Sunday, September 06, 2009

'US military has had no specific request yet for more NMI lands'

Thursday, September 03, 2009
By Haidee V. Eugenio

While U.S. military generals, admirals, and other federal officials have visited the CNMI recently, no one has made specific request to use more lands in the commonwealth for military purposes in light of the buildup in Guam, Rep. Stanley Torres said Tuesday

Torres, one of the longest serving members of the CNMI House of Representatives, raised this issue when he issued his five-point platform that included the creation of a Second Political Status Commission to determine whether residents still want to continue a “commonwealth” relationship with the United States.

“A lot has changed in 35 years. Let's take a second look. This process will take some time,” he said.

He, however, said that something can be done in the short term, which is negotiating the terms of use for lands that the U.S. indicates it wants to have control of.

“Over the last couple of years, we have been visited repeatedly by U.S. generals and U.S. admirals and other Washington delegations that have come here to the CNMI to meet with us. So far, there have been no specific offers or specific requests. Obviously, they are interested in our lands from a military standpoint. They have shown that keen interest via their frequent visits. They have intimated that the CNMI is increasingly important to the Homeland Defense of the United States,” he said.

Torres, who is seeking re-election as an independent candidate, said the CNMI needs to know the U.S.' real goal, and should negotiate a reasonable deal to make that U.S.-CNMI mutual defense partnership really work.

“They want Pagan? Tinian? Sarigan? Fine, please state your intended goal and let's talk about what's in it for the citizens of the CNMI. Hopefully, we can do better than the $1 per acre they paid to have control of two-thirds of Tinian, all of FDM and the Port of Saipan 35 years ago,” he said.

Torres pre-filed legislation seeking to review U.S.-CNMI relations.

Torres said Tuesday he would support any “improved” relationship between the CNMI and the U.S.

“It's not necessarily statehood, but anything better than the current relationship we have if the people want it,” he said.

Torres' five-point election platform covers U.S.-CNMI relations, sustainable development, affordable fuel, effective zoning, and safe communities.

Torres, who is turning 68 on Sept. 30, is seeking re-election to represent Precinct 3, which covers San Jose, Oleai, Chalan Kiya, Chalan Laulau, Gualo Rai, Garapan, Navy Hill, Puerto Rico, and Capital Hill.

He is running against 13 others vying for six House seats for Precinct 3. The 14 total candidates include himself and two other Independents, six Republicans, and five Covenant Party members.

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