ACTION ALERT: Spare Pagan Island from Pentagon Bombs

October 29th, 2013 - by admin

Save Pagan & Mark Rabago / Saipan Tribune & Leslie Wayne / The New York Times – 2013-10-29 02:28:59

Stop the Pentagon from Bombing Paradise.
Save Pagan Island

Save Pagan Island

(October 28, 2013) — Pagan Island, the “Crown Jewel” of the Marianas, is again slated for certain environmental devastation, this time by a proposal from the US Military to use it for “live-fire training” which includes everything from artillery to bombing.

Pagan is a small island in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). It is one of the most biologically and geologically diverse islands in the archipelago, and is home to many threatened and endangered species, some of which are found nowhere else in the world.

Aside from its stunning beauty and rich ecological resources, Pagan is also one of the most habitable of the northern most islands in the CNMI. In fact, this island has supported the ancestors of Pagan islanders for over 3,000 years, as evidenced by Chamorro stone ruins found skirting her beautiful beaches.

The US Military plans to occupy ALL of Pagan Island for live- fire training and military exercises, ignoring the indigenous rights of Pagan Islanders, and the devastating environmental impacts that such activity will certainly cause. (Further details are on the website:

The clearing required for live-fire training, and the ballistic disturbances resulting from such actions (which could include everything from artillery to bombing) will most certainly jeopardize Pagan and cause, disturbances to its rich agriculturally and ecologically valuable topsoil, an increased risk of fire during dry summers, erosion and consequent destruction of Pagan’s coral reefs, and would risk extinction of Pagan’s unique flora and fauna.

These disturbances, combined with the unexploded ordinance and toxins that are sure to be left behind, will render this island uninhabitable for centuries to come. This is unacceptable.

The US military has a long history of destroying Pacific islands. US atomic testing on and around Bikini atoll rendered numerous Pacific islands uninhabitable until today. Kaho’olawe, an island of comparable size and environmental sensitivity in Hawai’i was used for “live-fire training exercises” (predominantly bombing) and was left barren and littered with unexploded ordinance. Essentially all of the unique flora and fauna of Kaho’olawe are gone forever.

The US Military has already destroyed Farallon de Medinilla, another island in the CNMI, which it used for bombing and military exercises.

In addition, large portions of Guam and Tinian are currently occupied for Military purposes. This US Military Proposal to use Pagan Island is unethical on all accounts and will cause the destruction of another island and the consequent disenfranchisement of more indigenous people of the Pacific.

ACTION ALERT: Click on the link to sign the Save Pagan Island Petition.

Former Residents’ Passionate Plea to Spare Islands
Mark Rabago / Saipan Tribune

Former Northern Islands residents and even an election staff who visited the place last year became emotional when they talked about the US military’s plan to use Pagan as a live-fire training site during the start of a history lecture series organized by the 12th Saipan and Northern Islands Municipal Council and the Joeten-Kiyu Public Library last Wednesday.

Councilman Diego Kaipat has been distributing “Save Pagan” stickers to everyone he meets and hopes the Department of Defense’s plan to use the island as a firing range doesn’t materialize.

“It’s one of the best and most beautiful island we have here in the CNMI. It would be sad to see it destroyed to the point that nobody can live there anymore. FDM [Farralon de Mendinilla] has already been demolished out of existence,” he said during his turn as resource speaker in the “Northern Islands Frontier: A Moment in Time.”

Kaipat was born in Agrihan but left the island after the family’s copra plantation was devastated by a typhoon. His family relocated to Pagan where he grew up before moving to Saipan due to a volcanic eruption.

“Hope our leaders would first visit the islands before they make a decision. It will be a right decision if you know what you’re deciding on. See it and experience it first hand. Not doing so will make a wrong decision,” said the retired nurse.

Kaipat eventually wants to return to Pagan and farm and raise livestock there like what his family used to do.

Pedro Pangelinan Castro, for his part, appealed directly to Gov. Eloy S. Inos to do everything in his power to prevent the use of Pagan as a firing range by the US military.

Castro hopes CNMI leaders will designate Pagan and other islands in the Northern Islands for homestead use instead.

“I hope our elected leaders, Gov. Eloy S. Inos first and foremost, will ask the military to reserve the island for future homestead applicants. I hope our leaders will take action and say no to using Pagan as a firing range. I talked to a representative of the US military which wants to turn Pagan into another livefire range. The reason they are proposing that, he says, is because the Northern Islands people don’t have title to the lands that they’ve been living on for many, many years.”

Catsro moved to Pagan when he was just 3 months old and lived there for 30 years befor

e being forced to move to Saipan when the island’s active volcano erupted.

”Pagan can be used as a homestead for thousands of CNMI residents who want to build a home on their own land. There are currently a lot of pending homestead applications. My daughter, for instance, has been waiting for 19 years.”

For Tomasa Taman Ada, she opposes the US military plan to turn Pagan into another Farallon de Mendinilla simply because she wants to go back there.

“I don’t agree with the US military’s plan of destroying the islands. We want to go back and start planting and raising animals there.

There’s a lot of cows, goats, and pigs there. I want to go back home. There’s no place like home… Although my parents passed away, I still have it in my head that I want to go home,” she said, her voice cracking a couple of times.

Ada was born and raised on Agrigan but moved to Saipan to pursue high school and college to become a teacher.

The most emotional plea that evening came from Commonwealth Election Commission staff Analee Camacho Villagomez. 

Villagomez stayed in Alamagan for a few months and became attached to the beauty and serenity of the island and now feels strongly for Northern Islanders to be allowed to move up.

“Let’s not give away Pagan. We won’t be able to go up there anymore if that [live-fire training] happens. They’re already bombing FDM…I’m afraid the military will destroy the Northern Islands,” she said, tears trickling down her cheek.

Villagomez said the CNMI government seems to think that money allocated to the Northern Islands will only be wasted. However, she said people living there only have simple needs but need them badly.

“I want to go back because…people up there really need our help. …I’m touched by how people there lived simply…a lot of Northern Islanders still want to go back there.”

Another presenter was University of Guam student Dennis Chan who wrote a book, Northern Islands, after visiting the place four years ago. 

Chan spent 10 days of “discovering the rich and bountiful untouched islands” as a prize for winning an essay contest in 2009. He wishes his peers would have a chance to visit and appreciate the Northern Islands. 

“The whole experience was a novelty and something I would never forget. Growing up on Saipan and being jaded because the island is so small. But going up there, it’s a new frontier. I was bewildered and it made me think that this is part of my islands and part of my heritage as a CNMI resident and after returning I wished other kids will have a chance to go.”

Chan himself plans to return to the islands in 2014 after graduating from college.

Aside from the Municipal Council and the Joeten-Kiyu Public Library, the lecture series is also sponsored by the NMI Humanities Council, Historic Preservation Office, and the NMI Museum.
The lecture series on the Northern Islands will be followed by the “Marianas Trench Marine Monument” set for Aug. 14, from 5pm to 6pm also at the JKPL.

The purpose of the lecture series is to document the speakers and lecturers and then mass produce the material for distribution to the CNMI’s elementary schools, junior high schools, high schools, and even at the Northern Marianas College.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.