Sunday, May 15, 2016

'Warning for the World': Five Pacific Islands Officially Lost to Rising Seas

The event is the first official confirmation of what the future could be under climate change, researchers say

Published on May 10, 2016 by

Rates of sea level rise in the Solomons are almost three times higher than the global average.
 ILO in Asia and the Pacific/flickr/cc)

By Nadia Prupis,

Five Pacific Islands have been swallowed by rising seas and coastal erosion, in what Australian researchers say is the first confirmation of what climate change will bring.

The submerged region, which was part of the Solomon Islands archipelago and was above water as recently as 2014, was not inhabited by humans.

However, a further six islands are also experiencing "severe shoreline recession," which is forcing the populations in those settlements—some of which have existed since at least 1935—to flee, according to a study published last week in Environmental Research Letters.

Researchers used aerial and satellite images dating back to 1947 to track coastal erosion across 33 islands. At least 11 islands across the northern region of the archipelago "have either totally disappeared over recent decades or are currently experiencing severe erosion," the study found.

"This is the first scientific evidence...that confirms the numerous anecdotal accounts from across the Pacific of the dramatic impacts of climate change on coastlines and people," the researchers wrote at Scientific American on Monday. Lead author Dr. Simon Albert, a senior research fellow at the University of Queensland, told Agence France-Presse that rates of sea level rise in the Solomons are almost three times higher than the global average.

The five that sank ranged in size from one to five hectares (roughly two to 12 acres) and supported "dense tropical vegetation that was at least 300 years old," the researchers wrote for Scientific American, calling the event "a warning for the world."

Rates of sea level rise were substantially greater in areas exposed to high wave energy, the researchers found, "indicating a synergistic interaction between sea-level rise and waves."

That means islands exposed to higher wave energy in addition to sea level rise face faster and more widespread loss than sheltered islands.

They wrote: These higher rates are in line with what we can expect across much of the Pacific in the second half of this century as a result of human-induced sea-level rise. Many areas will experience long-term rates of sea-level rise similar to that already experienced in Solomon Islands in all but the very lowest-emission scenarios.

Understanding the factors that put certain regions at greater risk for coastal erosion is vital to help frontline communities adapt, the study concluded.

The families that have already been forced to relocate did so using their own limited resources and received little to no assistance from their government or international climate funds, the researchers noted. The exodus had the additional impact of fragmenting established communities of hundreds of people.

Melchior Mataki, who chairs the Solomon Islands' Natural Disaster Council, told the researchers, "This ultimately calls for support from development partners and international financial mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund. This support should include nationally driven scientific studies to inform adaptation planning to address the impacts of climate change in Solomon Islands."

The Solomon Islands were among the 175 nations that signed the Paris climate agreement in New York last month.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Calvo Pushes Political Status Vote in Annual Address

Published on April 1, 2006 by Pacific Daily News

By Shawn Raymundo

Standing at the entrance of the nearly completed Guam Museum in Hagåtña on Thursday evening, Gov. Eddie Calvo delivered his annual State of the Island address.

The location of this year’s address symbolized the theme of Calvo’s speech. With the past behind him — a building that will soon be filled with artifacts from another time — Calvo spoke of the island’s future.

The Republican governor, now midway through his second term, made several announcements in his speech, including a strong, immediate push for a political status vote, the release of $40 million in tax refunds this month and a proposal to help the financially strapped Guam Memorial Hospital.

Toward the end of his more than 6,000-word speech, Calvo announced Guam’s native inhabitants might “finally” be able to vote in a plebiscite to determine the island’s political status.

The governor said on Friday morning, he will “submit a draft measure to petition for the referendum of the political status plebiscite.”

Calvo said he’s already organized a campaign to secure the required number of signatures to get the referendum on the November ballot.

“We will aggressively seek the required number of signatures, making this a grassroots decolonization effort,” he said.

If, by mid-July, depending on how an education campaign to inform the native inhabitants of their political status options is going, Calvo said he would file the petitions.

On the topic of tax refunds, Calvo announced that residents could look forward to roughly $40 million in tax refunds being released this month, covering 13,000 checks.

The state of the island is confident partly because the state of your government is strong,” Calvo said. “It is a government that manages its resources and finances responsibly, values its employees, and delivers services better as a result.”

The governor’s tax refund announcement was met with criticism from the Democratic Party of Guam, which issued several press releases to the media Thursday night, responding to Calvo’s speech. The party pointed out that the Calvo administration’s pace to pay out tax refunds has slowed substantially in the past couple of years.

