Saturday, August 18, 2007

Guam Legislature Speaks Out

Feds asked to match Guam’s allegiance
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Variety News Staff
August 17, 2007

MEMBERS of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs last night heard the Guam senators’ chorus, stressing that the federal government should match the level of allegiance and patriotism of the people of Guam by treating them as equals.

They demanded that the federal government share the burden placed on Guam resulting from the impending military buildup.

Senators insisted that Guam desperately needs federal funding assistance as it scrambles to build new infrastructure, expand healthcare, and strengthen public safety to accommodate new residents who will come to Guam, along with the 8,000 Marines who will be relocated from Okinawa.

A long list of individuals has signed up to testify at the town hall meeting hosted by Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo and subcommittee chairwoman Rep. Donna Christensen, D-Virgin Islands, at the Hilton Resort and Spa.

The lawmakers were on the priority list. The meeting was ongoing as of press time.

Vice Speaker Eddie B. Calvo, R-Maite, requested that all information pertinent to the buildup must be open and accessible to all developers, including local investors. He also asked the federal government to increase federal support for the Guam Apprentice Program to enable the island to produce its own labor pool to pick up the construction projects.

Sen. Ben Pangelinan, D-Barrigada, said the $700 million in investment funds that retired General David Bice said would be poured into utility projects must be directed toward the civilian community. “The military shouldn’t grab that entire $700 million for themselves. We depend on Congress to make sure that we get what we need,” Pangelinan said.

Sen. James Espaldon, R-Tamuning, urged the federal government to look beyond the strategic importance of Guam and start showing respect for its citizens.

“The frustration we face, aside from the financial constraints, is that the quality of life of our island does not seem to be a part of the strategic vision that the Department of Defense has,” Espaldon said. “Our quality of life seems to be only a footnote to their strategic plan.”

Sen. Rory Respicio, D-Agana Heights, said the amount of money being requested by Guam is “miniscule,” considering the huge amount that the Japanese government pledged to the U.S. for the Marine relocation.

Besides funding assistance, senators also presented a long list of issues that they said the federal government must look into.

Sen. Frank Ishizaki, R-Yona, requested that the military assist the Guam Police Department with the public safety aspect of increased population. He requested that joint military-police posts be built on both ends of the island.

Sen. Judith Guthertz, D-Mangilao, asked the federal government to revisit Guam’s quest for self-determination.

Sen. Tina Muna Barnes, D-Mangilao, briefly discussed the Navy’s decision to increase rates for water services provided by Fena. “This is the kind of unilateral action by the military that decreases the community’s support for the military,” she said.

Sen. Jesse Lujan, R-Tamuning, said if the federal government refuses to treat the people of Guam as equals, “then maybe independence is the way to go.”

Political status, war claims pushed
By Gerardo R. Partido
Variety News Staff
August 17, 2007

MINORITY Leader Judith T. Won Pat, D-Malojloj, has urged visiting Congresswoman Donna Christensen, D-Virgin Islands, to focus not just on the military buildup but also on Guam’s quest for political status and war reparations.

According to Won Pat, political status and war reparations are two issues of paramount importance to the people of Guam that have yet to be resolved.

“I won’t belabor the issue but just to say that on political status, there is a need for Congress to support and fund the local effort for Chamorros to finally determine their own political destiny,” the minority leader said.

On the issue of war reparations, Won Pat said many Chamorros are elated that the World War II Loyalty Recognition Act has made it to the U.S. Senate.

The Guam War Claims Review Commission established by Congress found that the U.S. has a moral obligation to pay proper compensation for war damages and that there is a lack of parity in war claims for Guam when compared to other war claims programs established by the U.S. Congress.

“I hope Congress will do the right thing and pass this very important legislation for the people of Guam and finally bring closure to this dark chapter in Guam’s history,” the senator said.

She is also hopeful that Christensen’s visit will convey to Congress the frustration and anxiousness that Guamanians feel about the coming military buildup and to recognize the need to include Guam and their leaders in the full scope of any discussion regarding the buildup.

“I commend Chairwoman Christensen for holding her hearing on Guam and I hope this will be the first of many congressional oversight field hearings that will be conducted on Guam regarding the buildup,” Won Pat said

There have been many discussions about Guam being the “tip of the spear” and that Guam is of the highest strategic value and of great importance to the mission of the United States in regional security and national defense.

But as a U.S. territory so far removed from the mainland, Won Pat said Guam issues and concerns often fall on deaf ears.

“This is why this oversight hearing on Guam means so much to the future of our island. It will be decisions made in Washington, D.C., and not on Guam, that will determine the direction of Guam for decades to come,” the senator pointed out.

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