The U.S. Department of Defense has already began helping Tinian with certain infrastructure projects as part of its commitment to helping develop Saipan’s closest island neighbor, said Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan).
The GOP lawmaker, who is the House Ways and Means Committee chair, told Saipan Tribune that the recent visit to Tinian of DoD Deputy Assistant Secretary Allison Sands confirms that the projects are moving forward.
“The visit of [Sands] a few days ago to announce that these projects are moving forward brings a sense of renewed hope for the people of Tinian,” said Demapan, adding that this is contrary to the statement of CNMI Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) that there has been no commitment from DoD. Demapan is challenging Sablan for the delegate position.
“I am pleased…that DoD has begun making contributions to the community by committing to fund certain infrastructure projects. Currently, the Guam National Guard’s 254th Red Horse Squadron is on Tinian, making improvements to the Tinian Health Center. This project is estimated to be approximately $500,000,” Demapan said.
He pointed out that DoD has also partnered with the CNMI government in completing the pavement of Marpo Heights II, with the request for proposals for the architecture and engineering design, and the National Environmental Policy Act out this week.
Improving the Tinian seaport is another DoD commitment. “These projects are not funded by the [National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019] and are aside, and separate from any current DoD training proposals such as the divert [airfield].”
“These projects are being funded through different programs within DoD such as the Innovative Readiness Training program and is a result of our work locally with DOD to find opportunities to benefit the people of Tinian.”
Demapan said his collaboration with Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, Tinian Mayor Joey San Nicolas, the Tinian and Aguiguan Legislative Delegation, and the Commonwealth Ports Authority helped make the projects possible.
“And this, I should add, is a proactive approach by Gov. Torres, Mayor San Nicolas, the [TALD], CPA and I have taken to counter the cloud of fear and uncertainty from Washington that the people of Tinian will not get the assistance they need.”
He added that he emphasized in last year’s CPA board meeting that he supports continued military activities on Tinian as long as the daily lives of people are not affected. “I appeared before the board and expressed my support of continued military training activities with the caveat that the activities are socially and culturally acceptable to the people of Tinian, are not harmful to the environment and are consistent with Tinian’s economic development plans.”
“At that meeting, I also called on DoD to start making good on the promises made to the people of Tinian by delivering tangible, direct benefits to the people and community outside the MLA and outside project fence lines.”
The next thing that’s being discussed is the divert activities. “The CNMI government, through CPA, is currently negotiating a lease agreement with the DoD for the proposed location of the divert activities and exercises on Tinian.”
He also welcomed the expected $51 million appropriated under NDAA that would go to the construction of other infrastructure that would support the divert activities. “Specifically, the NDAA has authorized $46 million for the construction of a cargo pad and runway extension and $4.7 million for the construction of a maintenance support facility.”
“Assuming that CPA and DOD enter into a lease that is acceptable for the people of the CNMI…these funds will go toward construction within the airport fence line for the benefit of our U.S. Air Force which has expressed the need for the divert airfield as both an operational and training requirement.”