Government should focus on homestead program: Aldan
By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa
Northern Islands Mayor Jerome Aldan’s message to the military is to "pack up and leave Pagan alone." Aldan was among the public officials who were in the House chamber yesterday to hear what the representatives of the Marine Corps Forces Pacific had to say during a meeting that lasted for more than three hours.
Aldan in an interview said he has not changed his position and is still opposed to the proposed use of Pagan for any military activities in the Northern Islands.
"Pagan is an island that people of Northern Marians descent should use to the full extent. There are a lot of resources there that we can tap. When you’re talking about bombs and live ammunition, that’s destruction to me. No matter how you call it…I still find it hard to believe because when you’re dropping bombs of course they will have a a significant impact once they hit the ground."
Instead of considering the military proposal, the CNMI government should help implement the homestead program for the Northern Islands.
He did not say how the financially strapped CNMI government can finance the resettlement of Pagan, which has an active volcano.
"We need the government to help us expedite the homestead program so we can go back to the Northern Islands. It’s not true that the place is uninhabited. There are still families living there and the numbers have tripled. So instead of prolonging the issue, let’s implement the homestead program. We can start it in Pagan. There’s a lot of flat land in Pagan and it’s a lot easier to maneuver there — there’s a road and there’s an existing landing area there already and all we have to do is renovate and upgrade them."
The mayor said the airport master plan was done by Efrain Camacho & Associates and it cost $500,000.
"All we need is to get the money," he added.
"We are losing a lot of lands already. There are over 4,000 pending applications for homestead lots so my take is let’s do it. Let’s start improving Pagan. We don’t need the military’s money. In fact I even asked the Marianas Visitors Authority to include Pagan to the list of the CNMI’s tourist attractions. It’s beautiful and there are a lot of attractions there."
[PIR editor’s note: Marianas Variety also reported that ‘There is a gradual loss of access to the islands. ... This was a perspective that Sen. Arnold I. Palacios, chairman of the Senate Committee on Federal Relations and Independent Agencies conveyed to the visiting Marine Corps Forces Pacific representatives yesterday in a meeting on Capital Hill. ... "We are starting to lose our islands," said Senator Palacios noting that it was not just to the U.S. military, but to other federal agencies as well. ... The islands are being federalized. ... "I am just looking at it from a different perspective. Out of the 14 islands, we have lost eight of our islands — eight to the federal government; one to nature—Anatahan."’]
Aldan said he is not against the military.
"Our CNMI leaders are also leaning toward no to bombs, no to live fire exercises at all. Even on Tinian, there are a lot of concerns…. I’m just surprised that nobody has asked yet about the possible contamination."
He is urging members of the public to get involved in the upcoming meetings.
"It’s important to participate. We want the people to come out and voice their concerns and be active and be involved because these are their islands.
"Again, I am not against the military. It’s their proposal that I’m against with. It’s not the plan that we see for our kids and the future. I just hope the Legislature and the governor will do the right thing and decide what is best for the people."
For his part, Lt. Gov. Ralph Torres is also requesting community members to participate in the hearings and public meetings regarding the draft of the Environmental Impact Statement.
Torres in a statement yesterday said: "We are in a crucial stage of the long-discussed military activities on Tinian and Pagan. In the hearings and public meetings of the coming weeks, we are provided an opportunity to participate in this important process.
"I strongly encourage the members of the public and community organizations to take the time to contribute your thoughts and comments both in writing and during the scheduled public meetings."
CNMI Mayor: Strong Opposition To Pagan Militarization
Militarization and resettlement incompatible
A Northern Marianas mayor says most of the people in his region opposes the United States military's plans for a live fire range on Pagan island.
The military wants to lease the uninhabited island in its entirety so the Navy, Air Force, Army and Marines can practice live fire training as part of plans for a greater presence in the Asia-Pacific region.
But the mayor of the CNMI's northern Islands, which include Pagan, Jerome Aldan, says the island's original inhabitants were hoping to re-settle, but those plans will be scuttled if it is turned into a firing range.
"What do you think about live-fire and live-bombing? For me, it's destruction, contamination and basically after they're done the island is going to turn into a wasteland. I can say about 100 percent are against this, more particularly the folks from the northern islands who are waiting to make good use of the island, go back home."
Jerome Aldan says there are also plans to site a fishing community on Pagan in coming months, but this could now be halted.