Delegation adds support for divert airfield on Tinian


Tinian lawmakers are poised to adopt today a resolution strongly supporting and recommending the placement of a U.S. Air Force divert airfield on Tinian, adding their weight to the longstanding request by the CNMI to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Sen. Frank Borja (Ind-Tinian), chairman of the Tinian and Aguiguan Legislative Delegation, said they support and endorse the position of the CNMI government through Gov. Eloy S. Inos, as well as the people of Tinian and the Commonwealth Ports Authority, that the U.S. and the Air Force place the divert activities on Tinian “rather than Saipan.”

Tinian and Aguiguan Legislative Delegation Resolution 18-12 is expected to be adopted during the delegation’s session today.

Two-thirds or some 7,203 hectares of Tinian lands are leased to the U.S. military. Tinian lawmakers said the U.S. military should develop for its use and operations—including for divert activities and exercises—its leased lands on Tinian.

The National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2015, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives in May 2014, included Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan’s (Ind-MP) amendment that expenditure of funds on divert airfield construction activities be “at any suitable location in the Northern Mariana Islands.”

Tinian lawmakers echoed the governor’s concern that placing the divert airfield on Saipan to occupy 13 hectares within and adjacent to the Saipan International Airport property is undesirable and would impede future commercial growth in the area.

They said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in its initial assessment of the draft environmental impact statement, rated the proposed plans for divert on Saipan as “undesirable” and the noise impacts on Saipan residents are “severe.”

“The people of Tinian agrees with Governor Inos that placing the divert airfield on Tinian is in the best interest of both the Air Force and the CNMI in the long run. …The residents of Tinian strongly support and are prepared to welcome the development of military operations on Tinian,” the lawmakers said.

There is also one other resolution that’s still in committee that supports a divert airfield on Saipan. Rep. Ray Tebuteb’s (Ind-Saipan) House Resolution 18-52, pre-filed in January this year, remains with the Committee on Foreign and Federal Relations.

The Air Force proposes to improve an existing airfield through the construction of facilities and infrastructure in the western Pacific to support one aircraft squadron and its approximately 500 support personnel for periodic exercises, emergency and humanitarian assistance.

Tebuteb said if the divert facilities are on Saipan, the project will require the lease of public lands resulting in income to the CNMI. However, if it’s placed on Tinian, federal lease-back lands will be used, Tebuteb said.

Haidee V. Eugenio | Reporter
Haidee V. Eugenio has covered politics, immigration, business and a host of other news beats as a longtime journalist in the CNMI, and is a recipient of professional awards and commendations, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental achievement award for her environmental reporting. She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman.

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