NI mayor reiterates to Crutchfield opposition to bombing Pagan
The final report of the four rounds of the Section 902 talks will have detailed information about the CNMI’s concerns regarding various issues that affect the Commonwealth. The CNMI hosted the final round over the weekend with a trip to Pagan last Friday being the highlight.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres led the CNMI panel joined by Senate vice president Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan), Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan), Department of Public Lands Secretary Marianne Teregeyo, Governor’s Office legal counsel Wes Bogdan, Northern Islands Mayor Jerome Aldan, and private lawyer Matt Adams.
Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Areas Esther Kia’ana headed the federal side along with Department of Defense deputy assistant secretary Peter J. Potochney, U.S. Pacific Command Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. Anthony G. Crutchfield, and Joint Region Marianas Commander Rear Adm. Bette Bolivar
Torres said among their concerns is the military’s plans on Tinian and Pagan, with the latter being eyed to have a live-fire training facility built in one of the CNMI’s northernmost islands. The current problems regarding the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker nonimmigrant visa program and other labor issues that would affect the Commonwealth’s renewed economic growth were also discussed.
“As part of the ongoing 902 talks, I along with the CNMI panel, and the federal panel led by Assistant Secretary Kia’aina visited Pagan this past Friday,” said Torres.
“During this last consultation, along with the previous three, we have placed great effort toward airing our position on the proposed activity on the islands of Tinian and Pagan so that the report to the President in December offers detailed, specific, and compelling information on our concerns,” added Torres.
Section 902 of the CNMI Covenant with the U.S. federal government gives them the chance to hold separate meetings and discuss issues and other topics that have a direct impact on their relationship. The talks were held twice in Washington, D.C. and one in Hawaii.
Torres said their trip to Pagan included a tour of the island where Aldan showed areas that have cultural and historical significance for the people of CNMI, while Teregeyo accompanied the group to locations that are proposed for the homestead program.
“Pagan is one of our most precious resources and visiting the island first-hand reiterates the importance of these talks as we move forward with this process and greatly contributed to the discussion of the 902 teams the following Saturday,” added Torres.
Military sees Pagan firsthand
Aldan told Saipan Tribune it was an eventful trip on the part of the federal 902 panel and the military as they saw firsthand Pagan’s rich ecological surroundings with the group being amazed at the beauty of Pagan. He said their group even took a 10-mile hike to a village that was the first settlement on the island.
“The 10-mile hike was at the south side of Pagan and I was surprised that everybody made it. Everyone was in high spirits and Assistant Secretary Kia’aina was even impressed [with] how Pagan looks like. Too bad there was not enough time since we have to leave at 3pm,” said Aldan.
The U.S. Air Force lent two of their V-22 Osprey vertical takeoff and landing aircraft to transport the group, making the trip faster as they reached Pagan after only close to an hour.
Aldan and Teregeyo then showed the group the agricultural homestead areas where several people have already submitted the agricultural waiver act to DPL. “It was a good meeting. DPL is already in the planning division and preparing the survey on the agricultural homestead,” said Aldan.
He added that he also had the chance to talk to Crutchfield, who saw Pagan for the first time. “We also hovered above Farallon de Medenilla but I showed Gen. Crutchfield how Pagan looks like and I told him ‘we don’t want you to bomb it.’”
“We always say that we’re not supporting any plans of bombing on Pagan in every conversation that we had the chance with the military. Gen. Crutchfield and I talked about their plans and there’s no way that we’re going to support their plans if it would involve bombing the island.”
“We may agree on something if they remove live-fire and live bombing. But if that’s the only case, there would always be people that would oppose their plans. We don’t want to destroy Pagan. We want to keep it the same for future generations.”