The Marianas Trench Monument Advisory Council finally adopted its long-awaited bylaws in governing the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument yesterday, even as concerned citizens and even a member of the council urged it to make the promised visitors center a reality.
Department of Land Natural Resources Secretary Arnold Palacios said that since the Saipan and Northern Islands Municipal Council and the Joeten-Kiyu Public Library hosted a forum on the monument, he has received a number of comments criticizing the council for the lack of updates on the visitors center.
Palacios, along with Ben Sablan and Frank Rabauliman, make up the CNMI’s representatives on the council.
Palacios said there’s been a lot of backlash from the community on the slow pace of economic benefits the federal government promised when former President George W. Bush declared the Marianas Trench part of its Blue Legacy.
“There’s been a lot of promises made to the community but so far we’re not able to pull it off…We should do it and, if not, let’s just fold camp and go home,” he said.
NOAA deputy regional administrator Lisa Croft shared Palacios’ sentiments, saying the council should now work together to make sure that the commitments made by the federal government is followed.
She also acknowledged that a lot of promises and commitments made by the federal government have been broken.
The council held its second meeting yesterday at the Hyatt Regency Saipan and among those who attended were Sablan, Rabauliman, Palacios, Department of Defense representative Roy Tsutsui, and representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Coast Guard, and other local and federal agencies.
In the comments portion of the meeting, former representative Rosemond Santos described the designation of the monument in 2011 as “modern day colonialism.”
She said the local community, especially the indigenous people of the CNMI, were not consulted when President Bush placed under federal protection 95,216 square miles of submerged lands and waters in various places in the Mariana archipelago as part of his Blue Legacy.
Cultural historian Genevieve Cabrera, meanwhile, urged the federal government to talk to the community instead of making decisions and policies behind their backs.
“If you show respect then respect will be shown back to you,” she said.
Another former lawmaker, William Torres, also told the council to consider the Northern Marianas College as the location of the monument visitors center.
Attaching the visitors center to the local community college would allow it to apply for federal grants and these will be a much-needed financial boost to NMC, he said.
The CNMI Legislature came out with a joint resolution in April, urging the council to designate Marpi as the site of the visitors center because of its easy access to tourists and residents alike.
Recently, Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) made known his preference for the visitors center to be on Rota, to make the island the ecotourism hub of the Commonwealth.
Architect Herman Cabrera just finished a study that plans to use the old Japanese lighthouse on Navy Hill as the site of the visitors center.