Environmentalists backing a proposal to establish a national marine monument in the CNMI's northern waters are poised to take their case to the local airwaves soon with a television advertisement, a plan that comes as critics of the proposal are heightening their efforts to block it.
The advertisement, now available on YouTube, features several local residents spanning various age groups voicing support for the monument, which would place 110,000 square miles of ocean water under heightened federal protection.
Friends of the Monument, a recently formed citizen group supporting the plan, created the advertisement and intends to have it broadcasted locally, according to Angelo Villagomez, coordinator for the Pew Charitable Trust.
In an interview Tuesday, Villagomez said the advertisement has already appeared on local television's John Gonzales Show and is now featured on the Discovery Channel's Web log.
Meanwhile, critics of the proposed monument are ratcheting up opposition to it, sending a lengthy letter to President Bush earlier this week urging him to forgo the plan while chastising the Pew Charitable Trust's approach to building support for it in the community.
Rep. Ramon Tebuteb (R-Saipan), who introduced a recently passed CNMI House resolution disapproving of the proposal, said in an interview that Pew's tactics have divided the community.
“We're a Christian community and we don't need these negative things,” Tebuteb said. “It is in our Constitution to protect our natural resources. No one is against that. It is just this approach of shoving it down our throats because the president is leaving office and so forth that we're against.”
Tebuteb's comments come after several CNMI government officials and opponents of the monument plan in a Sept. 15 letter to the White House blasted the monument proposal, saying it would trample on the rights of local people.
“We islanders know that we own the waters, perhaps not by political title, but by birth and birthright and the unalienable right to life, liberty and property,” the letter says, adding that the local government has made significant strides in protecting the environment. “Give monumental prestige and honor to the people of the NMI and reject the proposal to designate a national marine monument in the NMI.”
President Bush has already ordered federal agencies to begin an assessment of the waters at issue to determine whether they are suitable for a marine monument.