27 Oct 2008

CNMI government softens opposition to marine monument proposal

10:45 am on 27 October 2008

The CNMI government appears to have softened its opposition to the White House's bid to designate the waters around the CNMI's northern islands as a marine monument

Governor Benigno Fitial and legislative leaders are now "more open" to continuing talks on the plan with White House staff if it can provide major benefits to the CNMI, sources on Capitol Hill disclosed.

The Fitial administration has long argued against the White House's proposal-which would place the waters around the islands of Maug, Ascuncion, and Uracus under increased federal protection.

However, political sources report the Governor and Legislative leaders are more receptive to the idea of holding further talks after meeting with White House Council on Environmental Quality chief James Connaughton.

In an interview, the governor's spokesman, Charles Reyes, said Governor Fitial was "pleased" by the last conference he and lawmakers held with Mr Connaughton.

Although Governor Fitial remains opposed to the plan, he said, the possibility is there for continued negotiations.