MARIANAS LAWMAKER PUTS BRAKES ON SANCTUARY

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Proposed marine ‘monument’ pushed by Pew group

By Raymond A. Martinez

SAIPAN, CNMI (Mariana Variety, June 3, 2008) - Senator Maria T. Pangelinan says the CNMI should delay the push for the proposed national marine monument for three of the Northern Islands in order to give local residents and the government more time to determine its viability.

In a recent interview, Pangelinan, D-Saipan and vice chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Resources, Economic Development and Programs, suggests at least five years wait period "and see how Hawaii benefited from its own national marine monument."

President Bush created the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument on June 15, 2006 after five years of research.

The Pew group is advocating for the establishment of a similar monument involving the northern islands of Uracas, Maug, and Asuncion.

Pangelinan said Pew’s proposed national monument does not state specific advantage for the local people.

She also noted the "pressure" exerted by the time-frame for approval set by the proponents.

She said she shares the sentiments of her fellow senators, adding "we have to be cautious about giving up control over our islands."

Pangelinan added, "How do we access the three islands" once the national marine monument is established by the federal government?

Jack Villagomez, who opposes the proposal, said once the national monument pushes through, the local people will be prohibited to travel across the three northern islands.

Pangelinan said that while the federal government "owns" the waters, the CNMI "owns" its islands.

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