CNMI not being lowballed

by Craig Whelden, Executive Director, Marine Corps Forces Pacific
Stripes Guam

Letter to the Editor,

I read with considerable interest- but also concern because of numerous inaccuracies and inconsistencies - a recent (3 Dec 15) article in the Saipan Tribune entitled: "Demapan: CNMI is
Being Lowballed with $23M Offer."

For those who did not see the article, the premise was that " ... the $23M for live fire ranges in the
CNMI that was discussed in early negotiations is too low a figure compared to the reported $6B that Guam is getting in infrastructure projects. "Further, " ... these numbers were discussed during a Natural Resources Committee meeting where lawmakers mulled a Senate bill to prohibit the Department of Public Lands from leasing land for US. Military purposes. Members of the House Committee discussed Tuesday whether the bill would foreclose the opportunity to negotiate with the military."

Finally, the article states: "According to Demapan, the 'highest' offer the CNMI government got from the U.S. military was $23M, "adding " ... if the military had proposed a more formidable plan for Pagan it may have been accepted."

Here are the facts:
• The move of approximately 5,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam is estimated to cost
$8.7B. Of that amount, the government of Japan will fund $3.1B.
• Over $900M has been identified for the CNMI (on construction projects and for leasing on Tinian and Pagan). The government of Japan will fund over $300M on Tinian.
• We are exploring the potential for joint use projects in the CNMI that benefit both parties.

Ultimately our intent is to arrive at solutions that achieve mutually beneficial and sustainable growth, compatible/complementary presence, and shared interests with the people of CNMI. Because we listened during the public comment period, we will be conducting additional studies in a number of areas of concern identified by the people of the CNMI and federal agencies. I will come to CNMI in early 2016 to brief the Governor on the way forward.

We have a long way to go before reaching a Record of Decision on the CJMT EIS, and I encourage all in the CNMI to continue to work with the military as we continue to close gaps that might exist between us and find common ground that benefits all.

Craig Whelden
Executive Director, Marine Corps Forces Pacific

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