[Saipan Tribune] CNMI Governor Pursuing Consultations With U.S.
Military’s plans for Pagan queried by Inos
By Haidee V. Eugenio
SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, May 7, 2013) – Governor Eloy S. Inos reiterated yesterday he is pursuing Covenant 902 talks with the United States to, among other things, get full information about the U.S. military’s plan for Pagan after the federal government failed to formally inform the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands government about any such plan prior to announcements of scoping meetings related to the development of live-fire training areas on Tinian and Pagan.
Inos said he will be sending his letter to President Barack Obama this week.
Section 902 of the CNMI’s Covenant with the U.S. allows for periodic consultations between the Commonwealth and federal governments “on all matters affecting the relationship between them.”
Besides the U.S. military’s plan, the proposed 902 consultations will also touch on the federalization of CNMI immigration.
Inos said the CNMI does not want to take the route of suing the federal government again on immigration-related issues, and will only be pursuing 902 talks.
The governor likened the situation about the planned Pagan use to a landowner. “I own the land and no one has talked to me about wanting my land.”
He said the CNMI was only a “participant” at the public scoping meetings held recently.
“I don’t know how to put it more bluntly but you know, no one has talked to me. Maybe they talked to my predecessor, [but] no one has talked to me. No one has told me, at least directly from the federal government, that they want [Pagan] and they want to sit down and talk about leasing it or about having it. We only know about it through all these public scoping meetings. No one has ever come to my office and say ‘we want you to know we plan on utilizing Pagan.’ Everything has been implied,” Inos told reporters after a Cabinet meeting yesterday on Capital Hill.
The previous administration offered to lease Pagan to foreign investors.
In this case, Inos said, the U.S. military has not formally approached the CNMI government.
When asked whether the CNMI would be willing to lease Pagan to the U.S. military, he said, “I don’t know yet. We need a 902. We want to know what they want to do, the extent of what they want to do. Because if it’s not going to be an extensive operation, it might be acceptable.”
Inos has yet to decide whom to appoint as his official representative to the 902 talks if Obama agrees to the discussions.
He said he himself could engage in the 902 talks.
The governor said the minimum wage and submerged lands are statutory issues and are not necessarily a topic of discussion in the proposed 902 talks.
The 37-year-old Covenant establishes the unique relationship between the Northern Marianas and the United States.
Either party can initiate Covenant Section 902 consultations. The representatives to these discussions are appointed directly by the CNMI governor and the U.S. president.
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