Referring to the government’s bank account used to set aside income tax revenue for tax refunds, the party stated that the government hasn’t kept up with the mandatory amount of deposits that should have been collected by now.

“The truth is that the tax refunds are $26 million behind; he is fighting our taxpayers in the U.S. Supreme Court, and we owe millions of dollars to our people just as we did before he started,” the Democratic Party wrote.

Touching on the financial burdens facing the government-run hospital, Calvo noted the Guam Memorial Hospital Authority is “bleeding cash and needs a transfusion right away.”

Earlier this year, amid bickering between the Guam Legislature and the governor’s office, Adelup submitted a measure to lawmakers that would use $1.3 million in legislative lapsed budgetary funds to assist the hospital.

Legislative officials, however, said that money already had been adopted into the senator’s operating budgets.

During his address, Calvo said he’s now withdrawing the bill and urging the lawmakers to back a partnership between Sen. Dennis Rodriguez Jr. and Adelup in financing $120 million capital improvements. The endeavor, he explained, would yield $30 million.

“This is on top of revenue-generating programs we are implementing. We can secure a low interest rate if we do this now, and we identified the repayment source,” he said. “If we do this, along with Sen. Rodriguez’s bill that authorizes public-private partnerships, we will stabilize GMH for the foreseeable future.”

Rodriguez said he’s happy to work with the governor to find solutions that would address the hospital’s outstanding vendor payables, which are around $26 million.

“I’m glad that was part of his speech. And I’m going to work together to really develop a long term sustainably plan,” Rodriguez said. “He talked about financing for the immediate needs and I want to see the details on that and based on that we need to move forward, even if we look at the long term plan for the hospital we have these needs now.”

As for other plans, Calvo said, over the next few days he will introduce a bill to assess fees from major real estate transactions, which in turn will be used to infuse the Guam Housing Corporation so it can issue more mortgages to families who have been denied by the banks.

The governor also plans to improve the health and wellness of the island by pushing more resources toward programs and facilities that encourage fitness. Along those same lines, Calvo said he would work with Guam lawmakers to construct more athletic facilities and get more streets paved throughout the villages.

Gov. Eddie Calvo delivers his annual State of the Island

Editor's Note: Sen. Dennis Rodriguez Jr. did not issue a media release following Gov. Calvo's State of the Island address Thursday night. The quotes in the story came from an interview Rodriguez had with Pacific Daily News following the address. The senator was also misquoted as saying he was happy the governor mentioned him in the address. The senator actually said he was happy the governor spoke about the financial troubles of GMH. This article has been corrected and updated.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Advocates to File Suit Against U.S. Government for Guam’s WWII Survivors

Published on March, 28, 2016 by TheGuamDailypost

By Post News Staff

embers of Guam World War II Reparations Advocates, Inc.
Members of Guam World War II Reparations Advocates Inc., a nonprofit organization under formation, announce their intention to file a lawsuit against the U.S. government on behalf of the island's wartime survivors, on March 28 Photo provided by Guam World War II Reparations Advocates Inc.

Advocates for wartime reparations to Guam’s World War II survivors announced this morning that they are filing a lawsuit against the U.S. government to secure payments for victims.

“We’re losing members of our island’s greatest generation on an almost daily basis,” said Senator Frank F. Blas, Jr. in a press conference to announce the endeavour. “So instead of continuing to hope that the United States government will one day recognize the pain and suffering they endured during WWII, we have collectively decided to sue the federal government for the reparations that they truly deserve.”

The advocates, who are in the final stages of forming as a non-profit organization to be known as the Guam World War II Reparations Advocates, Inc., argue that the Obama administration’s recent moves to provide reparations to Holocaust survivors, Americans held hostage in Iran in 1979, and the president’s urging and role with Japan and South Korea’s reconciliation with regard to their long-standing WWII comfort women issue have negated the concern of certain member of Congress who have said that providing  reparations to Guam would set a precedent for other groups to follow.

“So if the concern is precedence setting, it's already been done,” said Senator Jim Espaldon.
The initial directors of the organization are Senator Blas, Senator Espaldon, former Governor Ada, former Speaker San Agustin, Vice Speaker Cruz, Senator Muna Barnes, and former Assistant Secretary Babauta. The attorneys representing the group in the impending suit are Washington, D.C.-based Attorneys Mauricio J. Tamargo, Jason Poblete, and Jeremy G. Ibrahim. The suit will be filed in Washington, D.C., and all court costs, attorneys fees and all other related expenses will be privately funded through donations and fundraising events.

