US Willing To Show CNMI Lawmakers What ‘Live-Fire’ Looks Like

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Military ‘open’ to witnesses at training exercises in Hawai‘i

By Joel D. Pinaroc

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, June 22, 2015) – The U.S Department of Defense is "open" to inviting CNMI lawmakers to have a first-hand look at how "live-fire" exercises are conducted.

One of the questions during the visit of military representatives in the CNMI was how live-fire activities can affect the Commonwealth’s tourism industry in terms of noise pollution.

House Speaker Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) said Saipan has been relying on tourism for many years and he is wondering if artillery fire will not affect tourists.

"Is there a way to prove that live-fire noise will not affect those tourists visiting Saipan?" Deleon Guerrero said, during the meeting with military officials last week.

But the exercises will probably not be held in the Commonwealth— particularly Tinian and Pagan—but instead on the DoD’s existing facilities in Hawaii.

"I suspect we cannot (conduct the live-fire demo) on Tinian, but we can in Hawaii," said Craig Whelden, executive director of the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific

Whelden said the demo can show the lawmakers "how live-fire works."

He noted that this will not be the first time that CNMI lawmakers have been invited to witness a live-fire demo.

Whelden said one of the participants during the previous live-fire demo in Hawaii was then Lt. Gov. Jude U. Hofschneider.

According to a draft environmental impact statement, the military proposes to conduct artillery fire, bombing, and amphibious landings, among others, on the CNMI.

Aside from noise pollution, the long-term effects of waste, particularly on areas where bombings will be conducted has been one of the main concerns of the CNMI.

Robert M. Scher, DoD assistant secretary for strategy, plans, and capabilities, concedes that the military "do not have a pristine clean up" record, "but it does not have a bad record either."

"We do our best," Scher, told lawmakers last week.

Scher also said the talks on proposed military activities and land leases on Tinian and Pagan remain at an "early stage."

"We need these kinds of engagements. We are still at an early stage in the talks and we have to get down to the details," Scher said, while addressing questions from lawmakers.

He assured lawmakers that he agreed to meet to further "listen."

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