Rep. Angel Demapan (R-Saipan) will introduce a resolution to request that Covenant Section 902 process be used for land acquisition talks between the leaders of the federal government and the CNMI.
House Joint Resolution 19-05 calls for Section 902 as the sole forum of discussion, consultation, and negotiation to address the desire of the U.S. to acquire any interest in real property not already given under the Covenant.
Demapan said he will introduce the resolution this Friday.
The resolution cites the scarce land area of the CNMI and its importance to the people and the need for consultation.
According to Demapan, Section 902 of the Covenant provides the “highest level of consultation between special representatives appointed by the President of the United States and the governor of the CNMI.”
Demapan, who chairs the House Committee on Federal and Foreign Affairs, said that among the fundamental provisions of the Covenant is the importance of the ownership of land for the culture and traditions of the people of the Northern Mariana Islands and that the U.S. will continue to recognize and respect the scarcity and special importance of land in the Commonwealth.
“The 902 consultation is the highest degree of consultation we can ask for,” said Demapan. “In fact, the 902 consultation is an authority unique only to the CNMI as other states and territories do not have this benefit to avail of.”
Demapan maintains that the proposed amendment in House Resolution 1735 “effectively undermines the importance and of the Covenant’s protections for our self-governing status, especially when the acquisition of additional lands for military use is in conflict to the agreements made within.”
“Proposing a new law for consultation harms the legitimacy of requesting for a 902, which is a more appropriate forum for the Commonwealth as it shifts the balance of the conversation to our concerns instead of the Commonwealth commenting on military plans already in place.”
Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) earlier said the amendment to H.R. 1735 of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act “actually strengthens, and does not ‘undermine,’ the position of state and commonwealth governments.”
Sablan said the U.S. Department of Defense is already barred from any major land acquisition anywhere in the United States without first getting specific approval by Congress and the President, enacted in law.
H.R. 1735 passed the U.S. House of Representatives last week.