“Guam’s Man’amko endured the greatest suffering during our island’s occupation by Japanese forces in World War II,” said Former Assistant Secretary Tony Babauta. “Their painful stories are remembered by their families and our people just as much as our island remembers that they were never made whole by the United States as others were after World War II.”

Hiroshima could teach leaders 'evil' of nuclear arm

Published on March 24, 2016 by Pacific Daily News

By Kyle Daly

HIROSHIMA, Japan — Keiko Ogura, 78, remembers a bright light, a strong blast and being knocked to the ground.

On Aug. 6, 1945, Ogura was 8 years old.

“When I came to myself, it seemed like evening,” she said.

The city of Hiroshima, she recalled, was dark. She couldn’t see. She couldn’t hear.

When she did come to, the first sound she heard was that of her little brother, crying.

In the moments and days that followed, Ogura would witness the destruction, pain and death caused by a single bomb dropped from a U.S. military aircraft in the final days of World War II.

On Tuesday, Ogura led a group of foreign reporters on a tour through the city’s memorial park and museum built near the hypocenter of an atomic blast that leveled the city more than 70 years ago, resulting in the deaths of more than 100,000 on that day and the months that followed.

Next month, leaders from the Group of Seven, the world’s seven most industrialized nations, will come to Hiroshima for the G-7 Foreign Ministers Meeting — one of 10 ministerial meetings held prior to the G-7 Summit in May.

The summit, a gathering of world leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, will be held in Ise-Shima, a city almost 200 miles southwest of Tokyo.

According to media reports, the Asia-Pacific region is one topic of discussion expected to be on the summit’s agenda, including North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. U.S. bases in Guam and Japan have been threatened by North Korea in the past.

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui on Tuesday said he hopes the political leaders that gather in his city will come to understand the “absolute evil” of nuclear weapons.

“We have to create a situation where the absolute evil will not be used as we resolve our problems,” Matsui told foreign press through an interpreter at the city’s administrative offices on Tuesday. “I hope they’ll have such a determination, and this determination should be communicated from this place — Hiroshima.”

Matsui called Hiroshima a “symbol of peace” — a holy site where people who visit can compare the tragic event of 1945 with how the city is today.

“Because of the action of humankind, the city was devastated 70 years ago,” he said. “But immediately after that, through the action of humankind, we have established this peaceful city.”

In 1982, then-Hiroshima Mayor Takeshi Araki began a program that called on city mayors around the world to advocate for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

The Mayors for Peace program, which has almost 7,000 member cities, plans to continue lobbying the United Nations to make this goal a reality. Its primary campaign calls for the total nuclear disarmament by 2020.

Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands is considered a member city, according to the program’s website.

Ogura, who is known as a hibakusha, or atomic bomb survivor, said the reality of a nuclear bomb’s effects is difficult to understand, but by coming to Hiroshima, world leaders can understand.

“Our dream is to have President Obama visit,” she said.

A sitting U.S. president has never visited Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial, where Ogura retold her story on Tuesday. In 2008, Nancy Pelosi, then-House Speaker, became the highest U.S. official to visit the site.

It’s currently unclear if President Obama will visit Hiroshima in May during the G-7 summit.

During her tour, Ogura pointed to the clear blue sky — gesturing past the eerie remains of the A-bomb dome, a building that survived the blast — and described the exact mid-air location where the bomb exploded. She also walked along a river, telling reporters about the dead bodies that were floating in the water following the bombing.

“I remember all night, the city was burning,” she said.

The bomb didn’t harm Ogura that day. That morning, her father, who had a “strange feeling” something bad might happen, told Ogura not to go to school. So the 8-year-old stayed home. The family’s house was located about a mile and a half from the bomb’s hypocenter.

After the blast, Ogura did receive “invisible scars” from the scenes she witnessed.

“A couple of victims died in front of me after drinking water from my hand,” she said. “So I blamed myself. ‘I’m a bad girl. I killed them,’ I thought.”

It was frowned upon to give water to people who had burns, she said, so she kept her actions a secret for years.

“And that became my trauma for a long time,” she said. “I suffered from very, very severe nightmares.”

To Ogura, those who need to learn about the horrors of such a destructive weapon are youths.

“The most important thing is that the younger people should know the reality of the nuclear weapon … and then lead the way.”

