Tuesday, February 03, 2009

To my fellow Irish-Chamorro American:

24 years ago this July, my father, Ramon G. Villagomez, a soon-to-be judge and eventually-to-be Justice, submitted language to the Second CNMI Constitutional Convention that would ultimately become CNMI Constitution Article XIV Section 2. This language set aside the islands of Uracas, Maug, and Asuncion "as uninhabited places used only for the preservation and protection of natural resources, including but not limited to bird, wildlife and plant species."

Last month, at the urging of 6000 CNMI residents, our governor, our legislature, and our business community, President George W. Bush extending those no-take protections to about 50 miles off the shore of those three islands, creating one of the largest conservation areas on the planet. The islands unit of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument is 12,388 square nautical miles in area, an area slightly larger than Switzerland. Additionally, President Bush protected the bottom of the Marianas Trench from bottom trawling (and you wonder why I'm a Democrat?).

Rep. Stanely Torres wrote a letter about the recent designation, which appeared in both local Saipan newspapers today.  I have added a commentary in bold:
Oil money loses — we win

IT was a great victory for the “Forces of Evil.” It was a great victory for the people of the commonwealth. It was pretty embarrassing to Pew and their breathless followers, the pew-ites. I was not embarrassed to sit 10 feet away from President Bush as he declared the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument last month. Furthermore, nobody associated with Pew or Friends of the Monument ever called Stanley a "Force of Evil." Scott Foster, a reporter in Hawaii, referred to WESPAC as a "Force of Evil" in one of his articles and Stanley, because of his association with WESPAC, took it and ran with it. He's worn an "I am a Proud Force of Evil" button every day since. At the time I didn't know Scott Foster. I have since friended him on Facebook and exchanged a few emails. I hope to buy him a beer someday.

Of course we are talking about the recently designated Marine Monument. Those that wanted some kind of additional protection in our waters got it but without the ham-handed no-take approach that the pew-sters demanded. Those who wanted perpetual indigenous access to those areas for fishing got it. Those who wanted unlimited navigation into and out of the areas or wanted access for recreation, diving and research with local government permitting got it. Those who wanted access to extraction of mineral resources got it. Those who wanted our close in territorial waters and submerged lands given back to us got it. I believe it was somebody named Angelo Villagomez who first demanded indigenous fishing rights and freedom of navigation within the monument. It know it was him, because that person is me. As for the mining and submerged lands issues, those were things promised, not granted, by the Bush Administration. Bush is cutting brush on his Crawford, Texas ranch as I write this and it will be up to the Obama administration to grant those things. Getting the submerged lands will be easy. Delegate Sablan can attach language giving the CNMI control of its submerged land out to three miles in any bill that is likely to pass. There isn't a state or territory that would deny us what they already have. The only reason we don't already have 3 miles is because certain members of our political leadership were holding out for 200. When the choice came down to 3 miles or nothing, they chose nothing, hoping to get 200 miles at a later date. As for the mining, our leaders asked the Bush administration to work on a law giving states and territories royalties from minerals extracted from federal submerged lands. Currently no law exists to do so; there are only royalties for minerals extracted from federal emergent land. Again, Bush is no longer in office, so the promise was nothing more than a promise. Regardless, deep sea commercial undersea mining does not exist anywhere in the globe, so the issue is moot.

Those who wanted to waltz in and designate a monument to themselves with no access and no-take and no extraction, fortunately did not get what they wanted. The pew-sters got a monument, but they got their collective egos handed to them in a sack as they watched their pet project completely dismantled and a whole new plan put into action that finally took into account the wishes and rights of the citizens of the CNMI. Nobody ever asked for a no access, no-take monument. This is a fabrication meant to divide the community, as I myself would not support a no-access monument. And again, if I didn't support the monument, then why was I at the signing?

Here’s how it happened: Once it became apparent that some sort of monument was going to be designated come hell or high water, the proud Forces of Evil began working lots of overtime to get something out of it for the people of the commonwealth and to make sure the final form allowed access into and extraction from the monument areas. Through talks and lengthy negotiations with Connaughton and other forces inside the Bush administration we got major concessions including reduction of the onerous 200 mile boundary to only 50 miles around our northernmost islands. We got them to designate the actual trench as a monument and we got them to allow unfettered access to those waters for fishing. We worked diligently to make extraction of valuable minerals possible and we got them to start the wheels in motion to give us full rights to our submerged lands around all of the 14 islands in the Northern Marianas. I commend the governor and the lawmakers for working with the Bush Administration. Again, the submerged lands and the minerals issues were promises made by the Bush Administration and were not granted in the monument declaration. However, gaining either concession is not a heavy lift, as I imagine most states and territories would want royalties should undersea mining activities in federal submerged lands ever become feasible and it is unlikely any state or territory would object to us having what they already have. The designation of the trench as part of the monument is an issue worthy of its own post; I'll address that at a later date. There are a lot of negative  aspects to that. I appreciate Stanley taking full credit for it.

The only way this could have worked out better was for the U.S. to back off completely and realize that these waters and lands belong to the indigenous who have protected them for thousands of years. The U.S. has the armed power to force the issue and chose to use it. As Lino Olopai put it, we ended up trading that which we already owned for use of that which we already owned in an area we already owned. But at least we got that much. Laura Bush and her dancing partner pew-ites wanted the whole shooting match leaving the indigenous as beggars in our own waters. They lost. At least we Proud Forces of Evil got some important rights returned to our citizens. The combined efforts of Governor Fitial, Speaker Palacios, yours truly and others stood in front of the federal steamroller and got it to stop in its tracks and reverse course. We worked hard to protect your interests…but that is our job. We are proud to do it. Proud to have ousted the real pewish evildoers. Proud to be Chamorro. Proud to be Carolinian. Proud to be citizens of the commonwealth in voluntary political alliance with the U.S.A. Again, I commend the governor and the other politicians for working with the Bush Administration. From day one I told anyone who would listen that there would be no monument in the Marianas without the full support of the people and the political establishment. As Stanley's letter shows, that is exactly what happened.

16th CNMI Legislature
Stanley Torres may not understand this, but the 6000 residents and 200 businesses who came out in support of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument were acting to protect our waters from people like him. It is beyond comprehension why somebody of indigenous heritage would want to mine our waters (if undersea mining ever becomes feasible). I also can't comprehend how he could possibly support commercial fishing. If fish are going to be caught in our waters, they need to be used to feed our people, not people in distant lands. What's the point of that? We trade them our fish for their money to buy their SPAM? Doesn't it make more sense to continue our traditional practices and eat our fish in the first place?

This type of political posturing is a total waste of time. Stanley should focus on working to improve these islands and stop trying to take full credit for the work of hundreds of people.


bigsoxfan said...

I was wondering where in the world Stanley the loose cannon has been these last few weeks. Glueing that last rung on his rocker back on, appears to be the answer. Bottom Trawling? Oh well, no plan is perfect.

Lil' Hammerhead said...

Sorry, you can be as diplomatic as you want. "Ole Coot" Stanley's are the rants of someone who actually didn't get what he wanted.. which was total repudiation of the monument. He's an idiot to the nth degree. He and politicians like him are the reason we're in the quagmire we're in. He can rant and toot and throw fits all he wants.. he's carries about as much credibility and power as a shrew holding a lion's leash.