‘Militarization’ will also impact CNMI’s tourism


“Militarization” of the CNMI will affect the Commonwealth on several fronts, and one of those critical areas is its tourism industry.

CNMI historian and former educator Samuel McPhetres said the Commonwealth is poised to have a boom in its tourism industry, with several hotels and resorts being developed.

“How many hotel rooms are there now on Saipan? How many rooms and how many tourists?” McPhetres said.

Based on recent numbers declared by developers that are actively seeking hotel constructions, the number of hotel rooms could swell to 10,000. There are also several, albeit smaller projects, all related to tourism, such as boutique hotels and high-end, 5-star class hotels. Best Sunshine International, Ltd. alone is projecting some 4,000 rooms.

“And there are more hotels going up on the island,” McPhetres said.

He said all these hotels and resorts all have their “pipelines” of tourism-related chartered flights.

And this is where the possible impact could happen, McPhetres said, noting that a military exercise will entail “no fly zones” once the exercises begin.

These “no fly zones” will directly affect regular airlines plying the CNMI, as well as chartered flights.

“Flights on Saipan and Tinian might be handicapped,” McPhetres said.

The draft environmental impact statement on the military exercises specifies the airspace that the military will need once the exercises start.

Credit to the military

McPhetres added that it is right to give credit to the military, because all indications seem to point that the military is looking to “minimize damage.”

In the draft EIS, the military has suggested alternate routes that sea and air vessels can take.

“Give them for setting up this committee. That is a good sign. They are willing to make an effort to minimize the damage,” he said.

Predicting possible scenarios

McPhetres earlier pointed out that the CNMI does not have local expertise to fully review a draft EIS on “live fire” exercises on Tinian and Pagan.

But aside from the lack of local expertise, McPhetres said he finds it difficult to predict a scenario—if and when the military exercises happen—because as of today, “we still do not know what the military is planning.”

In the past few weeks, the U.S. military has gone around the CNMI to present a draft EIS to government officials, legislators, and businesses. A much-anticipated public hearing has also been set by the end of the month.

The draft EIS is seen as a prelude to the military’s plans to fire live munitions on Tinian and drop “inert” bombs on Pagan—which, as expected—drew an uproar.

The government has been given 60 days to comment on the EIS, which was deemed too short a window, and requests have now been sent to the military to extend this deadline to six months.

The U.S. military said it is eyeing to give a decision on the request by the first or second week of May.

Joel D. Pinaroc | Reporter
Joel Pinaroc worked for a number of newspapers in the Philippines before joining the editorial team of Saipan Tribune. His published articles include stories on information technology, travel and lifestyle, and motoring, among others. Contact him at

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