Governor: NMI concerns will continue to be heard by US officials, military

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GOVERNOR Ralph DLG Torres assured a House committee on Tuesday that the CNMI concerns regarding military buildup proposals will continue to be heard by military officials and decision-makers in Washington, D.C.

In his statement read by  his Special Assistant for Military Affairs Glenna SP Reyes to the  House Committee on Federal and Foreign Affairs, the governor said:

"I remain cognizant of the critical importance to building on the mutual respect and beneficial partnership with the [Department of Defense] that has been established.

"I remain committed to further strengthening our partnership with the DOD to sustain a common ground and obtain the most beneficial outcome for the Commonwealth while DOD maintains its mission of providing security to our nation and our region."

Regarding the CNMI Joint Military Training program, the governor said, "I publicly conveyed my objection to their original proposal then and I continue to do so today."

He added, "Over time, DOD continues to increase its efforts in responding to our concerns."

The public hearing held by the House committee on Tuesday discussed House Joint Resolution 21-8, which requests the governor to oppose “increased destructive military presence” in the CNMI.

The House Committee on Federal and Foreign Affairs on Tuesday conducts a public hearing on a joint resolution opposing an increase in “destructive military presence.” Photo by K-Andrea Evarose S. Limol

“It should not…be construed that I have let my guard down in dealing with the [DOD] on matters that are detrimental to the viability of our economy, our environment, our natural resources, and our quality of life," the governor said.

Reyes, for her part, reminded lawmakers that Governor Torres was opposed to and continues to oppose an increase in destructive military presence in the CNMI.

Public comments

Among the concerned citizens who submitted their comments to the House committee were Peter Perez, Cecilia Kaipat Selepeo, Leila Staffler, Marie Coleman Tonu'u, Jihan Younis, and Emma Perez.

“‘No’ is beautiful,” Peter Perez said. “House Joint Resolution 21-8 says no. There is no reason to oppose this resolution unless, of course, the intent is to eventually say, ‘yes.’”

Cecilia Kaipat Selepeo, a native of Pagan, urged CNMI officials “to fight for us and with us.” She encouraged lawmakers to visit the Northern Islands to see the lands that they are protecting.

Democratic House candidate Leila Staffler of Precinct 5 said she supports H.J.R. 21-8 because of land, principle, and cultural preservation.

Marie Coleman Tonu'u stated that past and future scenarios are speculative, and emphasized the importance of relying on facts, such as the boost  to the local economy in Hawaii and on Guam due to the increase in military presence and the rise in tourism.

She said one cannot protect the environment without money, adding that a compromise between the federal and CNMI governments is crucial.

Jihan Younis cited her experience in hosting eco-camps for children and the need to educate them about CNMI land and waters.

"All I'm saying is that this is our only home, and we need to continue to protect it,” she added.

Peter Perez also read a prepared statement from his wife, Emma Perez, who posed the question, "What kind of ancestor do you want to be?"

She encouraged lawmakers to protect the islands and the ability of the people to sail freely between them.

The House Committee on Federal and Foreign Affairs will meet with the administration, as well as with the Northern Islands mayor to further discuss the resolution.


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