The current administration of Gov. Eloy S. Inos is willing to listen to further proposals regarding joint military exercises and the use of an alternative airport in the CNMI by the U.S. military.
In a media interview, Lt. Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres acknowledged that a meeting took place Tuesday between members of the Legislature and U.S. military.
Torres said the U.S. military “just presented” what is going on with its Environmental Impact Statement and other updates through a slideshow by military representatives.
The meeting was also a “meet-and-greet” between the U.S. military and members of the Legislature.
“We just want to see what is being proposed,” Torres said, emphasizing that during the inauguration of the administration, U.S. military top brass asked only that they be given the opportunity to present a proposal.
The lieutenant governor said he is not “in favor” of the military exercises but it is only right for the government “to listen.”
However, Torres said the military top brass knows that Inos still has the last say.
“They [military] know that Governor Inos has the ‘trump card’ on this issue,” Torres said, adding the governor has the authority to either accept or reject the military proposal.
The meeting last Tuesday will not be the last, as there will be “tons of other meeting,” Torres said.
A closed-door meeting between members of the Legislature and U.S. military was held Tuesday to discuss issues concerning military exercises in the CNMI, particularly on Tinian.
The plan is under the Commonwealth Joint Military Training plan and the EIS that the U.S. military intends to release.
In early 2013, the U.S. Department of Defense published new proposals to establish a series of live-fire and maneuver ranges and training areas on Tinian and Pagan, two months after the release of a study showing insufficient training facilities in the Western Pacific, particularly those in the CNMI.
Torres said the governor would also have the last say on the proposed alternate airport that the military can use in case of emergencies.
The official maintained that the U.S. military still has to address issues regarding the diversion of flights to the CNMI from the military base in Guam, and that these plans to divert military flights should not hamper any commercial flights entering the CNMI.
Joint Region Marianas earlier said it would take into account the economy and tourism industry of Tinian when it maps out its plans for the island.
According to Joint Region Marianas public information officer Lt. Tim Gorman, Joint Region Marianas commander Rear Adm. Bette Bolivar made this particular promise to Tinian Mayor Joey Patrick San Nicolas during a meeting.
“The military will incorporate the mayor’s request to consider Tinian economic development and tourism factors in military development analysis and planning,” said Gorman.
He added that Bolivar assured San Nicolas that, as chief of Joint Region Marianas, she would personally see to it that she would have an active part in resolving military issues on the island.
“We stressed that Rear Admiral Bolivar’s role as U.S. Pacific Command’s representative for [the] CNMI is to facilitate resolution of all military matters,” added Gorman.
The CNMI is a still awaiting the release of the draft EIS by MarForPac that details how they want to maximize the use of Tinian leased lands.
Bolivar noted that the EIS release has been pushed back for a couple of months. The official also said that there is still no final decision on where the alternative U.S Air Force base would be placed.
The U.S. Department of Defense is considering Saipan and Tinian as the location for a divert airfield in case Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base in rendered inoperable due to attack or natural calamity
Bolivar said the U.S. Air Force hasn’t made a final decision on the issue.
CNMI officials are unified in their request to put the divert airfield on Tinian, where two-thirds of the island is already leased to the military. The U.S. Department of Defense, however, wants it on Saipan. (Joel D. Pinaroc)