CPA board resolution opposes Navy airspace restriction

The Commonwealth Ports Authority board of directors unanimously passed Tuesday a resolution opposing the U.S. Navy’s request to include the airspace around the Tinian International Airport in the restrictive area.

At a regular board meeting in the Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting classroom, the directors agreed that the removal of airspace protections over the Tinian International Airport creates many issues that the Navy failed to discuss or consider with CPA prior to the Navy sending its request.

The Navy’s request to remove airspace protections over the Tinian International Airport “disregards the needs of the people of the CNMI,” states the CPA resolution signed by board chair Kimberlyn King-Hinds.

The other board members—vice chair Roman T. Tudela, secretary Pete P. Reyes, and members Joseph M. Diaz, Ramon A. Tebuteb, and Barrie C. Toves—all agreed and signed the resolution.

CPA wants the Navy to respond and “rectify the damage the Navy’s memorandum has done to CPA’s level of trust in dealings with the U.S. Department of Defense.”

Navy Secretary Richard W. Spencer requested the Federal Aviation Administration administrator last April 30 for unspecified but appropriate “relief” in the airspace protections over the Tinian International Airport. The CPA board now believes that the Navy’s request would effectively turn control of that airspace over to the Navy. The board said that Spencer communicated with FAA without telling or consulting CPA.

The board said the Navy’s request without consultation with CPA represents “a stark departure” from the previous good-faith interactions shared between the U.S. and CPA in regard to the Tinian land lease for the purpose of Tinian divert exercises.

Last June 17, King-Hinds informed Spencer in a letter that CPA is both surprised and “beyond disturbed” by his memorandum and the manner in which CPA received it.

“We don’t understand how anyone would think that CPA would find this acceptable. The request is ridiculous enough on its face,” King-Hinds said.

She said that Spencer and the Navy did not inform CPA in advance of this request before communicating it to the FAA—much less consulted CPA on the issue it raises. She said this “shows the Navy’s level of audacity and complete lack of courtesy and common decency.”

Tinian Legislative Delegation chair Sen. Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Saipan), Tinian and Aguiguan Mayor Edwin P. Aldan, and Tinian Municipal Council chair Thomasa P. Mendiola also wrote acting FAA administrator Daniel K. Elwell recently to express their opposition to the Navy’s plan.

The elected Tinian leaders said it is their position that restricting airspace in and around Tinian will jeopardize health, safety, welfare, and economic wellbeing of the people of Tinian.

King-Hinds also excoriated the Navy’s plan to also restrict airspace over Pagan. The board said the memorandum presumes that current FAA orders do not impact the airspace over Pagan, whereas CPA’s enabling statute empowers CPA to acquire, establish, and develop an airport on Pagan.

The board said the Navy’s presumption that current FAA orders do not impact the airspace over Pagan indicates that the Navy is unware of CPA’s statutory interest in developing the Pagan Airfield for public use.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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