Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Guam Officials Want a Say In Marines' Move

Guam officials want a say in Marines' move from Okinawa
By David Allen, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Saturday, July 15, 2006

NAHA, Okinawa — The chief thing Guam officials are taking home with them after a four-day trip to Okinawa is a need to ensure they have a say in the process of moving some 8,000 Marines and their dependents from Okinawa to their island over the next eight years.

B.J. Cruz, a senator in Guam’s legislature, said at a news conference Thursday that he learned Okinawa leaders have managed to get concessions from the Japanese government “for certain infrastructures.”

“Guam is not in a similar position,” he said, explaining that the master plan for the use of Guam, to be sent to Pacific Command Adm. William J. Fallon, was prepared without local input.

PACOM officials have acknowledged the initial plan did not include local input but say that will come in the next phase of planning.

Cruz, however, said that “there is no assurance that our concerns and our recommendations are going to be implemented.”

He was one of nine Guam officials Japanese Diet member Mikio Shimoji of Naha invited to Okinawa. They visited communities that host U.S. military bases and industries, Battle of Okinawa museums and peace memorials, schools and business districts developed on former base land.

They also got a look at how local communities cope with the large U.S. military presence.

Cruz said Guam officials needed to be careful Marines do not come to their island to the detriment of Guam residents.

“There is only one freshwater lake and the military owns that lake … they sell that water to the local community,” he said. “Since they sell that water to the local community, they can also turn it off. Three of us live in villages where over the last two months we’ve been without water for almost 30 days.”

Cruz said he will press the U.S. government to provide adequate infrastructure for the island’s civilians as well as the military.

Lt. Gov. Kaleo Moylan, who led the Guam delegation, said the trip was to ensure a smooth transition of Marines to Guam. Moylan, who is running against Gov. Felix Camacho for this fall’s Republican gubernatorial nomination, said Okinawa and Guam had parallel post-World War II histories.

“You had military bases placed here without the consent of the local population,” he said. “Guam had a similar experience. Now that we are in the process of realignment … the voices of the people of Guam need to be heard.”

Guam Legislature Vice Speaker Joanne Brown said she “hoped that Guam can minimize the adverse experiences that people of Okinawa encountered” with such a large military presence.

“We’re very concerned about the social impact this will have on our people,” she said. “It’s going to be very, very critical in the next few months and certainly in the next few years for us to ensure that the leadership of Guam … be very, very aggressive.”

She said Guam officials need to be just as aggressive with the U.S. government as Okinawa officials are with Tokyo.

“The federal government has a responsibility to make sure the military buildup does not adversely affect our people,” she said.

Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.

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