Ex-lawmaker urges Legislature to support marine monument proposal
Thursday, 18 September 2008
By Gemma Q. Casas - Variety News Staff
THE former chairman of the local Republican Party who served two terms in the House of Representatives is urging the Legislature to support the proposed Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, which he says is a project that will fulfill the mandates of the CNMI Constitution to protect the islands’ marine resources.
“It will…benefit generations of Chamorros and Carolinians to come,” said Karl T. Reyes in a letter to the presiding officers of the Legislature and Gov. Benigno R. Fitial.
The administration and the Legislature, as well as CNMI municipal officials, are opposed to the proposal.
Reyes said the proposal to designate the uninhabited islands of Maug, Asuncion and Uracas as a marine sanctuary will help restock the islands’ marine resources as well as certain species such as fruit bats and coconut crabs.
“You have heard that there is a need to protect these islands because they are ‘so beautiful, so lush.’ That is exactly why we intended to protect those islands in the first place. These islands are undisturbed and they are unique and can serve as a population of wildlife to be used for restocking other islands with certain species,” he said.
Reyes, a member of the 1985 Constitutional Convention committee on personal rights and natural resources, said Uracas and Asuncion — two of the three islands proposed to be declared a marine sanctuary — are active volcanic islands unsuitable for permanent habitation.
“Furthermore, we found that these islands warranted protections because they had not sustained “substantial environmental damage caused by feral pigs and goats,” he added.
The Legislature already adopted two joint resolutions urging President Bush to reject the proposal.
Most lawmakers and the Fitial administration fear that the CNMI stands to lose access to a 200-mile exclusive economic zone surrounding the waters of the three islands if the proposal is approved.
“The people of the CNMI have a strong affinity with these islands and its surrounding waters, and have a deep sense of its connection to the culture, traditions and the unique identity of their people,” House Joint Resolution 16-13 stated.
“A unilateral designation of this area as a marine monument under the Antiquities Act without the consent of the people of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands would be an affront insult to the people, especially to the people of the CNMI,” it added.
Supporters of the project, however, said this is an opportunity for the CNMI to be known internationally about its environmental contribution to the world.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
The Marianas Variety carried a story today about the letter that Uncle Karl wrote to the Legislature: