According to a press release from the Friends of the Monument, "[I]n the eleventh hour, CNMI Gov. Benigno Fitial, Speaker of the House Arnold Palacios and Senate President Pete P Reyes joined the 6,000 petition signers, 206 businesses, and nearly 600 letter writers who asked President Bush to designate a monument in the Marianas."
Rep. Arnold I. Palacios, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, explains that support in a letter to the editor in the Saipan Tribune today. The letter reflects on his "odyssey-like experience," which ended last Tuesday with the declaration of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.
Throughout this ordeal, the Speaker, along with Rep. Diego Benavente, was one of our staunchest opponents. At the 140th meeting of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WESPAC) the Speaker declared that "we don't play with our food." He also refused to meet with me and never sat in on a single presentation.
Additionally, in attempting to oppose the monument, the Legislature passed three anti-monument resolutions and the governor and his administration orchestrated letters from the the CNMI First Lady, the manamko, the Office of Carolinian Affairs, WESPAC, the Guam Fishermens Co-op and all of the heads of state of Micronesia, including President Tommy Remengesau of Palau, an internationally renowned environmentalist.
Yet, the opposition (with the exception of WESPAC) apparently now supports the monument. For many of the supporters, how the opposition would explain their newfound support remained an engima.
Well, after reading the Speaker's letter, all I can say is "Mission Accomplished." In assuming that most of the opposition feels like the Speaker, I have to say that their new position is inspired.
The editorial by the Speaker is masterfully crafted. Someone who is ideologically opposed to the monument, someone for whom no rational argument will ever suffice, will read this letter and think that the Speaker fought for them and for lack of a better term, "got the best deal." Someone on the opposite end of the spectrum will read this letter and think that the Speaker is reasonable and willing to compromise his personal beliefs (i.e. "playing with our food") for the betterment of the people of the Commonwealth.
His position is brilliant. Although his support is assumed, nowhere in the letter does he make a statement akin to "I now support the monument." On the contrary, this letter is not about explaining his support, it is about telling his constituents that he stood up for them, faced down the powerful federal government and as a result received numerous concessions that will benefit the people of the Commonwealth, including a number of things not brought up specifically by the Pew Environment Group, including promises of revenue sharing on future seabed mining ventures and transfer of territorial waters to the CNMI.
The Speaker is to be commended.