The Commonwealth Ports Authority is strongly opposed to the U.S. Navy’s plan to include the airspace around the Tinian International Airport in the restrictive area of a divert landing strip it plans to build on the island.
CPA transmitted letters to the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Navy on June 21, 2019, making its opposition known.
This was in response to an April 30, 2019, “Memorandum to the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration” authored by U.S. Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer that sought unspecified but appropriate “relief” from the airspace protections over the Tinian airport.
CPA’s responses highlighted the fact that the Navy’s request to remove airspace protections over the Tinian airport would effectively turn control of that airspace over to the Navy. CPA noted that the Navy made this request without communicating or consulting with CPA and that these actions have harmed CPA’s relationship with the U.S. Department of Defense. The letters stated that the removal of those airspace protections creates many issues that should have been discussed prior to the Navy submitting its request.
CPA board chair Kimberlyn King-Hinds said, “From our perspective, [the Navy’s memorandum] reflects the historic and callous policy of United States’ westward expansion, seizing property as it justifies for security or any other reason and in complete disregard of the interests of those already there.
“Living here, we well know the strategic value of our islands located on the western frontier of our country.
“That a primary justification for seeking this change was to facilitate unilateral live-fire Japanese military training on Tinian only further demonstrates the overall insensitivity of [the Navy’s] action and callous disregard to not only CPA but the people who will be detrimentally impacted by this action.”
She also contrasted the previous good faith cooperation between the United States and CPA with the Navy’s current actions: “Your letter is an apparent indication, if not an admission, that the Department of the Navy no longer seeks good-faith interactions or negotiations with CPA regarding future activities of the Department of the Navy in the CNMI.”
CPA’s opposition also expressed its disagreement with the Navy’s “unsupported and summary presumption that current FAA Orders do not impact the airspace over Pagan,” concluding that the Navy’s oversight of CPA’s statutory interest in developing the Pagan airfield for public use “is a clear indication” of the Navy’s lack of knowledge on the CNMI.
“I recommend that the [U.S.] Navy respond to CPA’s opposition in earnest and attempt to rectify the damage the [U.S.] Navy’s Memorandum has done to CPA’s level of trust in dealings with the [U.S.] Department of Defense,” said King-Hinds.
The U.S. Navy has yet to provide a response to CPA. (PR)