Santos opposes increasing sanctuary to 57.5% of the CNMI’s EEZ


Sen. Teresita A. Santos (Ind-Rota) will not support the Marianas Trench National Marine Sanctuaries’ nomination to remain in the inventory for another five years unless the size reverts back to its original size.

Santos, who co-chairs the Rota Legislative Delegation), said the people in the CNMI should be allowed to freely practice their tradition of their lands and ocean providing sustenance for their families.

“I will stand with my people and echo their concerns and contention to increasing the sanctuary to 57.5% of the CNMI’s exclusive economic zone EEZ,” said Santos in her letter to Kristina Kekuewa, who is the Pacific Islands regional director for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.


The senator said cultural sensitivity and understanding are also vital and it is critical that the people of the CNMI be given equal co-management of any federally designated sanctuary.

“Since we are a small group of islands, we need to rely on our resources to help grow our economy,” she said.

Santos said the CNMI EEZ is an important area of the sea in which the government has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.

She said increasing the size of the sanctuary will be detrimental and is not agreed upon in the original sanctuary.

More importantly, the senator said, the significantly larger sanctuary will be closed to free passage by Marianas residents, unless given special permission.

She underscored the need to strike a balance between traditional culture and practice with Western policies.

Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP), House of Representatives Natural Resources chair Rep. Sheila J. Babauta (D-Saipan), and 500 Sails Inc. founder Emma Perez have expressed support for the five-year review of the proposed National Marine Sanctuary in the Mariana Islands.

In a joint comment submitted recently to Kekuewa, Sablan, Babauta, and Perez said they have reviewed the nomination and believe that the region continues to meet the criteria as a potential sanctuary.

“We ask that the proposed national marine sanctuary remain in the inventory,” they said.

The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries of the NOAA has requested written comments to facilitate ONMS’ five-year review of the nomination for the Mariana Trench National Marine Sanctuary at the five-year interval.

Babauta said so much “fake news” has been spreading about this step in the process and that it’s very harmful and quite scary.

“Right now, NOAA is only asking whether or not we should keep it on the inventory. That’s it,” she said.

Babauta coordinated the Environmental Sustainability and Stewardship Stakeholders working group to address issues that impact the lands and waters of the CNMI.

Participants of the working group include members of the House committee, Executive Branch offices, local and national non-government organizations, federal agencies, local businesses, scientists, and concerned citizens.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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