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Sunday, April 20, 2014

CAO says no to Bush’s marine monument plan

Melvin Faisao, chairman of the CAO Advisory Committee, presents James Connaughton with the Carolinian Affairs resolution and the Saipan Man’Amko Council's resolution opposing the marine monument plan. (Contributed Photo) The Carolinian Affairs Office on Monday issued a resolution rejecting the White House’s controversial proposal to establish a national marine monument in the waters around the CNMI’s northern islands, saying the plan would breach the CNMI’s Covenant with the American government.

The resolution, released Tuesday, contends that people of indigenous descent are the rightful owners of the waters at issue and calls on the federal government to “compensate” people of indigenous descent for any natural resources it uses for conservation purposes. Any restrictions the monument would impose, it adds, would mean a unilateral change to the Covenant without the CNMI’s consent, a point that proponents of the plan have long disputed.

The resolution comes as a team of officials from the White House Council on Environmental Quality is now on Saipan, meeting with community groups and local government officials in a bid to build cooperation and support on the monument issue. It’s intent, according to its text, is to back “Paramount High Chief” Gov. Benigno Fitial’s efforts to oppose the creation of the monument.

“The Carolinian Affairs Advisory Committee presents a unitary strong opposition of monument designation,” the resolution says, adding later that the CAO’s membership would want to see “every national marine proposal for the Mariana Islands (Commonwealth) be rejected in its entirety.”

The CAO’s resolution comes after a letter it sent to the White House last month, saying that indigenous people in the CNMI have long practiced environmental conservation and the regulations a monument would impose constitute a violation of the Covenant.

“Because the Covenant is a binding bilateral agreement between the U.S. and the people of the NMI, neither party may unilaterally amend the Covenant’s fundamentals’ [sic] provisions without the consent of the other,” the letter says. “To do so would constitute a material breach of the Covenant.”

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