Marianas Youth Discuss Proposed Military Buildup In CNMI

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Students learn about positive and negative impacts of militarization

By Bryan Manabat

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, May 4, 2016) – The Up-Close youth summit discussed the proposed military buildup in the Northern Marianas on Thursday at the Saipan World Resort.

Participants were asked the following question: "What major effects (social, economic, cultural) will these proposed plans have on the islands?"

FJ Dalusong Jr. from Grace Christian Academy said: "I did not know that it was a big issue, and I did not know how strongly local people feel about their culture."

According to Jovahna Taitingfong, a Saipan Southern High School student: "The military buildup will have an effect — financially, physically, environmentally and culturally."

"It could affect historical sites and people could forget about their culture — wildlife will be affected, too; it is going to be different," she added.

Another GCA student, Esther Lee, said: "I did not know that there was going to be a military buildup in the Marianas before this summit."

She thinks the U.S. and CNMI have a parent-and-child relationship. "I will try to be more aware now of what is happening on our islands.

After the discussions, students listed the following "positive consequences of militarization": a better relationship with the U.S., more military aid and more federal funding.

For negative effects, the students listed environmental destruction, loss of culture, the Marianas becoming a military target, and a change of lifestyle for the indigenous population.

The invited guest speakers were Gov. Ralph Torres, Senate Vice President Arnold Palacios, Northern Islands Mayor Jerome Aldan, Maj. Chris Merrill of Joint Region Marianas, Ray Masga of the Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality-Division of Environmental Quality, Henry Hofschneider of the Saipan mayor’s office, former Rep. Rosemond Santos, Juanita Masga Mendiola of the Fanacho Marianas group, and Press Secretary Ivan Blanco.

The 65 participating students were from Dr. Rita Hocog Inos Jr./Sr. High School, Grace Christian Academy, Kagman High School, Marianas High School, Saipan Southern High School and Tinian Jr./Sr. High School.

Education Commission Rita A. Sablan said the Up-Close program provides high school students with the opportunity to see how the democratic process works, and it also gives them the opportunity to engage government leaders on issues affecting the commonwealth.

Commissioner Sablan said the military-buildup topic was supposed to be discussed last year, but the summit was postponed because of Typhoon Soudelor.

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