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Babauta touts political experience

By Moneth Deposa SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Aug. 4, 2010) – Joined by throngs of family and supporters, Republican Party candidate Juan N. Babauta filed yesterday his certificate of candidacy for the U.S. delegate seat, which is up for election on Nov. 2.

While at the Commonwealth Election Commission, the former governor also used the opportunity to share his one-on-one talk with Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III during the federal official's visit to Guam and the CNMI last week.

Babauta said he met the second top U.S. defense official at the University of Guam after Lynn's presentation on the ongoing preparations for the military buildup on the island.

In the conversation that lasted some 5 to 10 minutes, Babauta said he was informed about the desired limited use of Tinian for military activities.

"It seems like the military is not committed to a full blown presence on Tinian," said Babauta, adding that Lynn did not commit to building permanent infrastructure on the island until it is proven necessary.

The recently released Final Environmental Impact Statement had identified the need to construct four firing ranges on Tinian.

Babauta said that Lynn confirmed this but admitted that the possibility of building a small-scale air base on Tinian is still on the table.

Babauta, for his part, described the limited military presence on Tinian as a "blessing in disguise" as it will be enough to create jobs for the island's residents.

During Lynn's presentation, Babauta said the official assured the military's commitment to the realignment of U.S. forces and has recognized the sacrifices and the contributions of the islands in defending the nation's freedom. Discussions were more centered on Guam as this will be the focus of the military transfer from Okinawa, Japan.

Babauta, the second to file his candidacy to date, described as ironic and paradoxical the news report that labeled U.S. Rep. Gregorio Sablan (D-MP) as the "hungriest" among U.S. lawmakers.

"It's kinda ironic and a paradox. Way earlier it was reported that the CNMI is the poorest and now he's reported as the hungriest. I think it's unfortunate they have to put CNMI in the news on something like that. I would rather see CNMI in the news because it did something good for the country or the CNMI.but that kind of news puts a bad taste in our respect to the image we want to project in Washington," said Babauta.

The GOP candidate said he is confident in his chances in the November election, citing the 12 years he served as the CNMI's Washington representative.

"I offer experience and I think Washington is not a strange place for me. I've been there for 12 years and I know can serve our people a lot better in that position," he said. "Even though I was from the outside looking in.without a seat at the table, I was able to bring home a lot of benefits to the CNMI."

The CNMI was granted a non-voting delegate seat in the U.S. Congress only in May 2008 with the passage of the Consolidated Natural Resources Act, which also placed the islands' immigration system under federal control. Before this, the CNMI only had a non-voting Washington representative, a position that was not officially a part of Congress.

Babauta declined to respond, however, when asked to identify his strongest opponent this November.

GOP president Juan Tenorio, who is also chairman of the Committee to Elect Juan N. Babauta, is confident in Babauta's victory.

He said Babauta's close affiliation with members of the U.S. Congress is proof of his accomplishments as Washington representative for 12 years.

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