NAVY SHIPS RETURN TO SAIPAN AFTER FEE HIKE

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By Ulysses Torres Sabuco

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Sept. 2) - The
Navy will again deploy its maritime prepositioned ships to Saipan, Press
Secretary Pete A. Callaghan told Variety.

Details regarding the return of these ships are "classified
information" and could not be released to the public, he said.

"Yes, the ships are coming back, but their arrival time is
confidential information for security reasons," Callaghan said.

The Navy ordered all its prepositioned ships to pull out from
Saipan waters two weeks ago after the CNMI government decided to increase the
security fees it charges.

The Department of Public Safety, for the last two years, had
provided six armed police officers to provide 24-hour security for these
vessels.

Ambyth Shipping Micronesia provided the vessel for the DPS
personnel guarding the ships which are anchored just outside the Saipan Reef.

The CNMI was home to three marine propositioned ships. Guam has
six.

The Navy ordered these vessels out of Saipan, after the $25 an
hour fee for each DPS officer guarding the ships was increased to $50.

On Aug. 26, the force protection fee increase was temporarily
suspended by then acting Gov. Diego T. Benavente.

Benavente said the CNMI government will conduct a study if a fee
increase is warranted.

He said he had asked Callaghan to keep in touch with Ambyth to
find out what the schedules are for the vessels’ return.

Public Safety Commissioner Edward C. Camacho yesterday said the
pullout of the ship had nothing to do with the fee increases.

He said the vessels were only assigned to other parts in the
world.

"The fee that we charged for our officers...providing
security has nothing to do with their pullout," Camacho said. "There
are other things going on in the world that require them not be here."

But Camacho confirmed that the ships are returning after a
two-week absence.

"They are coming back as soon as the situation is normal
again. But again, the fees got nothing to do with it. That is not the reason why
they left. I really don’t know how that issue on fees came about," he
said.

September 2, 2003

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

 

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