Northern Islands Mayor Jerome Aldan is happy about the transfer of ownership of submerged lands following the signing of the memorandum of agreement between the CNMI and federal governments last Sept. 22 during the 36th U.S. Coral Reef Task Force Meeting on Saipan.
“That is good news,” said Aldan. “The submerged lands is not necessarily just because it’s in the Northern Islands. I am supposed to be in charge of that [but], no, it does not work that way. It is given to the CNMI, so anyone, U.S. citizens that are here or are visiting here, can fully utilize the 3 nautical miles that are given back to the CNMI government. That’s a good start, and I support that.”
Aldan touched on the long struggle of the CNMI government and U.S. government in regards to the submerged lands.
“It’s about time that we explore and really work on doing something within our waters because for the longest time, we were fighting the federal government to not only get the 3 miles, but the 200 miles EEZ [exclusive economic zone]. So 3 miles is a start, we can work on the rest of the miles later on but it’s something that we can work with and it’s a positive sign that we are being recognized as folks that own these properties.”
The MOA is one of the final steps for the transfer of the submerged lands around the islands of Uracas, Maug, and Asuncion and associated mineral rights to the CNMI.
The MOA also lays out roles and responsibilities of the CNMI, NOAA Fisheries, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the preservation and protection of the natural resources of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.