Tuesday, February 23, 2010

CNMI United for Mariana Trench Visitors Center

The Saipan Tribune has an excellent story on all the support being generated for placing a Mariana Trench Visitors Center and the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument Headquarters on Saipan. The story appeared on the front page of the Tuesday, February 23 edition of the paper with some of the biggest headlines I've ever seen for Saipan.mariana trench front page
'Put Marine Monument visitors center in CNMI, not Guam'
Residents, officials press US Congress to honor presidential proclamation
By Haidee V. Eugenio

Government officials, environmentalists and ordinary citizens are united in asking the U.S. Congress to build a Marianas Trench Marine National Monument Visitors Center in the CNMI, thereby honoring the Jan. 6, 2009 presidential proclamation.


'Fair and reasonable'

Angelo Villagomez, director of the Friends of the Monument, said “many people in the Northern Marianas fought for this and now we are in danger of losing the monument headquarters and facilities to Guam.”

Friends of the Monument, the key proponents of the monument leading up to its designation, are asking local residents to provide testimony in support of building a Mariana Trench Visitors Center in the CNMI, rather than Guam.

“The community needs to come together to show their support if we are ever to see the benefits promised to the CNMI by the Bush Administration,” Villagomez said in a statement yesterday.

Beautify CNMI! founder and volunteer Cinta Kaipat, in a Feb. 21 letter to Bordallo, expressed hope that the Guam delegate “can come around to supporting HR 3511 because it would start to fulfill the promises made by the Bush Administration and the federal government when the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument was designated on January 6, 2009.”

Kaipat said Saipan is over 100 miles closer than Guam to the area of the monument that is a marine protected area.

She said it was the people of the CNMI who petitioned Bush to create the monument, “not our brothers and sisters on Guam.”

“It is only fair and reasonable that the social and economic benefits go to the people who requested that it actually be created,” she added.

Forms of support

Drumming up support for Sablan's H.R. 3511 has taken many forms, including a letter campaign by the Friends of the Monument, pre-filed CNMI Senate and House resolutions, written testimony, and personal testimony by CNMI entities in Washington, D.C.

Even those who were previously opposed to the Marine Monument are now supporting the building of the visitors center in the CNMI.

Rep. Diego T. Benavente (R-Saipan) said establishing the visitors center in the CNMI is part of the monument negotiations, and that the terms of the negotiations should be honored. He said the economic benefits brought by such a marine monument visitors center as originally envisioned by CNMI residents and officials are now in danger of being lost to Guam.

Sen. Juan M. Ayuyu (Ind-Rota) filed Senate Resolution 17-05 supporting Sablan's HR 3511 to establish and operate the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument Visitor Facility in the CNMI.

Senate President Paul A. Manglona (R-Rota) said yesterday that the Senate is expected to adopt the resolution this week.

Rep. Teresita Santos (Ind-Rota) also filed House Resolution 17-6, supporting Sablan's bill of putting and operating a marine monument visitor center in the CNMI. The House is expected to act on the resolution.


Friends of the Monument

In a statement yesterday, the Friends of the Monument said they are opposed to H.R. 4493 because they want to see a Mariana Trench Visitors Center built on Saipan.

They argue that the area of the monument close to Guam does not restrict any fishing or protect any coral reefs or preserve any coastal resources and that only the “Islands Unit” of the monument, an area surrounding the CNMI islands of Uracas, Maug, and Asuncion, protects marine resources.

Agnes McPhetres, vice chair of the Friends of the Monument, will also be testifying in Washington, D.C. on behalf of the group.

McPhetres, in a statement yesterday, said Bordallo's H.R. 4493 seeks to provide research and enforcement dollars to the Government of Guam even though the monument does not protect any fish, wildlife, or any other living creature within 500 miles of Guam.

“If you read the monument proclamation, the area of the monument that extends close to Guam only restricts future seabed mining of the substrate at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. It makes no sense to house the management of the biological resources of the monument on Guam when they are here (Northern Mariana Islands). It would appear that Guam is asking for federal dollars to manage resources under the jurisdiction and within the borders of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands,” she said.
The Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument are still drumming up support and we're asking anyone and everyone who wants to see the Visitors Center in the CNMI, rather than Guam, to take a few minutes to draft a letter of testimony addressed to Guam Representative Madeleine Bordallo requesting that she support H.R. 3511.

PLEASE send a copy of your letter to Representative Gregorio Sablan so that he can enter your testimony into the official record. Letters for Representative Sablan's office can be emailed to Paula Bermudes-Castro at paula.bermudes-castro@mail.house.gov or faxed to (202) 226-4249, and must be received by Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010.

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