Editor’s note: Pacific Daily News was invited this week to join other foreign journalists in Hiroshima, Japan, for a press tour organized by the 2016 G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Hiroshima Support and Promotion Council, in partnership with the Foreign Press Center Japan, ahead of the foreign ministers meeting in April. PDN journalist and Content Coach Kyle Daly is reporting from Japan.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Five Years on and the Fukushima Crisis Is Far From Over

Published on Sunday, February 28, 2016 by Greenpeace Blog

By Shaun Burnie

Five years ago the Rainbow Warrior sailed along the Fukushima coast conducting radiation sampling. Now it's back, and has Japan's ex-Prime Minister on board.

Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior sailing past the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, five years after the accident. Greenpeace has launched an underwater investigation into the marine impacts of radioactive contamination resulting from the 2011 nuclear disaster on the Pacific Ocean. (Photo: Christian Åslund/Greenpeace)

Scotland is over 9,000 km from Japan, but there’s something the two countries have in common. Along the Scottish coastline, buried in riverbeds, and mixed into the Irish Sea, you can find significant radioactive contamination coming from the other side of the world. Yes, radioactive contamination. All the way from Japan.

Since the 1970s, Sellafield, a nuclear-reprocessing plant in northwest England has been contracted to process high level nuclear waste spent fuel from Japanese reactors. More than 4000 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel was shipped from Japan to Sellafield, including waste from Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the owner of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. As result of reprocessing at Sellafield, more than 8 million litres of low level nuclear waste is discharged into the ocean every day. It’s been labelled the “most hazardous place in Europe” – with levels of contamination in the fields, soils and estuaries at a level that can only be described as a nuclear disaster zone. In fact, the Irish Sea is arguably the most radioactively contaminated sea in the world

We’re about to approach the five-year anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, and this is a stark reminder that no matter where you are or how far away, nuclear power has a local and global impact.

I remember waking up to the news on March 11, 2011. Though I was at home in Scotland, I’ve never felt so connected to the people of Japan. Having spent decades with Greenpeace actively campaigning against nuclear power in Japan, I knew deep down that a catastrophic accident was only a matter of time. With media requests coming in thick and fast, I recall appearing on BBC World News live. In mid-interview, as I was talking about the specific threat at Fukushima, I was interrupted as the news crossed to Japan where Reactor 3 exploded.

Greenpeace Japan sent a team to the Fukushima evacuation zone to conduct independent radiation testing; and researchers on the Rainbow Warrior, kitted up in full body chemical suits, pulled floating seaweed from the surrounding area to use as samples. Our results were unfortunately as you would expect – high levels of contamination.  Subsequently, we’ve also found radiation is still so widespread that it’s unsafe for people to return across large parts of Fukushima.

But there’s another reason the Rainbow Warrior is here. A Greenpeace Japan research vessel is conducting underwater marine radiation surveys within a 20km radius of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, with the Rainbow Warrior acting as campaign ship. As with the radioactive contamination near my home in Scotland, Greenpeace is aiming to further the understanding of the impacts and future threats from nuclear power and in particular the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.

For Mr Naoto Kan, who was Japan’s leader when the disaster hit, this voyage is as much personal as it is political. In the years since 2011  he has spoken out publicly against the nuclear industry, standing alongside millions of Japanese people opposed to nuclear power – a far cry from the current “tone-deaf” Abe administration, which is desperately trying to save a nuclear industry in crisis. Opposed by the majority of citizens, and beset by enormous technical, financial and legal obstacles, it’s an effort that I believe is doomed to failure.

But there’s hope.

Like the many communities across the country that are switching to innovative renewable power projects, Mr Kan knows that nuclear should be buried in the past. Renewables in Japan are rising. In the 2015 fiscal year, solar power capable of generating an estimated 13 TWh was newly installed – more than the two Sendai reactors in southern Japan that were restarted that year can produce.

For Japan to go 100% renewable it must urgently formulate more ambitious targets; stop all planned investments in new coal power plants and finally abandon plans to restart its aging reactors and remove the institutional and financial obstacles to renewable energy growth.

A nuclear free future is not only possible it is essential. Renewable energy is the only safe and secure energy for the people of Japan and the world.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Contentious Meeting at the Chamorro Land Trust Commission

Published by KUAM News on Feb. 18, 2016.

By Ken Quintanilla

The approval of up to 600 acres of Chamorro Land Trust property to be used for commercial purposes will have to wait - that's the decision by the CLTC, who tabled any action following concerns not just from the public, but commissioners as well.

