What price integration?

The political movement in Guam to integrate the entire Marianas archipelago under one political body is not a very good idea for us. City and county of Hagatña. Do we want that? Do we, now, want to merge with Guam, and be a branch of Guam?

Reintegration. Reunification. Not the correct designation. We have been separated from each other for more than a century. We have a different kind of people in our community now, true with Tinian as well as with Rota. We’re just, now, different in our thinking, political ideology, and quest, from Guam.

We got what we want, similar to those of Guam. By that, I mean in our CNMI community we have Filipinos, Koreans, Okinawans, Chinese, Nepalese, Thais, Russians, Germans, Americans, etc. Which people can vote if we have another plebiscite for integration with Guam?

Who is Guam? Guam has different political aspirations. The indigenous Chamorros there are our ancestors; that’s a century ago. Now, there are different ethnic groups and it is culturally diverse. After the Spanish-American War, the U.S. retained Guam, and gave us away. We wanted to join Guam, along with our own agenda, but Guam rejected us. I think at that time, Guam was not thinking of shooting for statehood.

By coming here in the 1950s, that was tantamount to the political slate of wanting to be the government center for the Marianas, like that of the city and county of Honolulu. The political movement has never stopped. Guam has been trying to get off the yoke of the American colonist while trying to negotiate a better political status. All they got was the Organic Act in 1950, like that of early Hawaii. Guam is not an incorporated territory.

But other than that, what else does the Organic Act of 1950 do for Guam that our Covenant and Constitution don’t do for us, CNMI? If we merge with Guam, things will definitely change. Guam runs short of political benefits from the Organic Act. To the Guamanians, they have become a tightly supervised colony. It doesn’t like that. Reading Penelope Bordallo Hofschneider’s book, “A Campaign for Political Rights in the Island of Guam 1899-1950,” shows the Guamanians as feeling politically suppressed, choked if you will, and their quest is frustrated by the attitude of the various American administering authorities who look at Guam condescendingly. It was almost like us and the rest of Micronesia, with the military and the TTPI administrations.

I read, “…bring them along slowly into the 20th century so that their culture stays intact…” President Kennedy disagreed, and sent in the Peace Corps and the AESCP to hasten Micronesia in formulating itself with the assistance of these two great programs. I think the entire Micronesian region was getting only about $6 million a year from the United States. One Congress of Micronesia delegate stated that one fighter jet plane was more expensive than what Micronesia was getting annually. Now, there’s a political movement in Guam. Is that in anticipation of our meeting? Did Guam have a change of heart about integrating with us? I ask Guam, what gives? Do you want us so you can go for statehood? Is that it? Guam want to change its political framework to include the Northern Mariana Islands? Reintegration. Reunification. That issue again?

I say this political status, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, is good. CNMI Rep. Felicidad Ogumoro’s bill to form another political status commission got us asking, what’s wrong with our present status? Her bill didn’t say anything that we haven’t heard since 1945. We got what we wanted from the U.S. We tried with Guam, to no avail. For this instant, our status is good. What does she want to add or change?

Former Mariana Islands District Legislature president Ben N. Santos said that our current status is good. Guam should think back to the late 1960s and 1970s and ask why we wanted to merge. We wanted citizenship and all the benefits that come with that status. There is nothing wrong with desiring a better life if it could be achieved. But Guam had, and still has, a different opinion of us. We were backward. I just took that with a grain of salt, sort of speaking.

What are we going to get with Ogumoro’s status commission? A waste of our money, according to Ben Santos. Years ago, Guam held a plebiscite, and shot down our proposed integration. Guam’s rejection of our “quest” was a “spike” through our heart. They said the Saipanese went to Guam with the Japanese army and tortured them and even killed several of them. Guam was extremely bitter toward us Saipanese. But now that bitter feeling seems to be a bit suppressed because of a political agenda, a quest for a different status or maybe statehood. At our expense.

