‘It doesn’t matter where divert airfield is as long as it’s in NMI’

Rep. Ramon A. Tebuteb (R-Saipan) has no particular preference where the U.S. Air Force should build its divert or alternative airfield long as it’s in the CNMI.

In an interview with the Saipan Tribune, the longtime lawmaker said the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation, of which he is chairman, has no official position on the divert airfield issue.

However, for him it doesn’t matter which place the U.S. Air Force ultimately decides to locate the divert airfield as long as its in the Commonwealth.

“The CNMI has a binding commitment to our Armed Forces agency through our negotiated Covenant agreement, agreed in part and in lieu of us becoming U.S. citizens. This is not about Tinian, this is a Commonwealth thing and the CNMI is part of the U.S. family. Personally, I don’t think Tinian and I don’t think Rota. It’s about the Commonwealth. Whether it’s going to be on Rota, Saipan, or Tinian that’s OK with me,” said Tebuteb.

Saipan is the “preferred Alternative 1” for a divert or contingency airfield for the U.S. Air Force in the event that access to Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base is limited or denied.

The 110-page “Draft Environmental Impact Assessment for Proposed Divert Activities and Exercises, Guam and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands” lists Tinian as “preferred Alternative 2.”

Tinian leaders recently urged Gov. Benigno R. Fitial to endorse the island as the prime preferred site for an alternative airfield for the U.S. Air Force. They argued that the U.S. Department of Defense already leases a third of the island as well as having military facility there will uplift the local economy.

The U.S. Air Force originally considered four locations-Guam, Saipan, Tinian, and Rota. However, an evaluation of the four possible site alternatives identified Saipan and Tinian as meeting or have the ability to meet most of the five selection standards.

Rota and Guam were dropped because they do not meet the selection standard for “storm radius.”

Saipan has access to fuel vessels, unlike Tinian. Both Saipan and Tinian have limited capability to meet the selection standard of “adequate land and existing infrastructure with expansion potential to satisfy proposed action requirements.”

By Mark Rabago
Associate Editor

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at Mark_Rabago@saipantribune.com

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