"Our people must line up to individually apply for land and we believe that so, too, must these commercial business applicants," explained Catherine Flores McCollum. As part of the I Nasion Chamorro organization, she was one of several island residents who continue to oppose the Chamorro Land Trust's plans to lease out 600 acres of property for commercial use. "They may ask for a small amount to see if the commission can screen each commercial individuals request, but to just outright give them randomly 600 acres this is so ludicrous," she said.

The purpose of leasing out the properties for commercial use is to generate revenues to help fund much needed land surveys and infrastructure for residential and agricultural applicants who have been waiting for decades.

For social work student Luke Duenas, he says why doesn't the trust just collect money owed from people already leasing out commercial properties. He said, "Have you not learned from the past - instead of commercial leasing more land, bring justice to those who are not even paying. And the property value from back then as tripled if not quadrupled until now, so that's the solution you have to have more regulations on the people who are currently paying."

Department of Land Management director Michael Borja, however, says it's not an overnight thing and involves a lengthy process. "There is a really strict process laid out by the law that we also have to follow because they do have their rights, as well," he detailed.

That didn't sit well with McCollum, who said the CLTC has the power to evict anyone who doesn't belong there. "Find out why are these people are using having a business on a Chamorro Land Trust property. And if they're not paying, kick them out! And they're not even Chamorro - what the heck are they doing there?"

And just as the public had concern, so did CLTC chairman Joseph Cruz, who said, "This is not a win-win situation for Chamorro Land Trust, that's how I feel. So you make the move, because I'm not voting for a list."

Cruz wanted to know what were the pros and cons the CLTC would encounter if they moved forward with the leases. He said he wasn't comfortable making a vote, saying, "A lot of these are just your say, I work for the government and I don't appreciate looking at this like a rubber stamp - I don't. Everything in here could have been done better."

Commissioners eventually tabled the item on the agenda.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Groups Intend to Sue Navy, Feds

Published by on Feb. 10, 2016

By Dennis B. Chan

Environmental groups from the Northern Marianas Islands and nation-wide intend to challenge the Department of Navy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over an alleged failure to comply with Endangered Species Act and for ongoing live-fire and sea training in the Marianas Islands range, according to a notice of intent to sue these agencies dated Feb. 5.

“The Navy and the Service have violated and remain in ongoing violation of the ESA,” said David Henkin, an Earthjustice attorney, in the letter.

“If these violations of law are not cured within 60 days, [the groups] intend to file suit for declaratory and injunctive relief.”

Henkin’s letter appears to pin the grounds of a lawsuit on the Navy’s and Service’s alleged failure to reconsider the expansive military project in light of newly declared and threatened species in the Marianas.

The Navy fails “to insure that their military project will not likely jeopardize the continued existence of newly listed threatened or endangered species,” Henkin said.

The argument appears to center on the Navy’s continued and authorized training within the Marianas despite a lack of consultation with the wildlife service, after the Service’s declared 23 plant and animal species as endangered or threatened last October.

This consultation with the Service is required pursuant to the Endangered Species Act.
Henkin quotes the Service’s own words in their final rule on the matter: “The [Marianas Islands Training and Testing area] opens up every island within the Mariana Archipelago as a potential training site…which subsequently may result in negative impacts to any number of the 23 species addressed.”

The Service said the proposed actions include increasing in “training activities in Guam, Rota, Saipan, Tinian, Farallon de Medinilla (increase in bombing), and Pagan. Likely negative impacts include, but are not limited to, direct damage to individuals from live-fire training and ordnance, wildlife resulting from life-fire and ordnance, direct physical damage (e.g. trampling by humans, helicopter landing, etc.) to individuals, and spread of nonnative species.”

“Additionally, water purification training is proposed for all these islands, exept for Farallon de Medinilla, which may be particularly damaging to the Rota blue damselfly,” the Service said.
The Service’s final decision, Henkin said, “makes clear” that the Navy training may affect the newly listed species, “triggering the obligation to reinitiate consultation.”

“This notice letter was prepared in good faith, after reasonably diligent investigation,” Henkin said. “If you believe that any of the foregoing is factually inaccurate or erroneous, please notify us promptly.”

Comments from the Department of Navy were not available as of press time, but a Navy spokesperson said a statement would be forthcoming today.

Large picture frustrations

The potential lawsuit taps into larger frustrations over military projects—like firing ranges, a divert airfield, the proposed leasing of the entire island of Pagan, and the relocation of thousands of Marines to Guam from Japan—that military planners have issued and approved within the Marianas Islands range in recent years.