People who I talked to were asking that if we ever merge with Guam politically, where would we be in that scenario? The only direction I could guess is “subservient to Guam.” Molokai to Honolulu. “City and county of Hagatña.” Like Honolulu, Hawaii. That’s the only kind of political arrangement I could think of for this archipelago. Hagatña would be our capital city, the governor would be in Guam, all taxes and fees would first go to Guam and then parceled out to each island municipality. The mayor would be our top official here. Our infrastructure, i.e., CIP, would start its downslide due to diminishing budgetary funding, revenue would not come to us directly, but to Guam first. What about our current retirement coffer?

This merging with Guam is not going to be easy on us. Lots of issues to be solved. Issues that at this instant, we hold dear to our heart, issues we really worked for during the political status negotiation, the Covenant, our two constitutional conventions, our present governmental setup, boards and commissions, bicameral legislature, and three senatorial districts, losing the monies from our CPA, MPLT land lease, the revenue from the casinos and hotels, our tourist industry, Managaha. It would be really costly for us but beneficial for Guam. We are going to lose many of these. Guamanian will merge with our employees. Guam might introduce a real estate tax. Because we “are” part of the “city and county of Guam,” we may lose a lot of what we are getting now. I do not see our winning anything. Therefore, forget political negotiation. We’re all right for 41 years, learning experience on quasi-self-government but it’s all right, too. We need to retain our money, land, and whatever revenue on the horizon. Or just forego the negotiation.

Our Commonwealth needs a lot of updating. Guam negotiators have something up their sleeves for just this summit. And, after all, you don’t show your hands in a card game. We must now start reviewing and hashing out everything we have up to this point, and come to a consensus on every maneuver for each one of them if we do meet them. Even if we’re not meeting Guam, to be prepared is the best policy. We may lose our Covenant and our constitution. Our government will disappear and only the three municipal corporations stay. No Commonwealth Legislature, only municipal council. We may have a mass corporate downsizing. We lose our Constitution for that of Guam, which will be amended to embrace the entire Marianas archipelago. And when we lose our Covenant and constitution we lose our valued Article 12. That opens up Pandora’s box. U.S. citizens from other regions would come and apply for homesteads and we lose. We can’t say no. Banks will foreclose and put it up for sale. We cannot deny the military’s land need. It will come and put up a stake, here and there, and over there. We lose our land, we lose our culture. We lose our culture, we lose our identity, because land is linked to culture. No land, where is culture. No identity. Like the Israelis, no Palestine, no identity. They become nomads, wayfarers. Culture depends on land ownership, which gives it an identity. Because we’re going to end up with a governmental structure like that of the “city and county of Honolulu,” we first must have land, then we study political structure of Hawaii, or the Cook Island to New Zealand.

Penny Bordallo Hofschneider “A Campaign for Political Rights on the Island of Guam-1898 to 1950” shows how hard Guam has been struggling for some kind of political identity. What about us? Do away with our Covenant and our Constitution? Would that be wise to do? Because we are not destined to be a state of the United States, could we ask Congress to allow us to vote for the president of the United States from here without the absentee ballot or electors? Unconstitutional? If we are allowed electors, then what? We ask for a seat in Congress. It will be us, Norteños versus Guam. Election campaign, if ever. How elated would we be to be able to vote for the U.S. President, dump the Covenant, dump our Constitution in favor of Guam’s? It would be costly.

Let’s just stay as we are for the time being. We, the CWs, casinos, visa-free Chinese, etc. Let’s listen to Oscar Rasa and Ben Santos, two of our veteran negotiators.

Rudolfo M. Sablan
Garapan, Saipan

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  • RussMason

    Agree – keep the entities separate. Besides, Guam is a mess.

  • Mamaya Na Lang

    Mr. Sablan’s hidden assumption is that integration would result in the two entities being legally indistinguishable. But does this need to be so? In a proposed integration for the purposes of attaining statehood, why can’t the CNMI have a regulatory structure which differs in important ways from Guam and visa versa? There is probably precedent for this. Each county in a US state is theoretically a unit of government and not an agency of that state.
    Thus any proposed arrangement for integration could embody principles which maintain the differences already existing between the CNMI and Guam. Recall that the desired effect of integration is to give this part of the USA representation in D.C. It does not have to be done by either subordinating the CNMI to Guam or forfeiting the CNMI’s special programs.

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