In asking for more time to review the draft environmental impact statement on proposed U.S. military activities in the CNMI, a lawmaker said that rejecting this request would be an “injustice” to the people.
In a letter dated April 14 addressed to Craig Whelden, executive director of U.S. Marine Corps, Forces Pacific, Rep. Angel Demapan (R-Saipan) said extending the time to review the draft “will allow the Commonwealth to avail of the funding assistance provided by [the Office of Insular Affairs] so that we can engage the assistance of the most qualified consultants that specialize in these matters such as those contained in the draft EIS/OEIS.”
The letter was also signed by Sen. Arnold Palacios (R-Saipan), who heads the Senate Committees on Federal and Foreign Affairs. Demapan chairs the House counterpart of the committee.
The draft calls for only 60 days to review the 1,000-plus-page document. The two lawmakers asked for six months.
Demapan said the additional time would allow lawmakers “to formulate the true sentiment of the people, the government, and other stakeholders in the CNMI.”
“We have made clear our position that this is a matter that will dramatically alter the landscape of our way of life here. The people of the Commonwealth deserve nothing less than the opportunity to be afforded ample time to ensure that no stone is left unturned in this process. I sincerely hope that the Department of Defense will heed the request we have submitted. Any decision to contrary would simply be a tremendous injustice to the people of the Commonwealth,” Demapan said.
Gov. Eloy S. Inos had also asked for a six-month extension of the review period on the draft EIS.
The Department of the Interior announced on April 13 a technical assistance grant of $250,000 to the Office of the Governor to hire environmental experts to review the draft EIS. The funds are appropriated by Congress and allows the department to respond to “critical needs in the insular areas for which local funds are not available.”
In this case there is a critical need for expertise to evaluate plans to develop live-fire ranges and training areas on Tinian and Pagan as part of the U.S. military’s shift of forces in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP).
At the Senate, meanwhile, Igisomar said lawmakers will work on assisting Northern Islands Mayor Jerome Aldan for a $75,000 funding to study the draft EIS, particularly on Pagan.
Igisomar said the budget will be used to hire a group to do the study on the EIS. He said a group from Guam is being eyed to conduct the study.
Pagan is part of the Northern Islands. The draft EIS indicated that “inert” bombs will be dropped on the islands as part of proposed military exercises.