Officials, activists rally against splitting military agreement

AREA: The Mariana Islands Training and Testing Study area is shown. Map courtesy of the U.S. Navy

Several current and former public officials on Guam and in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, as well as community members and activists, have signed a joint letter opposing the proposed separation of the Mariana Islands Testing and Training programmatic agreement into two distinct agreements for each community.  

Sen. Kelly Marsh, who heads the legislative committees on heritage and the arts, and regional affairs and self-determination, submitted a letter to Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific. The letter has 34 other signatures. 

"The Department of Defense addressed Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands together in its (supplemental environmental impact statement - overseas EIS) as it is clear that our environmental, cultural, and historical resources are tightly intertwined," Marsh's letter stated. 

"It is imperative this remains the case in the current proposal, as a separation of MITT undertakings and actions in the Marianas would be both inappropriate and offer a fractured view of significant impacts of military testing and training exercises in Guam and the NMI," the letter added.

Joint Region Marianas Deputy Public Affairs Officer Christian Hodge said the Navy is engaged with the parties involved. 

Island leaders, experts and the community need to understand all military undertakings and actions in their entirety in order to best protect their communities and islands, the letter stated. 

"Pursuant to the National Historic Preservation Act, the Navy, the Historic Preservation Offices of Guam and the CNMI, along with the National Park Service and other consulting and interested parties are fully engaged in the Section 106 consultation process," Hodge said. 

Marsh and other signatories wrote that separating the programmatic agreement between Guam and CNMI has the potential to cause irreparable harm to both communities by limiting their ability to become aware of or respond to certain actions. 

"What impacts Guåhan impacts the Northern Mariana Islands," the letter added.

Separation is being promoted as a means of simplifying matters but it could be argued, according to the letter, that splitting the programmatic agreement into two distinct agreements would complicate issues. 

"Certainly, to do so allows for the potential for our communities to be at a disadvantage by not being allowed to view and assess in our own minds and according to our own cultural, historical, and other perspectives, the cumulative and connected effects of undertakings and actions," the letter stated.

In addition to Marsh, the letter has the signatures of Sens. Sabina Perez, Therese Terlaje, Clynton Ridgell, Telena Nelson, William Castro and Telo Taitague. CNMI Reps. Sheila Babauta and Lorenzo Deleon Guerrero and former CNMI Reps. Cinta M. Kaipat, Felicidad Ogumoro and Rosemond Blanco Santos Sword co-signed the letter.

The following residents of the CNMI signed the letter: Genevieve S. Cabrera, Theresa Arriola, Peter Jay Perez, Sylvia C Frain, Jacqueline Che, Sophia Perez, Ignacio V. “Ike” Cabrera, Edson Limes, Larisa Ford, Laurie Peterka, David Benavente and Emma Perez.

Signatories from Guam include Prutehi Litekyan – Save Ritidian, Maria Hernandez, Cristina Nellis LeBrun, Nicole DeLisle Duenas, Monaeka Flores, Jessica Nangauta, Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero, Kisha Borja-Quichocho-Calvo, Josette Marie Lujan Quinata, Theresa Bejado Nellis and Kathleen Bejado.


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