Marianas VarietyFrank Aldan is a former Commonwealth Representative.
Monday, 27 October 2008
THE current local issue regarding the proposal to establish a National Marine Monument has created much public discussion and debate.
Some of the assertive statements I have heard are actually informative, at times even entertaining, and some unfortunately tend to manipulate the fact with, at the very least, high speculative benefits and hyperbole. It is funny when you hear people try to expound on something they have only heard rather on something they have thoroughly researched and analyzed. It is like the naturally blind leading the legally blind.
Both sides of the issue received much attention, at times with passion infrequently seen on these islands. It seems, for the most part, that every time someone speaks out in support of the monument, someone else puts forth an equally convincing argument against it.
The fact that proponents of the monuments felt a sudden need to rush a monumental decision that would affect generations to come, collaboratively with President George W. Bush last few days in office, arouses suspicions among many of our good people, and for good reasons. (Do the proponents make you feel like a lifter in urgent need of clemency before Bush leaves the White House?) The decision to establish a national marine monument is not urgently needed now. Moreover, there is still a lot of information needed to make not just a national decision for the sake of Socratic reasoning, but for our own sake, and for the sake of the future of our children and their children yet to be born. Maybe this is something that we should take a long hard look, continue to study with passion, and allow our kids to participate in frequent debates before we put it out for vote.
Look at the “Covenant.” Many of our people now felt that we have given up a lot to be a non-voting American. We have given up our independence for financial benefits and a better economy. Look at where our economy is today.
Look at Palau, with its rich marine life along the corridors of the world famous rock islands at its doorstep, it has successfully instituted strict internal controls on fishing and harvesting of marine resources and, more importantly, has not allowed “outsiders” to unilaterally force the issue. We have learned from Palau the meaning and value of independence. Maybe we can learn from them the virtues of patience and deliberation when it comes to managing and preserving our valuable marine resources.
This brings me to the purpose of this letter. If the National Marine Monument is to be accepted by the people of the Northern Marianas, hopefully after much more deliberation, I offer a proposition that would maximize the benefits for our people. It is no secret that with the pullout of the Marines from Okinawa, Guam and the CNMI will become the strategic fullback position. Expectedly, the military will need to conduct frequent battle exercises where it is allowed.
The fact is, from the military point of view, we live in the largest strategic location in this part of the world. Hence, we play a very crucial role in U.S. military defense plan; a role we can develop collaboratively. Utilizing the 200-mile economic zone provides the opportunity for the U.S. military and its allies to conduct extensive training exercises including but not limited to amphibious landing in Pagan and long-range missile tests to the island of Aguiguan, if I may be so bold to suggest. The CNMI has the potential to become the most active location for U.S. military training exercises in the Pacific.
In anticipation of the inevitable military presence here in the Northern Marianas, I would like to propose that we offer to the U.S. military a 99-year lease for the islands of Uracas, Maug, Asuncion, Pagan and Aguiguan for say 5 billion U.S. dollars. That sounds like a lot of money but 99 years is a very long time. Five billion dollars represent what the U.S. spends every 15 days trying to bring democracy to the people of Iraq. The value of this lease to the military to conduct their training and exercises for 99 years is priceless.
We can certainly use the money during this our worsening harsh economic time. With these funds, we can to take care of:
1. our unfunded Retirement Fund liabilities
2. our collapsing infrastructure
3. our inadequate health facilities
4. our declining scholarship fun
5. Tinian harbor break water
6. Saipan’s polluted lagoon
7. Rota’s hard-to-get-of-the ground casino industry
8. the budget shortfalls in various areas of public services
9. a beneficial vocational education system
10. our college
11. a set of magnet schools in the our secondary school system
12. and maybe we can finally attract more conscientious and qualified medical professionals on island so we can reduced the need to refer patients off-islands at millions of dollars per year
13. redeem all land compensation obligation including wetland
14. and on and on and on
The opportunities are endless if we plan carefully and waste not our energy trying to give away our valuable resources for free. We are limited only by our own imagination. The bottom-line is, collectively we can do so much good. We need to get beyond today and tomorrow and extend our vision farther into the future. For once, let us commit ourselves to becoming less reactive and more proactive.
It bothers me to think that if not for Pew the people of the Northern Marianas will not deliberate on its own on how to best manage and sustain its natural resources in their own best interest. No, I think not.
As Mahetog, Saipan
Monday, October 27, 2008
The monument opposition has finally put forth a proposal of their own.