TINIAN-In a genuine effort to work cooperatively with the Department of Public Lands and the Department of Defense on the management of grazing permits on military leaseback lands, Tinian Mayor Ramon Dela Cruz requested acting secretary of Public Lands Pedro Itibus for copies of the active grazing permits on Tinian's leaseback lands.
According to the Tinian Mayor's Office, the “knee-jerk response from Tinian's DPL representative, Ray Cing, was less than cooperative.”
Cing reportedly issued a public notice stopping the agricultural grazing permit program immediately on Tinian.
“Any questions the Tinian representative had could have been easily resolved with a phone call or visit to the mayor,” said Dela Cruz.
Dela Cruz wrote Itibus yesterday to clarify the issue and to ask him to rescind Cing's actions. Rather than stop the permitting process, the mayor is encouraging existing ranchers to increase their herds and other members of the community to consider becoming involved in the development of Tinian's cattle industry.
Tinian has been the “meat market” of the Marianas since the Spanish planted cattle here in the mid-1700s. The wild cattle on Tinian were critical to the food supply for Guam and Saipan throughout the Spanish and German administrations. The herd survived the Japanese occupation and World War II, to be revitalized by Guam businessman Ken Jones in 1965. Today, there are about 2,000 head of cattle on Tinian, all owned by local ranchers.
“Our goal is to increase the herd to 5,000 head to make it sustainable for commercial harvest, not to stop it or slow it down. However, at the same time we must abide by our obligations to the military officials who have agreed to allow us to graze cattle on their leased lands. We were recently told, informally, by a navy representative that they thought there were 'squatters' living on ranches within the leaseback area. We assured them there were not, but agreed to look into the issue. That is why I wrote a simple note to acting secretary Itibus, asking him for copies of the current grazing permits. With that, my office could work cooperatively with the local DPL representative to verify if any leasers are abusing their permit by actually living on the property. This should have been a very simple process for the local DPL representative. I can think of no obvious reason why Mr. Cing would want to shut down the program,” said Dela Cruz.
The Municipality of Tinian and Aguiguan has been working with Arthur Camacho and Crystal Cing Cabrera of the Department of Public Works on the design and construction of a “Harvest Unit” for Tinian. The design is almost complete and should be ready for bid shortly.
This small building, to be located at the Tinian Department of Natural Resources compound, will be USDA-approved for the slaughter of cattle and pigs. The primary purpose of the unit is to provide a clean environment for the slaughter of cattle for private consumption, rather than the traditional method of killing a cow under a tree and slaughtering it in an unsanitary environment.
Having the unit USDA-approved will allow wholesale/retail businesses to purchase a cow, have it slaughtered under USDA-approved conditions, and package it for resale. This will not only provide an income to private cattle ranchers, but will also substitute locally-grown, grass-fed, Tinian beef for imported frozen beef, thus recirculating cash within the island economy.
To make the industry sustainable, however, the mayor is asking Tinian ranchers to increase their herds and encourage more ranchers to join the industry. A small ranch tending only 20 head of cattle can provide a significant income to Tinian's retirees.
“I am hopeful that acting secretary Itibus will direct Mr. Cing to rescind his public notice stopping the agricultural grazing permit program immediately, deliver the requested documents immediately, and from now on work more cooperatively with my office for the good of the people of this municipality,” said Dela Cruz. (Office of the Mayor of Tinian and Aguiguan)