CNMI indigenous people oppose military plan for Pagan
More opposition among indigenous people in the Northern Marianas to the latest plans by the US military for training and live-fire activities on Pagan.
A group representing the interests of the indigenous people of the Northern Marianas says the island of Pagan is far too precious to be used by the United States military.
The comment follows the Northern Marianas Descent Corporation's call for the governments of the CNMI and the US to hold immediate talks over the US military's plan to take over Pagan for training and live firing exercises.
The group's president, Ana Sablan Teregeyo, says the volcanic island is rich in biological diversity, as well as a lucrative mineral called 'pozzolan' used in concrete.
She says people who were evacuated from Pagan after an eruption in 1981 have been waiting to return and one of the main reasons her group was formed was to make that possible.
Mrs Teregeyo told Annell Husband the island has never been considered for military use before and there is confusion around the proposal.
ANA SABLAN TEREGEYO: They said that they are not going to use entire islands, however the Federal Register announcement indicated that they have intention to use the entire island of Pagan. And if that is the case, the nautical miles that were mentioned surrounding the island of Pagan pretty much cover the entire islands up north. So that's another problem, yeah.
ANNELL HUSBAND: So your concern is once they get in there, they'll just sort of do what they want?
AST: Yeah. So, looking at it, Pagan Island is one of the many islands up north. And if the military intended to use Pagan with certain nautical miles around, those nautical miles encompass the entire northern island. So people will be off-limits from visiting live training exercises on that particular island and they will never return if the island of Pagan is totally destroyed.
AH: And, obviously, you've got concerns about what would happen given the issues of waste and unexploded ordinances that you describe having been left?
AST: And that is a very unfortunate experience that we experienced as the indigenous people of Saipan when we went to the war, when World War II took effect. There were areas on our island, including Tinian, that the military left behind without cleaning up their mess. And they expect the Northern Marianas people to take charge of this and pay for it?
AH: In reading through your resolution, it's resulted in the deaths of Northern Marianas people, those unexploded bombs?
AST: Yes. And now we are experiencing a high rate of cancer here on the island. The people on this island, perhaps one of these days they'll be the endangered species of the Mariana Islands. (Laughs)
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