The Commonwealth Ports Authority remains firm in its stance not to allow the U.S. Air Force’s divert activities and exercises to occur at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport, and there’s no plan to reconsider or change this stand.
Members of the CPA board reiterated this Friday, pointing out that the proposed project will not happen on Saipan airport because a final decision has been made.
“I don’t know why the [Air Force] continue to think that CPA is reconsidering the position. I wasn’t there when this board adopted the decision, but I strongly support the action taken by this full board,” said board member Thomas Kiyu Villagomez, adding that CPA has to send a clear message to concerned parties that its stance will never change.
It was in June this year when CPA rejected the proposed divert airfield project for the Saipan airport, approving instead to have the activities be held at the Tinian airport. CPA adopted this decision after it received the Air Force’s divert airport layout plan. The decision was also sent to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration for concurrence.
CPA wants the Saipan airport to be spared from any military operations because it is a commercial airport. The U.S. Air Force submitted the layout plan in hopes of it being approved by CPA and FAA. The military had emphasized that the use of airports is important to the defense and security of the islands.
Some two-thirds of Tinian lands are already leased to the U.S. Department of Defense.
Last April, FAA officials aired concerns about the impacts of military activities on CNMI airports and restricted airspace. They cautioned against the disruption this may have on the commercial operation of the airports. CPA’s permission is needed for each and every type of operation or training that will be conducted by the military on CNMI airports.
Among those present at the CPA board meeting on Friday was FAA Guam air traffic manager Tim Cornelison, who met with the board during an executive session.
“The board has disapproved the use of Saipan airport and we authorized the use of Tinian airport instead. What is lacking and missing now is a writing for the proper authorities to tell them that the CPA board has decided and reinforced in today’s [Friday] meeting that we would like them to use the Tinian [airport] with conditions that they will put tower and bunker and would expand the airport,” board member Benigno Sablan said Friday.
Board chair Jose Lifoifoi instructed CPA executive director MaryAnn Lizama to work with CPA’s legal counsel in coming up with a letter for concerned agencies. The board intends to ratify the letter at its next meeting.
According to Sablan, the military’s environmental assessment will not continue without getting from CPA its approval or disapproval of the project.