Sunday, July 15, 2007

Okinawa Mayor Shuns Nasion Chamoru

Mayors shuns Chamorro Nation
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Variety News Staff
July 16, 2007

GUAM senators yesterday gave the Japanese delegation a rundown of demands that they want from the U.S. government in exchange for hosting the 8,000 troops that will be relocated from Okinawa, while Chamorro activists told the delegation that they don't want the Marines to come to Guam at all.

The delegation, however, declined to give audience to Chamorro Nation.

Funds for infrastructure developments, healthcare, new schools, new hospitals, environmental protection, social stability and peace: these are among the things that senators said they expect the U.S. government to provide to Guam.

All these, plus transparency. There are so many questions left unanswered, Sen. Tony Unpingco, R-Santa Rita, said, adding that Guam has not received enough information about the troops relocation plan.

"You've experienced what it's like to live in a military base. We want to learn from you, so that when they come here, they don't create the same problems," Unpingco told members of the Local Government Mayors Association of Central Okinawa who are on Guam on a fact-finding mission.

"It's important for us to know what it's like to have a big military base on a small island. We're hoping that you can tell us its negative impact," minority leader Judi Won Pat, D-Malojloj said.

Vice Speaker Eddie Calvo, R-Maite, said the business community sees the economic opportunities offered by the military buildup.

"Guam has different views about the relocation. Some people see this movement as a positive development. I'd like to hear the perspectives on your side," Calvo told the delegation.

But Okinawa City Mayor Mitsuko Tohmon, head of the 18-member delegation, said her group is on Guam to gather information pertinent to the military relocation.

"The purpose of our visit is to listen to your opinion," Tohmon said through an interpreter. Japan and the US agreed to relocate 8,000 Marines and their 9,000 dependents to Guam so we want to hear what's going on in Guam. "We are representatives of our citizens. We are here to listen to you."

Among the senators, only Won Pat came on time to meet the delegation members who arrived at the Legislature ahead of the 1:30 p.m. schedule. The rest of the senators walked in 15 to 20 minutes late into the meeting.

While waiting for the rest of the senators, Won Pat allowed members of the Chamorro Nation to join the roundtable and speak to the Okinawa officials.

"We're not invited to this meeting, but we have to say how we feel because two big powers are negotiating our future. Please step in and support us," activist Trini Torres said.

Cathy McCollum said she laments that some people only see the dollar sign without thinking that we want to go home to our own lands that the federal government took away.

"Tell me, if you know, the reason behind this military relocation. Guam is not ready for this massive military buildup," said Ben Garrido, Maga'lahi of Chamorro Nation.

Tohmon said she was confused by the presence of Chamorro Nation at the meeting.

"I thought we were to meet only with the Speaker and the senators. We want to speak to the speaker and senators only, she said. We have heard about what the Chamorro Nation has to say. We want to know your own opinion as senators."

Won Pat gently asked the activists to leave the roundtable. Shortly after, activist Howard Hemsing walked into the session hall bringing a bunch of anti-military placards.

Won Pat said testimonies from Chamorro Nation indicate that Guam does not have a unanimous stance on the military expansion.

"There are those who want the Marines to come here because of the economic benefits that the buildup offers. But not everyone on island wants them here. There's a lot of people with a lot concerns about the impact of increased military population on island," Won Pat said.

The delegation, which arrived Wednesday, leaves Guam today.

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