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By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Jan. 7) – A ground survey on Farallon de Mendenilla began on the same day the House of Representatives adopted a resolution urging the U.S. Navy to defer live fire exercises on the island, citing "grave environmental and economic concerns. "

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Emergency Management Office, in conjunction with the U.S. Navy on Guam, released a special advisory informing the general public of the ground survey and live-fire training on the FDM from Jan. 3 to 5 and on Jan. 10 and 11.

Although they continue to release live-fire training schedules to the public, EMO Director Mark S. Pangelinan said they support the House’s move to save the island from further man-made destruction.

Pangelinan, in an interview last week, said after so many years of live-fire and bombing activities on FDM, the island must be now be "assessed and studied."

He said the island no longer looks the same, adding that "you can now look right through" its middle portion.

Farallon de Mendenilla has been used since 1976 as a live fire range under a 50-year lease agreement with the NMI government. The agreement, which is included in the islands’ Covenant with the U.S., allows for a 50-year extension of the lease.

In a letter to the commander of the U.S. Navy in the Marianas, Rear Adm. William D. French, Reps. Stanley T. Torres, R-Saipan, and Ray N. Yumul, R-Saipan, "based on…government report, the [FDM] land mass is now evaluated as being only 72 hectares."

The land mass used to be 83 hectares, the two lawmakers said.

They said photographs taken on FDM showed unexploded ammunition and small missile remnants littering the water bed and signs of corals "destroyed presumably by missiles."

Aside from this "environmental destruction," Pangelinan said the military exercises are also hurting the livelihood of local fishermen.

He said local fishermen have been asking EMO, "How come this bombing won’t stop?"

Pangelinan said he feels sorry for those who are relying on subsistence fishing.

Introduced by Yumul, House Resolution 15-222 seeks to request the Navy "to defer all live-fire bombing activities on Farallon de Mendinilla and commence a dialogue with the CNMI government regarding the conservation of the island and its physical integrity, natural environment and wild and marine life."

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