“Look at what is happening here,” Peter J. Perez, co-founder of the advocate group Pagan Watch, said yesterday. “A department of the federal government, not the leadership of the United States, not the President and the Congress, but a department, somehow has the right to unilaterally decide to turn a state’s territory into the world’s largest live-fire training range.”

“This is a severe encroachment on the territory of Guam and the CNMI,” Perez said. Pagan Watch is one of the handful groups attached to the notice to sue the Navy.

For the Marianas Islands Training and Testing area, or MITT, the Navy expanded a training area encompassing some 500,000 square nautical miles of ocean into an expansive 980,000-some square miles—an area that advocates have lamented is larger than the states of Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Montana, and New Mexico combined.

In 2013, the late CNMI governor Eloy Songao Inos called on the Navy to conduct better baseline studies, grant more marine protection areas, and asked that undersea training not be done around certain island seamounts believed to be plentiful with marine life.

But in their formal response to Inos last May, the Navy said they could not impose these “geographic limitations on training and testing activities,” calling it an “impractical burden” to implement and an “unacceptable impact to the effectiveness” of their training.

The Navy approved the undersea ordnance training—inclusive of a reported roughly 300-percent increase of ordnance bombing on Farallon De Medinilla—last August.

Perez said the voices of the CNMI governor, the Senate and the House of Representatives, the mayors, the municipal council, or in other words, the entire local state-level government are all being “ignored.”

“The American citizens who live here—who have said “NO” in a strong and clear voice—are also being disregarded.”

“In fact, the only obstacle to the Department of Defense’s intention to take and bomb our islands and waters is the requirement under federal law that they follow the EIS process that was designed to ensure compliance with federal laws for the protection of the environment and historic assets.”

“Pagan Watch and the other signatories to the letter are determined to not allow the DoD to ignore the EIS process as well. It is all that is standing between us and what the late governor Inos characterized as the “existential threat” of the DoD turning our lands and waters into a giant live-fire range with all the destruction, contamination, and restrictions on the people’s freedoms that come with it,” Perez told Saipan Tribune yesterday.

The February notice of intent to sue lists a total of eight groups from the CNMI, Guam, and Hawaii in the notice to sue.

The attached groups include the Alternative Zero Coalition, Center for Biological Diversity, Fanacho Marianas, Guardians of Gani, Oceania Resistance, Pagan Watch, Tinian Premier Football Club, and Tinian Women’s Association.

The letter was sent to the Department of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, USFW Service Director Daniel M. Ashe, and Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewel.

Monday, February 08, 2016

‘Navy Interests Should Be Included in Future Leasing Discussions’

Published by on January 26, 2016

By Dennis B. Chan

A U.S. Department of the Navy spokesman re-echoed Friday their claim to military use rights at the Tinian port, but said they do need not see any current conflict between their these rights and leases granted by the Commonwealth Ports Authority to commercial development.

The Navy’s desire is that military interests are part of the future and existing planning for leases, according to Joint Region Marianas public affairs officer Tim Gorman in an email.

Gorman was responding to questions from Saipan Tribune on the extent of their rights at the Tinian port, after a letter from Department of the Navy lawyer John Aguon to CPA lawyer Robert Torres surfaced, in which the former notes the Navy’s concern that current and future development at the Tinian port—including Bridge Investment Group’s $120-million casino resort—“may compromise DoD’s various rights.”

Gorman said that while JRM has become aware that the CPA has recently leased certain real property at the Tinian port to a private enterprise, “JRM does not see any current conflict with any CPA lease.“

“JRM personnel communicate and work with their CNMI counterparts on a wide variety of issues on a regular basis,” Gorman said. “In this instance, as the United States has certain rights contained in long-standing agreements with CNMI, such as the 1983 lease (as amended), JRM merely communicated its desire to continue to collaboratively work with the appropriate CNMI offices to help ensure that applicable DoD interests are part of the planning process in existing and future leasing actions. JRM will continue to work with our CPA colleagues to have fruitful discussions, just as we have regular discussions with our CNMI counterparts on other topics,” added Gorman.

In his January letter to CPA, Aguon reminds of these “longstanding agreements between the CNMI and Defense” that “authorize and guarantee DoD various military uses at the Tinian port and airport.”
“We desire to ensure these DoD rights are protected,” Aguon said. His letter notes that that certain portions of the port are currently leased to Bridge Investment Group—an investor building a reported casino resort on the Tinian wharf—and that in the future, “other portions of the Tinian port may be physically or legally encumbered by either Bridge or other private entities.”

