Thursday, May 06, 2010

Thank you for your letters

I have great news! Last February you wrote letters to the United States Congress in support of H.R. 3511 to authorize a Mariana Trench Marine National Monument Visitor Center in the Northern Mariana Islands. All of your letters and emails were entered into the record and your voice was heard because yesterday the House Natural Resources Committee approved the bill by voice vote. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives.

The Northern Mariana Islands are one step closer to realizing the construction of a Mariana Trench Eco-Discovery Center and Monument Headquarters. There is still work to be done and you will be called upon again, but today should be a day for celebration.

Unfortuantely, there is also some bad news. The House Natural Resources Committee also passed Representative Madeleine Bordallo's H.R. 4493. The Bunitan Tasi bill would place a visitor center and headquarters on Guam, not in the Northern Mariana Islands, and would give Guam a role in managing the marine resources of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Although I am not speaking for them, the Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument testified on both these bills and are opposed to H.R 4493. The Mariana Trench Marine National Monument does not protect any marine resources within 400 miles of Guam's shores. The only marine protected area within the monument is contained within the Islands Unit surrounding the islands of Uracas, Maug and Asuncion. Those are waters that belong to the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam should have no role in how they are managed. H.R. 4493 is nothing more than an attempt to impinge on the sovereignty and right to self-government of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Furthermore, placing the visitor center and headquarters on Guam would violate the promises made by the United States government to the leaders of the Northern Mariana Islands leading up to the designation of the monument. It would transfer the social and economic benefits of a monument from the Northern Mariana Islands to Guam.

H.R. 4493 also violates Guam Public Law 23-24 which "prohibit(s) the Government of Guam from entering into cooperative agreements with respect to the so-called (Guam National) Wildlife Refuge...and to prohibit the use of Government of Guam resources and personnel in any manner that could be construed as supporting continuous federal holding of such properties." Guam Public Law should be amended before Bordallo's bill is entertained.

It is shameful that Representative Bordallo would continue to advocate for H.R. 4493 after scores of people living in the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and the mainland United States made her aware of these issues.

But that is how it goes in a democracy. The fight to bring home the promises of a Mariana Trench Marine National Monument continues. Thank you for all that you have done to bring us to where we are now and don't be surprised if I ask for your help again in the near future.

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A response:

Greetings Angelo,

Thank you for alerting everyone to the Natural Resources Committee’s approval of H.R. 3511, my bill authorizing a Mariana Trench Marine National Monument Visitor Center in the Northern Mariana Islands. The bill received the unanimous consent of the Committee on Wednesday. Like you, I am very excited to see it moving forward.

Unfortunately your post contained some incorrect news, and I would like to ask you to post a correction.

You reported that the Committee also passed Representative Madeleine Bordallo's bill H.R. 4493 and that it would place a Monument visitor center and headquarters on Guam, not in the Northern Mariana Islands.

What really happened is that during the Committee meeting, Chairwoman Bordallo offered an amendment to her original bill. The amendment removed language authorizing construction of a facility in Guam for purposes related to the Monument. And the amendment was adopted by the Committee.

I believe these two actions, approval of the NMI Visitors Center bill and amendment of the Guam bill, completely clarify that congressional intent is for the Monument Visitor Center to be located in the Northern Mariana Islands.

Now, I look forward to getting H.R. 3511 passed by the House and the Senate and signed by the President – significant legislative steps, which require continued support from all those in the Northern Marianas who have been behind the Monument from the beginning. So, please keep up the effort.

I should also let you know that in addition to the $220,000 I earmarked for NOAA in this fiscal year, which can be used by the CNMI for scoping the uses, users, and appropriate sites for our visitor center, I have requested an additional $1,000,000 in seed money for the coming fiscal year. No guarantees there, but, as you can see, I am aggressively pushing to get the visitor center going.

Regards,

kilili

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My response:

The amendments do not go far enough to ensure that the social and economic benefits of the monument accrue to the Northern Mariana Islands.

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