to Demapan, the proposal seeks to amend Section 2664(a) of Title 10 of the United States Code.
“The amendment seeks to undermine the statutory process of land acquisition by simply replacing it with a provision that the Secretary of the Defense will only need to ‘consult’ the chief executive officer of the state or territory,” Demapan said. “I am strongly opposing this newly proposed amendment.”
Demapan said everybody knows “that the U.S. government uses the term ‘consult’ very loosely.”
“We witnessed this with the federalization of local immigration control and the designation of the Marianas Trench Marine Monument. The Commonwealth argued that there was a lack of ‘consultation’ as required by law,” he said.
“To the contrary, the U.S. government claimed that ‘consultation’ was fulfilled and moved forward despite opposition from the Commonwealth government.”
“To date, the Commonwealth has not realized any economic benefit from these decisions,” Demapan.
He particularly noted that the proposed amendment was introduced just one day after the military public meetings in the CNMI last week.
“This is clearly the latest tactic by the Department of Defense to undermine the statutory process of land acquisition in states and territories. It is extremely troubling that even after three consecutive public meetings in which members of our community vehemently opposed the military’s plans for live-fire and bombing exercises in the Commonwealth, the very first thing they do is submit a proposed amendment to make it easier for the DoD to acquire real property,” he said.
The lawmaker said he is now readying a House Joint Resolution for the CNMI Legislature’s consideration to send an official position to the U.S. Congress stating its opposition to the proposed amendment.
“It’s very troubling and extremely disappointing to see that the U.S. government continues to seek ways to unilaterally impose certain decisions upon the Commonwealth,” he said.
Saipan Tribune sent an email to Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan yesterday to seek his comments on this issue; he had yet to reply as of press time.