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Tinian Resident Emphatically Oppose Military Buildup

Tinian Residents Emphatically Oppose Military Exercises
Public hearings so support for ‘No Action Alternative’
By Alexie Villegas Zotomayor

TINIAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, May 4, 2015) – Citing broken promises relating to the Covenant negotiations, and significant impact on the environment and the local economy, the people of Tinian came out in droves and expressed their emphatic "No" to the military’s proposal to build live-fire ranges and training areas on Tinian.

At Thursday night’s public hearing on the draft CNMI Joint Military Training environmental impact statement at the Tinian Junior Senior High School, the island’s leaders and residents unanimously conveyed their opposition to the military plan and indicated they favored the "No Action Alternative."

Explaining that they are not anti-military, but are against the proposal, the residents led by Tinian Mayor Joey P. San Nicolas underscored the military action’s significant impact on their island’s environment and economy.

Prefacing his statement that he is not averse to the military, that he has a son who serves in the U.S. Air Force, that the island has many veteran residents, he said the meeting was not about their support for the military but rather about the proposed military action.

"For the record, I and the members of the Tinian leadership are against the manner in which the military proposes to use Tinian as described in the draft EIS," said San Nicolas which was applauded by the residents.

San Nicolas said Tinian is a pristine island — virtually untouched — and home to unique bird species, coral reefs and plants used by their "suruhånu" — healers.

"The construction of live-fire ranges and a training complex that uses artillery, mortar and rocket launchers, will have significant, devastating and permanent impacts on our reefs, our jungle and our soil," he said.

The planned construction of a landing area for amphibious assault vehicles will require the dredging of 800,000 cubic feet of marine habitat.

Citing the DEIS, San Nicolas said this will "permanently change the habitat of the near shore areas of the beach of Unai Chulu."

The plan will also destroy approximately 2,000 acres of jungle which serves as a habitat for many native birds.

Under the military’s preferred alternative, San Nicolas said 7,200 of Tinian Monarchs, or approximately 8 percent of the total population will suffer loss of nesting and foraging areas.
It will also have a significant impact on other bird species, he said, such as Bridled White Eye, Micronesian Starling and Rufous fantail.

He also said construction of live-fire ranges will permanently destroy 230 acres of prime farm land soil.

"That means 16 percent of the total prime farm soil available on Tinian will be lost forever," he said adding that the DEIS has no mitigation for this loss.

He said they will never get these back.

He said the millions of bullets, grenades, and rockets used every year will make their lands "essentially unusable."

He also said that cleaning up waste has never been a priority for the military, citing waste left on Tinian decades ago.

"We have a duty to protect our environment for future generations," he said.

He said that based on these significant impacts, the military should select the no action alternative.
Sen. Francisco M. Borja also cited these impacts, particularly on the cattle ranchers.

The plans will have a devastating impact on the cattle industry and Tinian’s economic growth, he said.

The DEIS, he said, is not clear about how much access to military leased lands will be available throughout the year.

He said the proposed action will impact tourism as it will limit access to to 10 out of 12 historical sites.

"Two of these sites, the Shinto Shrine and Hinode will be destroyed," he said.

He also cited the loss of access to major dive sites.

Municipal Council Chairman Reynaldo Cing said, "The plan as proposed will change every aspect of our life as we know it."

He also decried the loss of access to historical and cultural sites.

He said there will be 22 weeks of pre- and post-training preparation on top of the 20 weeks a year in training.

"The military must be honest and transparent with us," he said.

He said he supports the military, but he doesn’t support the plan.

Serafina Rosario King Nabors, said she did not vote for a live-fire range when they approved the Covenant decades ago.

"Forty years ago we were marching for the Covenant," she said, adding that it was promised that a base would be built on Tinian that would provide jobs for Tinian residents.

She said they did not vote for a training range.

"You were already given Farallon de Medinilla," she said addressing the military.

As she spoke in Chamorro and English, she mentioned the incidence of cancer on island.
She said she is herself a cancer survivor.

She asked for the training ranges to be constructed in California.

"Biba Marianas! Biba Chamorro," said Nabors to the crowd’s deafening applause.
For his part, Lino Lizama opposes the bombing of Tinian and Pagan.

Joseph Connelly, who has been living on Tinian since 1984, said, "This public access needs to be further explained to the Taotao Tinian."

He also asked questions relating to construction of the ranges for 8-10 years.
He raised concerns related to the proximity of munitions areas to the airport.

