Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan) lauded U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive order that calls for the review of monument designations under the Antiquities Act, and called it a move in the right direction for the territories and its respective local communities. The review will include marine national monuments and fishing restrictions in the Pacific.
“I agree that there is a need to review monument designations, especially in the CNMI and the rest of the territories,” said Demapan, vice chairman of the House Committee on Federal and Foreign Affairs. “These designations oftentimes appear to be a ‘cover’ to take control of local lands and marine resources, regardless of whether there is resistance from the local community.”
“Most, if not all, national marine monument designations were pushed by special interest organizations, not by the people of the land. And so in Pacific Island cultures, where the land and sea are our source of sustainability, these monument designations essentially strip our people from accessing and fishing in areas that have long been utilized,” added Demapan.
“I’m very much pleased to see that President Trump listened to our concerns, especially after Governor Torres sent a joint letter with the governors of Guam and American Samoa, which pointed to fishing restrictions in waters surrounding the territories. These restrictions created additional barriers and challenges for local subsistence fishermen in the CNMI, Guam, and American Samoa,” said Demapan.
Aside from removing fishing restrictions and giving back local fishermen access to such areas, Demapan also noted the failed promises from the previous White House administrations and monument advocates.
“They basically made promises to our people that having a designated marine national monument in the Marianas would generate additional revenues and would be co-managed both federally and locally,” said Demapan. “However, here we are, years later, and we have realized zero revenue from the designation of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.”
“I’m glad to see that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has stated his commitment to work with local governments in reviewing these designations to ensure that local communities are given the opportunity to be a part of the process and remain in control of what was rightfully ours to begin with. This is a much better approach than when the monument designations were implemented unilaterally in previous White House administrations,” added Demapan. (PR)