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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Inos seeks transparent discussion on military efforts in the Pacific

Rear Adm. Tilghman Payne, CNMI Gov. Eloy S. Inos and Guam Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo share a moment with Gen. Herbert Carlisle, commander of the Pacific Air Forces, during their meeting last week at the Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii. (OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR) Gov. Eloy S. Inos has returned from Honolulu where he received mission briefs from key military officials from various components regarding the nation’s strategic rebalancing efforts in the Pacific region.

Inos and Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo accepted the invitation of Rear Adm. Tilghman Payne, commander of Joint Region Marianas, U.S. Naval Forces Marianas, and U.S. Defense Representative for Guam, CNMI, Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau.

The mission briefs began at the U.S. Pacific Air Forces Headquarters with Gen. Herbert Carlisle, PACAF commander. Carlisle explained the mission of the U.S. Pacific Fleet to protect and defend the maritime interests of the United States in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. As to the issues specific to the CNMI, there was discussion on the proposal for a divert airfield on Saipan or Tinian. Air Force officials maintain that their preferred proposed site of Saipan is only intended to serve as a divert location only and not as a training ground that will be active throughout the year. In fact, the Air Force disclosed that the divert activities are not expected to exceed more than four weeks a year.

In response to this, Inos reiterated the government’s position that the Air Force should make use of the two thirds of property on Tinian already leased for military purposes. Inos also expressed disappointment with the lack of a cost-benefit analysis between Saipan and Tinian.

“I have asked for and I am still waiting for a complete alternative site study,” said Inos. “Instead of looking at the potential for both Saipan and Tinian, there appears to be an effort by the military placing more focus on Saipan alone.”

Inos indicated that this is the same issue the Commonwealth has with coming up with a memorandum of agreement regarding historic preservation matters.

“The MOA focuses only on Saipan. I want to see Tinian included so that there’s an understanding that these are proposed sites,” added Inos. “Without including Tinian in the MOA, it gives off the impression that we’ve all agreed on Saipan. That’s not the case here.”

Nonetheless, Inos expressed the government’s willingness to work with the U.S. military to address and resolve both sides’ differences regarding divert activities and the overall Pacific rebalance.

“Obviously, the CNMI and Guam play a major role in the U.S. strategic shift in Asia and the Pacific,” stated Inos. “We want to do our part in ensuring national security, but I also believe it should not be at the expense of our people.”

This was the overall theme Inos shared during briefings with the Pacific Command, U.S. Army Reserve Pacific, and Marine Forces Pacific. (Office of the Governor)

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