WASHINGTON, D.C.-While in the nation’s capital, Gov. Benigno R. Fitial met with Assistant Secretary for the Air Force Terry Yonkers to make his renewed push for Tinian to serve as the preferred site of the proposed divert activities.
The governor also reiterated that the CNMI has been and will continue to provide support for all military initiatives as the nation and Department of Defense pivot toward the Pacific.
The islands of Saipan and Tinian played major roles during World War II and Tinian in specific had the world's busiest airport during the war.
"The CNMI is extremely supportive of the military and openly endorses a robust military presence throughout the Commonwealth," said Fitial. "The Guam Buildup [Environmental Impact Statement] from 2009 and Record of Decision in 2010 indicate that Tinian would host four live fire training ranges."
Fitial promoted the island of Tinian as having been pivotal to ending World War II. He said that the residents on Tinian are willing and ready to host the Department of Defense in its service to the nation. Current training exercises, such as Operation Geiger Fury, have been extremely successful and underscore why the U.S. government and the government of Japan are evaluating a joint training complex within the Commonwealth.
"The addition of the Divert Activities and Exercises initiative on Tinian would allow DoD to leverage its scarce resources on a joint-service and joint international training complex. Tinian is well postured, having the required land to carry out the Divert Activities and Exercise mission, within the existing military lease area," added Fitial.
Yonkers was very receptive to the sentiments of the people and indicated that before a final decision is made, he will be sure to consider all the comments that will be submitted this month. At the invitation of Fitial, Yonkers hinted that he plans to visit the CNMI in November.
The Draft EIS on divert activities has indicated that Saipan is the Preferred Alternative 1. Understandably, Saipan offers numerous advantages such as access to fuel vessels, better infrastructure, a control tower, and existing fuel storage capabilities.
"We also realize that any improvements made on Saipan will only enhance our islands and region for future military actions. If the USAF determines that Saipan is indeed so advantageous to this mission, we will welcome the Air Force to the Commonwealth," said Fitial. "We realize that this study looks only at impacts the activities will have on environmental issues and weighs them accordingly. Our major concerns to the Preferred Alternative 1 are the noise impacts to the villages of Koblerville, Dandan and San Antonio, the requirement for additional land leases on and around Commonwealth Ports Authority property and the cultural resource adverse impacts on AsLito/Isley Field National Historic Landmark." (Office of the Governor)