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Governor: Stronger ties with military benefit NMI, national security

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GOVERNOR Ralph DLG Torres told the House of Representatives that he remains committed toward further strengthening the islands’ partnership with the U.S. military to obtain the greatest benefit for the CNMI while supporting America’s national security interests.

In his written comment to Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao regarding House Joint Resolution 21-8, the governor said he has been proactive in pursuing its goals “for nearly the entire duration of my time in the executive branch,” adding that it is one of the most critical responsibilities he has taken.

The joint resolution, which the House Committee on Federal and Foreign Affairs will soon endorse for adoption, requests the governor “to oppose any increase in destructive military presence or training in the Northern Mariana Islands, including all proposed military use of the Mariana Islands.”

Noting that the Department of Defense programs in the CNMI will have far reaching effects on the islands’ economy, environment, natural resources, and the character and the people’s quality of life, the governor said this issue “is a matter of significant importance that requires vigilance, meticulous attention to detail, due diligence, and meaningful dialogue in order to forge collective efforts to maximize opportunities and benefits for our people and the Commonwealth while protecting our environment and natural resources.”

He added, “The significance placed on the decisions related to proposed and expanded military activities in the Commonwealth has been demonstrated publicly over the course of the last decade without deviation from the central message of ensuring adequate protections for our economy, heritage, culture and environment.”

For this reason, the governor said, it is unclear to him as to how  HJR 21-8 will affect the present collaboration on this issue between his administration and the Legislature.

He said, “Conscientious review of the details, policy and diligent examination of consequences should be paramount over politically advantageous restatements of existing policy.”

The governor said, “The interest of the Commonwealth and of our people has always been at the forefront of my agenda…. My efforts to ensure that our concerns are addressed have long started since my tenure in the Legislature and go beyond the 902 consultation process that was concluded in 2017.”

Torres said when he was Senate president, he opposed any proposal that would harm the people and their way of life.

He said his transition to the executive branch did not diminish his resolve to continue opposing the DoD proposals that would result in the degradation of the CNMI environment and opportunity for its people.

“In fact, I advanced efforts to ensure that our concerns are heard and addressed during my tenure as lt. governor and through the Section 902 consultations as governor,” he said.

He added that his administration continues to pursue beneficial opportunities for the Commonwealth and its people. “It should not, however, be construed that I have let my guard down in dealing with the Department of Defense on matters that are a detriment to the viability of our economy, our environment, our natural resources, and the quality of life. I remain vigilant and proactive,” the governor said.

“Common trust and mutually beneficial opportunities can only be possible by building an enduring partnership, in the same manner where meaningful collaboration can be best achieved by talking to each other. Policy discussions on military matters are of critical importance. It requires active and deliberative collaboration between my administration, the Legislature, mayors of respective municipalities and with our citizens in order to further advance the overall interest of our community and the Commonwealth,” he said.

The actions and decisions of the CNMI government related to military use of lands and resources “are deeply rooted in our Covenant and the consequences of our decisions will last for generations,” he added.

“We have made every effort to responsibly balance the interest of our people, culture and history with the needs of our nation’s armed forces. We can be both strong advocates for the rights of our islands and proud Americans. The work continues and will continue under the mutual respect and understanding we have worked hard to develop over the course of these last five years.”

 

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