The U.S. Air Force signed yesterday the Record of Decision selecting the Tinian International Airport as the location for its planned divert activities and other exercises. The decision was the result of months of back-and-forth between the U.S. Department of Defense officials and the CNMI government.
The decision to choose Tinian for divert activities and initiatives was based on a review of the National Environmental Protection Act, the CNMI Final Environmental Impact System, and a series of meetings between local and federal panels.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres had met with Lt. Gen. Anthony Crutchfield, the U.S. Pacific Command deputy commander, as part of his visit to Hawaii where he also attended the 75th year of commemoration of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“It has been a long process. [But] from the very beginning we were insistent that Tinian be the selected alternative to support the Tinian airport and economy, while preserving the economic importance of the Saipan airport to the overall CNMI economy,” said Torres in a statement released yesterday.
He said he was pleased that Crutchfield and other defense officials heard their concerns. “[They] met with me on a regular basis and selected the location that we felt would be in the best interest of both our people in the CNMI and our national security interests.”
The Tinian airport’s facilities will now be renovated and upgraded so it would have the capacity and equipment to support landing cargo, tankers, and other aircraft, and personnel in the divert activities and other exercises by U.S. military in the region.
Torres said a great deal of work was put in by the CNMI to make sure the military’s plans would also benefit the people of Tinian. “The collaboration we have shared with the [DoD] underlines the fact that, as Americans, we care for the security of our nation.”
“And that, if done with consideration for the needs of the people of the CNMI, partnerships can work in all our interests,” Torres said.
Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) also sent his congratulations to Torres and the Tinian leadership led by Mayor Joey Patrick San Nicolas to bring the divert airfield to Tinian. Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Miranda Ballentine informed Sablan of the ROD signing.
“The north of Tinian was the area that the Covenant set aside for use by the U.S. military, and [the Dec. 8] decision is consistent with that agreement,” said Sablan.
“I think the mayor and people of Tinian will especially appreciate the divert activities will be located at the airport there in a way that does not directly conflict with private development,” he added.