Vietnam War veteran Gil Borja opposes the action, saying he opposes any training exercise on Tinian and Pagan.

He said Hawaii is different: the firing range is far from the town.

14-year-old Chelsea Rosario said it will impact the peace and tranquility on island.
She said the proposed action will reduce the culture and heritage to a "memory."

Tinian Casino Gaming Control Commission Chairman Matthew C. Masga said he is unequivocally opposed as it will have a significant impact on the casino industry and will heap burdens on a lot of people.

Masga said one week of training alone is too much of a burden.
He cited the noise that will make Tinian unattractive to tourists.

He said tourism will see a downward spiral due to limited activities on island.
"Our people and tourists will no longer be free to visit historical sites," he said.
For Eric San Nicolas, the U.S. military does not own two-thirds of Tinian, "they lease it."
He said, "We are the patrons of the land. Land is connected to us. Our land is connected to our soul."
John Barcinas said it is their right to say, "No."

For Kimberly Hinds, the DEIS is nothing more than a plan to destroy Tinian "and to kill our culture."
She said what the military calls restricted access to beaches, to coastal zones, alterations of the seafloor, and taking away corals, "is what we call our customary right and way of feeding our families. What you call your cattle grazing mitigation plan is a threat to our food supply and our ability to be self-sustaining. What you call restricted access to our cultural sites is really a denial of our ability to practice our traditional and customary rights…picking ‘donni,’ paying respect to our dead, going hunting." For Hinds, the 20-week training will be an economic shackle on Tinian that is struggling to be self-sustaining.

"No respect to the land and to the people of this community," she said.

Jose P. Kiyoshi, a former Marine, said the promise back then was for a military base; not a firing range.

"No to the firing range; yes to the base," he said.

He said this will change the lives of the people in the community.

Debra Fleming also said there were so many broken promises: the promise of a U.S. military base, a commissary, a theatre, and a school.

She said the dock was never fixed.

"Now they want to dredge Unai Chulu," she said pointing out that it is an ancient burial ground, where there are latte stones.

"All this EIS—is a waste of our time. What’s the point in all of this," she said.

She asked if the CNMI could renegotiate to take the land back "at the price they purchased it?"
The use of bombs was never in the picture when they negotiated the Covenant.
Juanita Mendiola told the military to build their own island.

She said the destruction of Tinian and Pagan is not exclusively local — it is global.

"This island is sacred to all of us. This entire island is sacred. Please do not desecrate it," she said.
Archaeologist Craig Weaver said the DEIS did not mention anything on preservation.
Lou Dela Cruz said Tinian is too beautiful to be destroyed.

Keith Nabors asked the people to say "no" to the proposed military action.

He said in past military exercises, with boots on the ground, "they landed on the wrong beach."
Even with modern technology, they landed on the wrong beach, he said.

He expressed his concern that with the firing-ranges, mistakes like this may happen.

Joseph Mendiola said they support the military yet the training on Tinian will impact their livelihood.
He cited the noise impact as evidenced from the Fury exercises.

Whelden clarifies: No live explosives on Tinian
Marine Forces Pacific Executive Director Craig B. Whelden dispelled the notion that they will be bombing Tinian.

"We are not planning to drop live explosive bombs on Tinian. We are not," he said.
He said the requirement is for them to train on how to provide air support and drop what they call ordnance — which is a generic term for bombs onto a target.

Having this skill can save thousands of lives.

"What we have planned is dropping inert bombs — essentially they have a puff of smoke when they hit the ground so we can see where they landed so we can practice that critical skill."

Inert bombs, according to online sources, "are aerial munitions filled with wet sand or cement."
According to, inert bombs are also called "dumb bombs."
The same website said that an inert bomb won’t explode, which means it can’t produce blast effects, and it can’t spray the area with lethal metal fragments.

The dropping of the inert bombs will only be done 10 percent of the time or for about two weeks.
Whelden also clarified that they are not sneaking behind the people’s backs as claimed by one person who spoke.

"Nothing could be further from the truth. I signed at least a dozen letters to the governors, to the mayors, to the directors of CPA, DPL, to other groups, governmental groups, identifying what we have in mind, why we have it in mind, when we would do it, who was coming, who we will coordinate with when we got here," he said.

He said in some cases they ask permission on property they don’t have control over outside the military lease area.

"We did it openly, with full notification of the government," he said.
Marianas Variety
Copyright © 2015 Marianas Variety. All Rights Reserved