CNMI Lawmakers Concerned About Expanded Marine Preserve

admin's picture

Senator: Obama must consider people who live around affected areas

By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, June 19, 2014) – Some local lawmakers are worried about President Obama’s move to create the world’s largest ocean preserve by expanding a national marine monument.

The expansion affects the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument encompassing Wake, Baker, Howland, and Jarvis Islands, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, and Palmyra Atoll which lie to the south and west of Hawaii.

In separate interviews, Senate Floor Leader Ray N. Yumul, IR-Saipan, Speaker Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero, IR-Saipan, and four other House members expressed hope that the expansion will not include the Marianas Trench Marine Monument which consists of Farallon de Pajaros, Maug and Asuncion.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Anthony T. Benavente, Ind.-Saipan, said the Marianas Trench is "a lot already so it can’t be expanded anymore or else, there will be nothing left for the CNMI’s future."

He added, "I hope that the expansion of ocean preserve does not affect us."

House Federal Relations and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Trenton Conner, IR-Tinian, said the idea of protecting more areas in the Pacific "is noble," but what about enforcement?

Conner hopes that expanding national marine monuments in the Pacific comes with enforcement measures and the necessary funding for local governments so they can work in partnership with the federal government.

"I understand the trend that is going on around the world, especially with the exhaustion of ocean resources. So to protect the resources out here is a good and noble cause but the enforcement side is my concern. I would like to know how it is going to be enforced."

Rep. John Paul P. Sablan, Covenant-Saipan, also expressed the hope that Obama’s expansion will not cover the marine monument north of Saipan.

In case it does, Sablan said: "I’d like to see more input from fishermen, scientists, marine biologists and the local community so that we can further understand the necessity of expanding."

House Floor Leader Ralph S. Demapan, Covenant-Saipan, said he is for the environment, but expanding marine monuments requires more dialogue with the affected local communities.

If the marine monument in the CNMI is affected by the latest expansion, Demapan said "our leaders will have to come in and see what we can do to achieve something that is workable not just to protect the ocean but also the resources surrounding our islands."

He added, "We have to come together and see what we can do — perhaps we can make some recommendations."

Yumul said he respects the president’s intent but the White House should also take into consideration the people who live in and around the affected areas and their economic activities.

"I hope the president will have people on the ground working with the local community."

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment