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MARIANAS’ NORTHERN ISLES DREAM OF DEVELOPMENT Resettlement summit planned for September

By Clarissa David SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, May 24, 2011) - Preparations are under way for a summit that aims to underscore the economic role of the Northern Islands in the Commonwealth and what could be done to repopulate and develop these mostly uninhabited islands.

"Resettlement and Economic Redevelopment Opportunities: CNMI’s Northern Frontier," tentatively slated for September 2011, is spearheaded by Northern Islands Mayor Tobias Aldan and a planning committee that includes overall chair Jess Wabol, program manager Jerome Aldan, press secretary Angel Demapan, and the Department of Public Lands.

Wabol said the summit intends to educate the public about the existence of the Northern Islands.

"Part of the objective is to create general awareness about Northern Islands," he said. "A lot of people don’t know that there is such a thing as Northern Islands and we want to create general awareness about its existence."

Former representative William Torres, who is also part of the committee, said the whole-day summit will be the "first of its kind" to initiate discussions on the potential of the Northern Islands.

"We hope to enlist members of the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegations and invite our federal partners to serve as panelists," he said.

Torres said they will invite representatives from the military, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, U.S. Geological Survey, Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Aviation Administration, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Torres said these are the agencies critical to the growth of the Northern Islands. He noted that the local government, through NIMO, has already developed "close relationship" with some of these agencies.

"We need to engage in a network of partnerships and see what each partner can bring to the table like technical or financial assistance," he told Saipan Tribune. "It’s a conglomerate of partners pursuing development."

Torres said the summit will focus on issues such as military relocation, transportation, communication, and other infrastructure that are vital to the resettlement and redevelopment of the Northern Islands.

"Copra production was once thriving in the Northern Islands. People were very prosperous then. The summit aims to identify what needs to be done to redevelop the islands again," he said.

Torres added, "Northern Islands are a chain of islands growing by the day and have a lot of potential. But there are risks that need to be taken into account. People should be responsible and know how to mitigate these risks. We hope to talk about all these during the summit."

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