MARIANAS GOVERNMENT OPPOSES U.S. MARINE SANCTUARY

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Proposal called encroachment of local jurisdiction

By Junhan B. Todeno

SAIPAN, CNMI (Mariana Variety, Sept. 1, 2008) - The opponents of the proposed marine monument have asked the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force to support the "unwavering position" of the commonwealth government against the proposal.

"The present tactics taken by Pew and de facto by the White House to create this huge 115,000 square miles monument is counter to the successful indigenous cultural strategies historically demonstrated by the CNMI in concert with its federal partners of sustainable use of CNMI natural resources," said the group, led by Dr. John Joyner, Coastal Resource Management director.

Joyner was joined by Fish and Wildlife Director Director Sylvan Igisomar and Ray Mafnas, Governor Benigno R. Fitial’s senior adviser, in presenting the CNMI government’s position against the proposed marine monument.

Joyner told Variety they presented the CNMI government testimony during the 20th U.S. Coral Reef Task Force meeting in Keauhou, Hawai΄i last month.

In their letter, they said the designation would be an affront to the Pacific islands’ traditional manner of protecting and giving respect to individual rights when determining matters of importance to the common good.

Joyner said they have been very successful in managing CNMI waters and sustaining the traditional method of keeping the area safe from stress and pollution.

On August 25, the White House said that "the marine waters around the northern islands of the CNMI, including the Mariana Trench are pristine. They are not broken, endangered or polluted like places ‘elsewhere in the world’ that need to be fixed, such as Hudson Bay, Bikini Atoll, and the Olive Ridley turtles in Texas."

"So why do they want to take that which is not broken?" Joyner asked.

He said the proposed designation process is a "unilateral, arbitrary action that does not weigh stakeholder concerns in a fair and equitable manner."

According to the CNMI government, "Designation is a permanent action that is unlikely to be reversed by a subsequent U.S. Congress, even when the monument is later more broadly determined to be ill designed and in need of amendments, as is the case with the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. And, worse yet, imminent designation does not hinge on objective ecological and marine conservation concerns, but merely on an artificial political heritage deadline of January 2009."

Joyner said they also presented the joint resolution adopted by the Legislature and letters from the municipal mayors and councils urging President Bush not to designate the CNMI’s three northernmost islands as a marine monument.

"The White House never responded to our letters," Joyner said.

He said the Pew Charitable Trusts "actually physically established a presence in the CNMI, solely to advocate for the promotion of the monument."

The Pew representative, he added, assured CNMI leaders they would cease and desist and not follow through with a proposed designation of the monument if its introduction would be controversial or not gain the support of the commonwealth government.

Pew and the White House, Joyner said, have reneged on their assurances to cease their designation quest.

"A stated overarching purpose for the proposal to place a vast marine monument in CNMI waters is to help create a blue legacy for President Bush prior to his departure from office in January 2009. Another non-scientific purpose stated for the venture is to reap credence and credibility to the Ocean Legacy Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts," the CNMI government stated.

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