TINIAN MAYOR INVITES MILITARY TO BUILDUP THERE

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Suggests Marianas as fallback from Guam

By Gemma Q. Casas SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Jan. 21, 2010) – In the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Mayor Ramon M. Dela Cruz asked the U.S. military to consider Tinian and the nearby uninhabited Aguijan, or Goat Island, as alternative sites for the planned buildup in the Marianas in the wake of increasing opposition on Guam to the project.

The newly elected Republican mayor met last week with retired Maj. Gen. David Bice, the executive director of the Joint Guam Program Office, which is tasked to oversee the military buildup project on Guam and the Northern Marianas.

"We discussed a lot of things," the mayor said. "We know for a fact that they are getting a lot of opposition on Guam about the military buildup, so jokingly I asked him, if there’s so much opposition on Guam, we’re willing to take the military on Tinian as fallback for Guam."

According to Dela Cruz, Bice laughed but said, "We’ll consider it seriously."

The mayor added, "I also offered Goat Island as an alternative. They said they will take a look at it. They flew over it."

Goat Island is an uninhabited island of the CNMI located about 5 miles southwest of Tinian. It has a large number of feral goats, but it used to host a Japanese garrison during World War II.

Bice and other military officials went on Tinian for a public hearing on the draft Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, regarding the military buildup in the Marianas.

Much of the anticipated projects will be constructed on Guam.

Tinian is expected to host military drills and exercises that cannot be accommodated on Guam.

Dela Cruz said Tinian has always been supportive of the U.S. military’s presence.

"For a very long time, we were made to believe that Tinian could capitalize on a military economy. As you know, we released two-thirds of our island to the military," he added.

He admitted that the island’s economy, like the CNMI’s, "is not really good — I think we will keep on sinking."

He remains optimistic, however, that Tinian will soon have new hotels and casinos, especially if the military buildup is finally implemented.

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