Pat on the back for PaganWatch

Posted on Dec 12 2004

This is an open letter to Cinta and Gus Kaipat, and members of PaganWatch.

Congratulations on your perseverance and tremendous victory in convincing MPLA to treat the issue of resource exploitation on Pagan with care and respect to our culture and our future. I applaud MPLA for its deep regard and reconsideration by taking into account the voices of our people, and I am confident that its decision carries the public’s debt of gratitude, particularly to those who placed their reputations and personal integrities on the line during a protracted and often personalized debate over a critical public issue.

You, Gus and the entire membership of PaganWatch should be commended for prevailing over a most difficult and contentious issue, which had threatened to split our community and our elected leaders in half. Fortunately, common sense and understanding prevailed in the end, and this is good for all our people; everybody is a winner including those investors who were discouraged, for from this difficult and highly publicized debate, they too learn the meaning of “peoples” power, and the principle and power of social mobilization of a community when the community’s opinion is casually disregarded, and threatened and challenged on their own precious land. An important public precedent has been established which I trust that future investors and altruistic individuals should carefully planned for in dealing with the peoples of America’s Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

We as a community should all continue to be pro-active in the running of our government and in the protection of our limited and fragile natural resources, for it is the peoples’ interests that must be protected. The issue surrounding that poorly planned and pre-mature exploitation of Pagan’s natural resource has two distinct faces, and I pity the decision makers for being subjected to a most compelling and difficult responsibility. But I believe in the end, MPLA has done the right thing by listening to the voices that are willing to be counted regardless of retribution.

It is my professional opinion as a geologist that Pagan’s pozzolan’s economic value has been exaggerated. Nevertheless, because the debate has reached a level where more recent investors seem to think that there is a gold mine in those commonly occuring volcanic ash and pumice on Pagan, I would agree that there is even stronger basis to conduct a comprehensive resource and economic evaluation of the volcanic products, to prove one way or the other who is right. But such study must be based on scientific and technical facts, and not on hearsay or sales pitch approaches, which sometimes prevail because they are peppered with temptations and quick fix financial solutions. We have seen these incidences happened in our islands time and again, and we must learn a lesson from them, period. There is no better and sure way for our decision makers and elected official to reach a rationale and justifiable basis to make a decision other than to let professionals in the field do an independent study to settle the debate over the economic, and perhaps the social value of Pagan Island and its pozzolan resource.

Our people are the overall winners, but certainly not without your leadership, dedication and commitment. Congratulations.

Pete A. Tenorio
CNMI Resident Representative to the United States

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