Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said the lawsuit filed against the military’s proposal to conduct live-fire training facilities on the islands of Tinian and Pagan has affected their ongoing discussions for increased presence of U.S. forces in the CNMI.
Torres said he agrees with the concerns of the environmental groups and has renewed the administration’s stand of opposing the military’s original plans of using both islands as live-fire training facilities.
Last month, four environmental and cultural preservation groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Navy and Secretary Ray Mabus, and U.S. Department of Defense and Secretary Ashton Carter.
“I agree with all the concerns of these environmental groups and respect their decision of filing a lawsuit. Pagan was part of the military’s proposal and we oppose what is being originally proposed,” said Torres.
“I also instructed Department of Public Lands Secretary Marianne [Teregeyo] to move ahead with the homestead program that needs to be availed to locals up north.”
The lawsuit also limited the U.S. military’s statements in their ongoing talks with the CNMI government on their plans for the Commonwealth. “They are prohibited to talk because of the lawsuit. They would like to discuss some more issues but they are prohibited to talk.”
Torres said that the Earthjustice lawsuit is a private matter. “We didn’t file the lawsuit. It is a private entity. Organizations and citizens who decided to file the lawsuit.”
“The military are hesitant to discuss some information because of the lawsuit. It prohibits them from saying some issues during our meetings,” added Torres.
He said that the goal of the CNMI delegation that went to Hawaii is just to observe how live-fire training is done. “Our goal there is to look at the facility and look how it is being done. And also make sure they know what our concerns are.”
“In order for us to move forward on the military’s plans, they must and need to know our concerns. We want our concerns to be heard and we would like to see an amended proposal.”
Torres added that he fully supports the military but disagrees with what they have been proposing. We support the military, and that’s why we signed the programmatic agreement for a divert airfield on Tinian.”
“We support the men and women of our armed forces. At this point, I disagree with the plan in the original proposal. What’s being proposed is something that we disagree with,” he added.
Torres and members of the Tinian delegation went to the military’s live-fire training facility in Kane’ohe Bay in Hawaii where they were shown small caliber types of munitions used like 50 caliber and M16.
“Amphibious training is also proposed. But for most part they wanted to show us that this is the training range. The more important is what they wanted to show is the military base can co-exist with locals. I don’t disagree with that because it works for them.”
“What is being proposed now, with what the people of Tinian are disagreeing. We emphasize again to the relationship that we have with the Covenant and not to divert from it.”